How to Take Great Formal Portraits

Many new photographers struggle with taking professional looking portraits for things like company profiles, resumes, or other formal needs. Here are some tips to help you take better portraits in the studio.

Choose the Right Backdrop

Having a cluttered backdrop will pretty much ruin a formal photo. Your backdrop should be clean, preferably plain, and very subtle. This will make your subject stand out and not what’s behind him.

Use Soft Lighting

Do not use a big flash and fire it right in your subject’s face. Use softer lighting. Diffuse your flashes, bounce them off of walls, and try to get an even lighting with no harsh shadows.

Focus on the Eye

To get a tack sharp photo, put your camera’s focus point on the subject’s eye. This ensures that the overall portrait is sharp, and also help in developing that eye-to-eye connection between the subject and the viewer.

Don’t Go Too Wide

Your lens might be able to go super wide at f/1.2 or something, but you don’t have to open the aperture that much. Otherwise, parts of your subject’s face, especially the ears will go out of focus. So make sure you experiment a bit with which aperture value works best.

How to Use the Built-in Camera Flash

Most DSLR or mirrorless cameras come with built-in flashes. These are tiny ones that pop up in Auto Mode when the lights go down and can be manually triggered if you’re shooting in any other mode.

However, many new photographers find that using the flash creates horrible images especially when they’re taking photos of people. Here are some ways you can make use of the built-in flash effectively.

Bounce It

When in indoor situations, try to bounce the flash off of a wall or the ceiling. This can be done by placing a white card at an angle in front of the flash. The card should be placed in a way so it pushed the flash up towards the ceiling, bouncing it and creating a much softer light.

Diffuse It

Another great way to use the built-in camera flash, especially when taking portraits is to diffuse it to create a softer effect. Use a DIY diffuser if you can’t buy an expensive one, or just put a white plastic bag over your flash.

Against the Sun

It might sound weird but using the flash on a portrait where the sun is at the back is a great way to ensure optimum exposure. The direct sunlight makes the flash appear much softer than it is while still allowing you to add some fill light to your subject.

How to Choose Your Shooting Mode

All high-end cameras come with a variety of shooting modes to let you choose the amount of manual controls you want over your images. These modes are designed to help photographers use their cameras in the most efficient way possible in any given situation. But just which mode is best for your particular needs? Read on to find out how you can maximize the efficiency of your photography:

Automatic Modes:

These modes are the ones that most beginner photographers use to grasp the controls of their cameras. They utilize the camera manufacturers’ preset processing parameters to create the best image for a given situation. Most cameras’ Auto mode fluctuates between various presets like Sports, Macro, Portrait, and Night on its own by changing every setting of the camera automatically.

Manual Modes:

If you want more control over your images, you need to be familiar with three of the most useful manual modes on your camera:

  • Shutter Priority:

Like the name suggests, Shutter Priority mode lets you set the shutter speed of your camera and then adjusts the aperture value on its own to achieve the ideal exposure for your given shutter speed and ISO. This is most useful in sports photography and other events where you need to freeze movement.

  • Aperture Priority:

Aperture Priority mode allows you to set the aperture of your camera sensor, and the camera then adjusts the shutter speed accordingly. This is most useful when you need to control the depth of field in your image, for example in portrait or landscape photography.

  • Manual Mode:

Manual Mode offers complete control over your camera settings. You can adjust the shutter speed, aperture value, as well as the ISO value of your camera in manual mode. This option is preferred by many professional and fine art photographers who want to achieve a very specific look for their photos.