Portrait photography

10 tips for street portrait photography: take great street photos

Portraiture is a wonderful avenue of photography, allowing you to express yourself with poses, lighting, and location. However, it can often seem a little overwhelming as there is so much to consider when working with a model – and you need to have good relationship skills, leading models to get the photos you envision. We caught up with professional portrait photographer Jade Keshia Gordon to get her advice on our early days.

• Find out more: The best lenses for portrait photography

Jade Keshia Gordon is a professional Canon beauty and fashion photographer based in Peckham, London, and has been shooting portraits for over ten years. She started her career in street portraiture working with bloggers, YouTubers and influencers in the London area.

We paired her with PhotoPlus: The Canon Magazine reader Shana-Rochelle for a masterclass on outdoor street portrait photography around London, photographing models Myers London and Tash Soodeen. Here, you’ll find Jade’s top 10 portrait tips, as well as some of the images Shana Rochelle was able to take when applying them to her own photography.

You can read more about Jade’s work on her website.

01 Key parameters

(Image credit: Avenir)

For starters, Jade switched to manual mode and lowered her ISO to 100 for the best image quality and opened the aperture value to f / 2.8 to create a bit of blur in the background. It also set a fast shutter speed of 1/2000 sec to achieve balanced exposure, which is also fast enough to eliminate camera shake. She checks her shots regularly and adjusts her settings to make sure the images come out properly exposed.

02 Get fifty “owls”

(Image credit: Canon)

A 50mm lens like the Canon EF 50mm f / 1.8 II is often referred to as “nifty fifty” because it is versatile with its 50mm focal length and the wide f / 1.8 aperture makes it easy to achieve shallow depth. of field effects. They’re also pretty inexpensive and can often be bought for around $ 100 (or even less with a used purchase), making these types of lenses great value – and a great option. to try when you start taking portraits.

• The best 50mm lenses

03 get perfect colors

(Image credit: Avenir)

For some of the photos taken in the shade, Jade noticed that some skin tones were turning a little red. While this can be fixed at the editing stage with the Temperature and Tint sliders in Lightroom, Jade fixed it in the camera.

(Image credit: Avenir)

By going into the menus of her Canon EOS 5D Mark IV and entering the white balance settings, she shifted the balance to make it a little more blue to correct the red cast. You should keep an eye out for this when changing locations, as you may need a different setting depending on the lighting and ambient conditions.

04 Use an 85mm portrait lens

(Image credit: Avenir)

When Jade needs a slightly tighter crop, she’ll switch to her Canon EF 85mm f / 1.8 lens, which has a slightly longer focal length and a brighter maximum aperture of f / 1.8. The greater magnification of this classic portrait focal length also creates a greater sense of ‘squeezing’ and separating subjects, ideal for portraits.

On the left we see a full-length portrait taken at 24 mm on a full-frame SLR, a mid-length portrait taken at 85 mm and a close-up (on the right) taken at 85 mm but approaching the model. (Image credit: Avenir)

This wider aperture floods the sensor with light allowing faster shutter speeds and lower ISO values ​​that provide better image quality in low light. It also blurs more backgrounds with shallower depth of field than the f / 2.8 maximum aperture of its 24-70mm lens.

• The best lenses for portraits

05 Perfect postures

(Image credit: Avenir)

The biggest difference you’re likely to see when using a professional model, like that of a modeling agency rather than a working model for free, is a more relaxed and confident pose. You will also find that they have a greater range of poses that they know how to work well. So if you really want to take your portraits to the next level, it may be worth reserving a professional model.

06 Use a reflector

(Image credit: Manfrotto)

Jade uses portable and economical Manfrotto reflectors to bounce light back on her models to add some “fill” light. It can also change the quality and color of the reflected light by using the different gold and silver sides of its reflector which open up more creative options.

• The best reflectors for photography

07 Use flash

(Image credit: Avenir)

To prevent details from getting lost in shadows and low-light scenes, Jade uses her Profoto A1 flash. This sits on the hot shoe of her EOS 5D Mark IV and Jade will select a low flash power setting to boot and add more if she deems necessary.

• The best photography lighting kits

(Image credit: Avenir)

08 Get a softer light with a diffuser

(Image credit: Avenir)

Flash light from a flash head or bare bulb can appear extremely harsh and unflattering. For more even and flattering lighting, Jade often rotates her flash head to bounce it off the wall or ceiling, although the reflected light takes on the color of the surface it bounces from. This made the reflected light a little too red in those shots, so she attached her flash diffuser attachment instead, which does a great job of softening the flash light for more even shadows.

• Best flash modifiers

09 Take control

(Image credit: Avenir)

A battery grip for your camera can be a great addition when shooting portraits, as it provides a much more natural grip when shooting vertically, in portrait orientation, so you’re less stressed and can compose more easily.

A battery grip for your DSLR or mirrorless camera makes it much more comfortable when shooting in vertical, portrait orientation. (Image credit: Avenir)

The BG-E11 battery grip that Shana-Rochelle used on her Canon EOS 5D Mark III body also allowed her to fit two LP-E6 Li-Ion batteries, so she could shoot twice as long without having to worry about worry about the battery life.

10 Good harvest, bad harvest

(Image credit: Avenir)

Jade tends to avoid frames that cut the model’s joints, such as knees, ankles, or elbows, as it can feel awkward. To give you more options, it is a good idea to take a photo a little wider than necessary, and then you can always crop the portrait to the size you want when you are in the editing stage and find the composition that best suits your image.

Read more:

Best lens for portraits
Best camera for portraits
Photography tips
Canon EOS R5 review



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