Week #38 – Portraiture

By: Maggie Red

Feb 05 2013

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Category: Photography, Portraiture, Weekly Photography

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Focal Length:55mm
Shutter:1/0 sec

Portraiture in photography is one of those quintessential topics that eventually you’ve got to try – not because every photographer needs to be good at portrait photography but because every photographer can learn something from photographing people. I mean, this world is full up of people. Billions of ’em.

Mim and Anna Under Arch

Lesson 1)   It is possible to feel comfortable taking pictures of people.

Sometimes snapping photos of people can feel strange. They are aware they are being observed and so act a little differently than they normally would. However, it only takes a few minutes for portrait subjects to relax and feel comfortable. This works more quickly if they are already familiar with you, family or friends. Still, if you want to do photography, become a good conversationalist. Soon, you’ll be chatting people up and they’ll practically forget, or at least ignore the fact that you’re over there with a big lens against your eye.

Lesson 2)   You have to learn about focal lengths.


There are ideal focal lengths for just about every photographic situation. You might not know this until you start photographing people with your kit lens at 18mm and realize things look a little funny. The “ideal” range is somewhere around 85mm, but anything between 50mm and 105mm will give you lovely portraits. 50mm (ish) is about the focal length with which our eyes perceive the world, so it will be accurate and proportional. The slightly longer focal lengths provide a little compression of facial features, which can complement your subject. Also, it makes it easier to photograph them – from a bit of a distance.

Lesson 3)    You get to experiment with candids.

Aunt Barbara

Because a portrait session can take time, it will provide plenty of opportunity to get those “in between” moments. Not every portrait is posed. Some of your best shots may come from a moment when your subject isn’t paying a lick of attention to the camera.

I think that’s enough of a lesson for one post. I mean, this is a blog, not a book!

Maggie Under Arch


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