8 Tips Every Beginning Portrait Photographer Should Know

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3. Watch the Dynamics of Your Camera and Lens

In shooting a portrait, you are effectively translating a three-dimensional face into a flat plane of space, so deciding on your lens or focal length and positioning the camera in a way that complements your subject’s features will have a significant effect on the success of the resulting image. The overwhelming variety of individual facial features and combinations thereof—from heavy brows to pronounced noses to double chins and beyond—furthers the challenge of capturing a pleasing portrait of any given subject.

Are you coming in close for a headshot or beauty portrait or does your subject want an environmental portrait that conveys a sense of what they do or where they live? Each of these vantage points requires a different approach. Keep in mind that whatever is closest to the camera will appear largest in an image and that wide-angle lenses will amplify this effect. When shooting a close-up portrait, facial features such as a pronounced nose can be particularly challenging, requiring special attention.

As in Lindsay Adler’s example, below, a longer lens will cause geometric facial elements to look flatter and more compressed, making the face appear fuller and the nose shorter and less pronounced. To capture this subject at her best, Adler traded a typical 85mm portrait lens for a 200mm telephoto, set her camera on a tripod, moved back and positioned her camera straight-on, until the model’s face filled the frame.

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