Whether you’re an avid hobbyist or a paid professional, portraiture is an incredibly creative, fun, and versatile genre of photography.
There are three key things you need to consider when thinking about portrait photography: the camera gear you use, and the lighting and posing techniques. We’ve teamed up with Henry’s photo experts to share their tips for better portraits (opens in a new tab).
Find out how you can take phenomenal photos of people simply by choosing the right camera gear, drawing inspiration from your favorite photos, and paying attention to the poses your subject strikes. Let’s start.
1. Choose the right camera
There are so many choices on the market when it comes to choosing a camera body, it can be easy to get confused by the sheer number of options. However, we will say this… the latest cameras you can buy (opens in a new tab) are exceptional, and almost any modern camera in the hands of a good photographer will provide good image quality.
So what is the right camera for you? When trying to narrow down your camera options, really think about what you value. Does it have the most megapixels so you can create big prints? Got the most dynamic range in your file? Or is it a camera that feels ergonomic?
While DSLRs offer good value for money, mirrorless cameras are generally smaller and lighter to carry in the hand. Medium format cameras are the most expensive, but the resolution and color fidelity they offer can be unmatched.
Instead of trying to hunt for all the highest tech specs and latest features (that you might not need or use), really look at where you are in your creative journey and find the camera that matches that. The best camera for your portrait will be different depending on different needs and preferences.
Buy the camera you can afford without stretching yourself, or rent the one you yearn to have. If you’re still unsure why not seek advice from camera experts online or in Henry’s stores (opens in a new tab). Once you’ve chosen your camera and familiarized yourself with its use, it’s time to move on to the exciting part: creating great portraits.
Lighting is the fundamental element of all good photography, regardless of genre. However, for portraiture, lighting can be used to flatter the subject, add drama and draw attention to its most striking features.
While natural light can be extremely flattering, there’s no need to be afraid to use artificial light sources – think flash and continuous LED light panels. With so many brilliant lighting options (opens in a new tab) To explore and experiment, the type of lighting you choose depends on a few factors, including power and portability.
Speedlights come in handy when shooting portraits on location, and they can even be handheld for greater flexibility in light placement. If you need extra lighting power, strobes could give you a stronger output.
Professional off-camera flash heads like those from Profoto (opens in a new tab) are perhaps the ultimate option – they’re portable enough to store, can connect wirelessly, and even offer light shaping tools for versatile results.
If you don’t know how to use lighting, start collecting some portraits that inspire you. From there you can try to figure out how the light sources were used – think about the direction, strength and even color of the lighting, and how you can reproduce all of these elements in your own shots .
Also consider the quality of lighting on the subject. Is it soft and subtle, or maybe harsh and dramatic, with strong shadows? Light sources further away tend to produce harsher shadows (much like daylight sunlight), but remember that you can also change the quality of lighting with light modifiers such as softboxes.
To find out what lighting and studio equipment is right for you, check out the live chat at Henrys.com (opens in a new tab) and talk to a photography expert.
When it comes to portrait photography, even experienced models can sometimes struggle to find the right poses. Whether you’re photographing a professional model or a friend you’ve asked to pose for you, it’s possible to immediately enhance your portraits by giving them a clear orientation. Sure, you need to know what you want your subjects to do so you can guide them.
The same way you approached lighting in your portraits, seek inspiration first. Check out magazines, websites, and brochures that feature poses you find inspiring. You can collect these posing ideas into a mood board – physically or digitally – and refer to them when you get on set. It can even be helpful to show the mood board about you to align with your creative vision.
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Not everyone is comfortable or able to pull off certain poses; understand the limitations of your topic and make sure you’re not asking for unrealistic things.
Paying attention to the pose will take your portrait from standard to stunning, but you need to look at more than what your subject’s face is doing.
Scan your subject’s entire body from top to bottom; their hands, elbows, and even their feet, if they’re in frame. Check that there is nothing out of the way, that the subject looks flattering, natural and balanced, and that there is room for them to breathe in the composition.
Once you’ve captured a range of poses and are happy with the footage, you can also change the angle you’re shooting your subject from – maybe drop low or stand on something to reach higher – and play around. with accessories.
Do you feel inspired? Find out how to enhance your portraits with tips from this video from the photography experts at Henry’s (opens in a new tab).