1) Do the photoshoot as a group
This first tip is rather simple but hard to implement especially if you are just starting out. The thing is that if you are just starting out in portrait photography, even photography in general, you need another set of eyes to help you see thing differently and guide you to the right direction.
When you are in a group, people who have more experience than you may have the information or equipment you need so you don’t need to waste time searching for answer and getting the gears. There are many advantages but two main reasons are:
b) Members in a group may have the equipment you can borrow. You want to spend more time shooting, not more time researching for gears.
Other than the two points above, occasionally you need to hire a model and rent the studio space. It is much easier to do this together and spread the cost.
If you can’t find anybody and want to join a local photography group, head onto meetup.com and search for them. There are many photographers out there who are willing to help other photographers especially for beginners.
2) ISO 200, aperture F8, and shutter speed 1/160
I cannot say this is the ONLY setting to use in EVERY studio settings. However, the general settings listed above is what I often found myself using most often. No matter I was using beauty dish, light strobe, softboxes I always use this setting before going for anything else. I recommend adjusting the power of the strobes in order to get the proper exposure before you start the photo shoot. Also, make sure you only change one setting at a time if the picture came out over or under exposed. Otherwise you will get confused easily.
3) Focus on the eyes to nail the contrast point
I mentioned this in a lot of previous posts and especially my free ebook. You MUST focus exactly on the eyes to get the sharpest picture. If your picture came up great everywhere else but blurry on the eyes, many photographers conclude this as a blurry image. Remember in portrait photography the eyes are the most important focal point so nail the sharpness and the other tiny bit of blur anywhere else are less critical.
4) The four best lens for portrait photography
I’d say for Canon users (similar lens apply for Nikon users) the 4 best lenses are:
1) Canon 85mm f1.2
2) Tamron 70-200mm f2.8
3) Canon 24-70mm
4) Canon 135mm f2
5) From the point above, 85mm gives the best result
A lot of portrait photographers like 85mm as their go to lens. At this range there is no distortion at the corners of the image and the subject looks more natural using that focal range. I understand not everyone can afford the almighty 85mm prime glass (so do it, I’ve to borrow it sometimes) that’s why I highly recommend the Tamron 70-200mm. At focal range 85mm it is very sharp and is my favorite lens so far portrait shots. Sometimes if you are in a tight space you may need a shorter focal range like 50mm or less. Either way don’t be constrain by the focal range and shoot where you feel comfortable with the best photo quality you knew you are going to get.
6) You MUST to learn how to pose/communicate to your model
Communicate is very important when doing portrait photography. Even for professional models they do not know 100% of what we want as a photographer. Simply said they do not see what you see as a photographer. So pose them around 45 degree angle towards the light and stay posing them to make them look good (I’m sure they want that). Make sure no hard shadows falls on their faces especially the eye area (refer back to walkthrough part 3 here).
7) No Smile is sometimes the best facial expression
We often say ‘cheese’ to our kids when doing children photography. However, I found it often work the opposite while doing model photography. Check the two photographs below. They both look great but personally I feel the one without smile works best for this model’s style (the right picture). So try it out and ask the model not to smile for the best facial expression.
8) Zoom close, then closer
Get close, and then get closer. This is one of the techniques told by many professionals and it works. Of course you don’t want to do it too often but once a while zooming into the model for a half portrait shot works wonderfully. It can also get all the unwanted space such as the ceiling and edges of a backdrop out the way.
9) Get model release form
There should be a whole new blog post dedicate to model release because as a photographer we cannot ignore the importance of it. First of all I am not a Lawyer so anything written here is just from my personal experience.
For any photos that you take you are allow to post it online including facebook and other social media AS LONG AS YOU DON’T sell the picture or use this picture to make sales on other things. For anything else you must get the model release form signed by the model. Usually it includes a statement mentioning the image release right to you as the photographer, a section where the model, yourself, and a witness sign the copy.
Usually an experienced models has one with him or her but I highly suggest you write one for yourself with your business logo on it. Nevertheless, talk to your lawyer in your local jurisdiction if you have a specific question about model release.
Ok I really hope you enjoy this post and learn a lot from it. If you ever have any questions, feedback or experience you want to share with me and the community, feel free to contact me or leave a comment below.