Nice B&W portrait Neil, great stuff.
Monthly Archives: December 2009
Nice B&W portrait Neil, great stuff.
Portraits are one of the main reasons photography is so popular – and the reason families keep album after album of embarrassing photos. They are one of the hardest kinds of photography to master, but there are a few things you can do to improve your portraits.
Probably first thing you can do is to choose your locations and backgrounds more carefully.
A background that compliments or contrasts your subject or mood will work best. Be sure that it has some kind of relationship to your image so the shot holds together well. This could be color, shape, or even something the subject is touching.
Everyone shoots their friends standing in front of the palaces in Seoul, but how often do people find a quiet corner, pose against a wall and use those long sweeping rooves and lines of the palace walls to draw the attention directly to their subject?
As this is a portrait of a person, another thing to try is to isolate your subject. Find a way to make them the only focus. There are a few ways to do this. Have them wear a blue shirt in a field of orange flowers, for example, or use a large aperture to blur out the background, or simplify the background until the details of the image are held only on the subject.
Choice of equipment is also really important when shooting a portrait. Unless your goal is to distort facial features, be very careful with wide angle lenses (or the wide end of your point and shoot camera). These focal lengths tend to make objects that are closer to the lens appear larger than those distant, thus distorting your poor subject disproportionately, which I can assure you, most do not appreciate.
So unless distortion is your goal, longer lenses are the key here.
One of the best things you can do while taking portraits is to make sure the subject isn’t bored. Don’t spend a lot of time changing lenses, checking your settings, or looking bewildered; this is where it can go wrong. Start shooting and if things aren’t working out, don’t stop – change things as you go. Just keep the momentum going; change it up!
Shooting with the frame vertical? Change to horizontal. Subjects’ hands are on their hips? Have them hold something, place a hand on a wall, create some interaction with your scene.
Finally, and most importantly from a technical standpoint, is light. Always be on the lookout for nice light. This could be warm evening light, or a patch of shade on a bright sunny day – try to avoid direct sunlight if you can. It makes people squint and causes dark shadows. Move into the shade, or better yet, read up on strobist techniques and make the light your own.
It is always a daunting task to approach someone and take their portrait, but being forearmed with a bit of knowledge will give you a little extra confidence.
Check out how some of the best expat photographers in Korea do it at the Seoul Photo Club on Flickr.
by Dylan Goldby, SPC resident portrait specialist
Last week we talked about photography without the camera – when we are out and about, camera at home, we can still keep a practiced eye by looking for and taking note of those things that contribute towards a good image such as shapes, color and light. This week we will bring into focus those shapes and lines we touched upon last time.
Shapes and lines are everywhere of course, but it is how we bring them together in an image that can make the difference.
The triangle is a particularly strong shape and though I mentioned the obvious example last week of readily available triangles such as those in a construction crane, probably more powerful visually are triangles that you construct via composition. A simple example would be the triangle that perspective creates when looking up at a tall building, or less obvious, in a portrait of three people each head will provide the point on an implied triangle.
Squares and rectangles tend to be a little more obvious, especially in an urban setting, but perhaps a bit more difficult to employ effectively. One way these regular shapes can be used in a photograph is to divide the image into parts or to isolate a subject using framing.
Taking a portrait? Position the subject front and center of a rectangle such as a traditional Korean door or under an archway – put them in a frame within the picture frame itself.
Something to keep in mind here is perspective distortion. Angling the camera up, down or to either side will distort your regular shape. Dramatic distortion could be intentional, but slight distortion often looks like careless photography and might need straightening in post-processing.
Shapes are of course constructed of lines, and the line by itself – be it horizontal, vertical, diagonal or a curve – can be effectively used to create interest in a photograph. Lines parallel to the edge of the frame are strong and help stabilize or reinforce an image. The horizon in a landscape, or palace columns in a vertically oriented photograph, for example.
Diagonals add a more dynamic feel. An impression of traffic flow will be enhanced in a shot of a busy street if it cuts diagonally across the frame. Curves are harder to find and use effectively, but like the diagonal can impart dynamism to your picture. Classic curves in Korea are the rooflines in traditional architecture, or the country roads you can see from the bus as you travel along highways between major cities.
As with shapes, lines can be implied by judicious arrangement of elements within the frame and help draw attention by leading the eye to your subject. However, don’t just shoot lines and shapes for their own sake – try to employ these things in ways that will add interest or enhance the vision you have for a scene or subject.
Head over to the Seoul Photo Club on Flickr, post a few pics, ask a few questions and get some useful feedback on the images you are putting together.