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We explain why portrait photography is not magic and how you can make great portraits without expensive equipment. Waah, portrait photography. For many, portrait photography has long had something to do with magic. Out of respect for art, a lot of hobby photographers don’t dare to go on the subject at all.
Are you, perhaps, doing the same? So if you think things like: “Portrait photography is only for professionals” or “I can’t do that” or “I don’t have the right equipment for that”, we can only tell you: This is absolute nonsense!
Three good reasons why you should definitely take portrait photography:
It’s crazy fun,you don’t have to be a professional photographer, and You don’t need expensive equipment to take cool portraits.
And now, from woman to woman, which of your girlfriends wouldn’t like beautiful photos of yourself?
This certainly also applies to many men out there who would secretly be happy about a great portrait.
We assure you that if you have read our article, you will not only have a great desire, but also the courage to go straight next weekend to take great portrait photos. Ok, then let’s go.
1 Why your city is your studio
There is certainly no one here who has not yet had to sit on such a stupid chair in a room without a window with a screen in the background.
We’ve probably all taken the typical application photos before. Please put on the chair, bend body forward, head to right – No, further to the left. Phew. It’s not fun.
The good news at the beginning: You don’t need a studio. Your city, your neighborhood or even your street can offer you everything you need as a background for a portrait.
Our favorite photo location for portrait?
If we have the choice, we like to go to the RAW site in Berlin for portrait photos. There we have everything we need.
Colorful graffiti, if we want color in the background, gray monochrome walls when we need something neutral, lonely corners without other people, but also hustle and bustle when we need it. For us, this is the perfect mix!
We bet, even with you in the street there are enough backgrounds for interesting portraits.
2 What equipment do you need?
Everyone will probably give you a different answer and many photographers cart suitcases of equipment for a shoot.
Of course, with expensive equipment and 3 assistants you can take great and impressive pictures. But it can be done without it. So if you only have your camera with a kit lens. Super! Suffices perfectly.
We’ll just tell you what equipment we’re always going to do with.
Our equipment for portrait shoots
Actually, there is always someone who wants to. The incentive to have great pictures of yourself afterwards helps, of course.
Our Sony Alpha 7ii. But any other camera is just as suitable.
Most of the time we decide on one of the two fixed focal lengths or simply take both with us:
If you don’t have a Sony lens, like us, we can also recommend Tamron’s 35 fixed focal length. A very good lens that is perfect for portrait photography due to its luminous intensity.
Of course, there are also cheaper variants, which do not quite come to the quality of Tamron’s fixed focal length and are also not quite as bright. But if you have a small budget, we recommend this lens: 35 fixed focal length from Nikon.
We’ve also written an article about our love of our fixed focal length lens and show you 6 reasons why you absolutely need a fixed focal length.
We always have a folding reflector with us during planned shootings. This allows you to make the most of the given light and illuminate your face the way you want.
The great thing is that your model looks fresher in the pictures (even without follow-up).
Because it not only offers you the possibility to illuminate your motif better, but also also simply cuddles away eye rings. And that can never hurt, can it?
We have a 5in1 folding reflector, which costs only a few euros. You’ve got everything you need right away. A gold, silver, black and white side and a diffuser.
Don’t be confused by the different possibilities now. We’ll explain how to use the folding reflector easily later.
If possible, we always try to go with two more people. Because it’s helpful if your model doesn’t have to hold the reflector yourself.
3 Why you should take a lot of time for your shoot
A shoot with friends is especially fun if it doesn’t necessarily feel like one. We always try to make a kind of day tour out of it. We meet on Saturdays around 11 a.m., go for breakfast together in the provisions in Friedrichshain and then we head towards the RAW grounds.
There we take pictures for a while and then take a leisurely lunch break with lunch and refreshment in the beer garden.
After that we take another portrait photography. The advantage of this is that you have a completely different light at 1 p.m. than at 6 p.m. So you might find completely different photos at the same spot.
In addition, a lot of people, even if they have known you for a long time, need a little time to feel comfortable in front of the camera.
We also always find it nice not to take pictures continuously, but also to just talk in between.
And now comes a trick: You as a photographer, but you should always stay attentive in the phases in between.
Because especially when you’re chatting in between, your counterpart feels more comfortable than posing. Often so much more intense images are created.
4 What questions you should ask
For us, there are actually three important questions that we ask ourselves before a shoot.
1 Who do I actually photograph?
Who is this person? What are the characteristics of the person? Is she particularly lively, always laughs or is rather serious and thinks a lot. Is sport her life or she always walks around with a book.
Everyone is different and if we didn’t take that into account, every picture would look the same. That would be a pity, wouldn’t it?
