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Portraits and people #photography

I’ve talked a lot about apertures and shutter speeds in these lessons on basic photography. A wide aperture gives you a short depth of field and so your subject will be in sharp focus, but behind your subject will be out of focus. This can be useful for photographing people, wildlife and for food photography.

Portraits and People

You might have wondered how some professional photographers get great photos of birds and other wildlife. Understanding the camera helps and so does experience, but having the camera very still and on a wide aperture will give a very sharp focus. The professions also select their best pictures for publication, so we don’t see the mistakes or the ones that went wrong. We do get some that don’t work for some reason and that’s because we have to experiment and take risks in order to improve.

portraits and people

I took this shot last summer and you can see the fence in the background is out of focus, but my subject is in focus. Sometimes, you would use a narrower aperture for a shot like this so the background is in focus too.  If your subject is has the Eiffel Tower in the background, you might want that in focus too.

We are capturing reflected light and so colours matter. This photo was easier, because it was a cloudy day, but good light and all the colours in the picture reflected light. Skin tones are important, white skin reflects light well, but darker skin is harder to photograph. I think the natural light you get in summer is better for just about all skin types.

You can use a external flash gun for extra light. These are called speedlights now and will flash multiple times, but can make a face look too white and need to be directed away from the subject. Often the flash is directed at the ceiling for a more even, less harsh light. There are many  advantages to using  a DSLR, one is that you can fit a speedlight. The internal flash in the camera is better than nothing so try using the flash for indoor photography and even outdoors when you want extra light on your subject. Watch out for harsh reflections from the flash, even the skin can reflect too much light from the flash and this makes the skin look too shiny. I find I can take the picture from farther away with my 18 – 105mm lens and that improves the image.

On many Nikon camera there is a VR setting, I have that switched on all the time. It is vibration reduction and helps to adjust for camera shake and vibration. AF is auto focus which I have on most of the time. I do sometimes switch that off by accident, taking my camera out of the bag. It is a good idea to check all the settings before you start shooting. I have some blurred photos I took this week and can’t take them again, so it’s an opportunity missed. The blur is very slight, but I can see it! I have taken some shots with a soft focus filter fitted, which gives a very slight blur, but in a pattern so flattering in some portrait photography.

I do photograph famous people sometimes and this is Noddy Holder, of course! I think the facial expressions are important when photographing people. It’s almost like mind reading!

This week try taking some shots of people using the portrait setting on your camera and try with the flash and without the flash to see the difference. Then try A (aperture priority) and set to a wide aperture like f/3.5 and see the difference. On the aperture priority setting, you can also set your white balance. I set mine to fluorescent this week and then decided to set it to flash and use the flash for some shots. Neither setting worked really well, I found a close up shot worked reasonably well, but shooting under incandescent light gave better pictures. Shooting portraits and people is a speciality of it’s own, but we all try taking snaps of people, so I hope today’s insight into the subject helps you take better shots.

Have you taken any good shots this week? Please use the comments box to share your views. You can also follow me on twitter.

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