Guest Post by Joe Farace
The best way to improve your photography is practice. Shoot each week so you get to the point where you don’t have to think about how to operate your camera: You just use it to create images. Don’t worry about producing masterpieces each time you got out; use your camera as a sketchpad to explore possibilities and don’t be afraid of making mistakes. Sometimes these sketches will be successful, sometimes not, but learn from your analysis of the images.
1. Look for indoor locations where the best light is found.
Many portraits are made in locations where the photographer or their subject decide to make it. This works great for a outdoor locations but for indoor portraits place your subject where the light is best. Use with wide-open apertures to soften and blur the background and focus attention on your subject. In my home, my favorite place to shoot portraits is the kitchen where the walls are painted a soft white and a bay widow provides North light that can be modulated by opening and closing mini-blinds in each window section. You may have a similar location in your home.
2. Search for interesting locations.
While traveling I make notes about locations that look like they would be a fun place for a portrait session. Recently I went to a state park that has a large lake looking for a beach-like location for swimsuit photographs and while walking around the lakes’ edge saw some spots that would produce interesting portraits.
3. Keep your lighting tools simple.
I prefer to work with as few light control devices as possible because the less time you spend fiddling with equipment, the more time you can spend putting your subject at ease. These days much of my people photography is done with natural light using only a single reflector.
4. Watch the background.
It’s so easy to become so enthralled by the person that you’re photographing that you forget about the background where you’ve placed them. I believe that if you watch the background, the foreground will take care of itself. Busy backgrounds can be thrown out of focus by using longer lenses and wide apertures but it’s not uncommon to have to physically clean up an outdoor site before you can make a portrait. While you can always digitally remove beer cans and fast food wrappers, taking the time to clean up the trash before you make an outdoor portrait leaves it clean for everybody else too.
5. Talk to your subject
I’ll never forget the advice one of my mentors gave me many years ago. When I asked him what was the worst thing I could do when photographing people, I expected him to give me some tip on avoiding technical problems but his answer surprised me. If you don’t talk to the people you’re never going make a good picture. More than 30 years later, I’ve never forgotten that advice and would like to pass it on to you. Photographing people combines elements of psychology as much camera technology and how you personally interact with your subject will have more to do with the success of your session than the camera or lens that you use.
Visit Joe’s Blog Saving the world, One Pixel at a Time (www.joefaraceblogs.com) for daily tips on digital photography.