2 What does my model want to use the photo for?
What does your model want to do with the photos? Give the family a new Xing profile picture, a photo for your own website or maybe even an application photo?
If someone wants a new profile picture for social media channels, you have to approach things very differently than when applying for a new job.
If someone runs a website about yoga, it doesn’t help if we take photos in front of a graffiti wall during our shoot. You should always consider this beforehand and plan for it. So you can tell your model in advance what to bring anyway, in case a yoga outfit and maybe a yoga mat.
3 How does my model imagine the result?
Also, if you know your model well, you should always find out what kind of results it would like. Maybe a person who always grins over both ears in pictures wants to have a serious photo of himself.
5 The Technical Stuff
We don’t want to go into too much detail here. We believe that everyone has to find out for themselves what works best and what doesn’t. You don’t always have to follow the rules.
Here we will tell you how we adjust our camera in most cases and what we personally find beautiful for portraits.
1 fixed focal length – as small aperture count as possible
Since we use our fixed focal length for portrait shoots, we naturally also use their luminous intensity and set the smallest possible number of apertures.
Most of the time, we want to focus completely on the face of our model and set the background as blurry as possible.
Our tip: If you want to know more about the aperture and how to make the background blurred, read the aperture article, our free sample lesson from our online photo course.
2 To sharpness: At least one eye should be sharp
We always take great care that at least one eye of our model is sharp. It doesn’t always have to be crisp all over the face, but at least one eye should always be sharp.
If you don’t know how to determine your focus on your camera, you should definitely get to grips with your camera’s settings.
This is not only a lot of fun, but you can see super fast how your photos are getting better.
3 think about the exposure measurement method according to
The exposure measurement method is neglected by many. You shouldn’t do that. If you haven’t yet dealt with your camera’s exposure measurement method, it’s best to do so immediately.
What method you use for your portrait depends a bit on what you photograph. With a close-up, you often don’t care how the background is exposed.
Because your focus and the most important thing in your image is your model. So we usually place our measurement method on spot measurement for portraits. So we make sure that the camera does not try to expose the entire image correctly, only our model.
4 Use a reflector
Such a reflector is really something great. It’s affordable (you’ll get it on Amazon for about 20 euros) and you’ll just get great results. We don’t want to go into too much detail and explain to you which film color is good for what.
Just try it yourself, because that’s the only way you get a feel for it over time. The most important film for the beginning is the white film (small effect) and the silver foil (large effect)
This allows you to illuminate your model’s face very evenly. If you don’t have an assistant with you, your model can simply hold the reflector yourself in case of doubt.
6 What perspective?
Try! Very simple answer. Our personal favorite is: take pictures at roughly the same level.
The opposite is usually the most sympathetic, probably also because the position is the most common for us – also in everyday life.
Each perspective has a different effect.
What we personally cannot suffer at all when someone photographs us from a lower position. So from the bottom up. Then you usually look thicker than you are. No one likes to do that.
Every perspective looks different for each person.
Make sure your model has two very different halves of faces. Often you have a bigger eye and one, which is a bit smaller. Then we would photograph the model a little from the side, so that the bigger eye is in the foreground.
But most importantly:
Ask your model what she likes most. Please always stay there in a positive way. So not: “You have a pretty big nose, we don’t do a page profile now”, but maybe rather “What do you like most about you?”.
There are many who tell you directly what they don’t like, but then at least you asked nicely for the positive.
Show your model the photos you take. There is nothing worse than being in front of the camera and feeling excluded.
Take a few photos, then go to your model and ask what it finds particularly beautiful about which photo and what it doesn’t like at all. Communication is super important!
Because just because you find a certain perspective beautiful doesn’t mean that your model finds it beautiful.
Of course, laughing is often not so easy for many. Some warp their mouths, others close their eyes. Susan is such a candidate who likes to have his eyes on a picture or laughs unnaturally.
A very simple trick is this: Tell your model to make your eyes – in time you can do a few test shots – and if you say “laugh now”, then he should open his eyes and laugh.
Read Also: 10 tips for photography beginners
For many, it works really well! One laughs much more unashamedly at the moment and the eyes are optimally opened for a short moment after the first opening.
Another tip: If it’s going to be a more serious photo, or maybe a photo where your model should smile only slightly, make sure your mouth is slightly open. This has a very different effect.
8 What makes the difference afterwards
We think it’s very, very important that you don’t take a portrait of a model, but that you’re always aware that you’re photographing a human being. And this person has unique characteristics, ideas and feelings. Get on with it! Always have that in mind all the time.
So and now we would say, make an agreement directly for the next weekend with a friend and have fun with the portrait photography.
Do you have any questions?
Do you have any questions about our contribution or do you also want to tell us your personal tip for portrait photography? Then just leave us a comment below. We are looking forward to it!