Have you ever wondered, “Why are some people considered photogenic and others not?” And of course, every photographer asks a different question — how to use the photogenic character when shooting and how to compensate for its absence?
To immediately answer these difficult questions, you do not need to convene a council and spend hours on endless discussions. Photogenicity is not so much a person’s appearance, but his self-perception and behavior in front of the camera lens. Most often, people who do not like themselves or are accustomed to consider themselves non-photogenic are pinched on the set, because they are afraid of a poor-quality result in advance. All this, of course, is reflected in the photograph. The task of the photographer in this case is to break down the wall between himself and the model, help the person on the other side of the lens feel comfortable, and then find positions, angles and lighting that will bring out his best and unique features. And it’s great when the result brings satisfaction to both the photographer and the model.
As we have just noted, the secret of a successful photograph is more than technical aspects, light and camera. It all starts with the interaction between the model and the photographer to create a comfortable atmosphere for both. Typically, this involves some kind of exploration of your character, their interests and personality. You should know everything from hobbies, which can be a great conversation starter, to specific factors, such as favorite music, which can make a person relax, sing along or dance.
If you’re shooting a person you don’t know yet, look at the rest of the portraits you can find and be careful — everyone has favorite things, colors in clothes, poses, facial expressions, and even a good location when shooting. And these are the things that you, as a photographer, absolutely need to consider.
If you know a character or he trusts you, everything is also not so simple — after all, even the most open people are sometimes pinched and shy of the camera. Therefore, do not neglect the opportunity to create a pleasant environment in which the model will be easier.
When the day of shooting comes, you need to be prepared and have a clear plan — both for the environment and setting in which the portrait will be shot, and for the settings with which you are going to shoot.
If you’re shooting indoors or in a studio, check out the available options for backgrounds and indoor lighting beforehand. Will it be possible to use natural light in the frame, or will you have to rely entirely on lamps and softboxes? Will clean walls be available, or draperies that can be used as a backdrop, or will the interior become the environment.
If shooting outdoors using natural light, consider the time of day, the direction of the sun, and how and where you plan to position the model. Always remember that early morning and mid-afternoon (2–3 hours) is the best time for portraits with natural light. But filming at noon, with the most harsh light and shadows, on the contrary, is better to avoid. It’s a good rule of thumb to check weather forecasts — cloudiness, for example, can help create a portrait with soft shadows, like a natural reflector.
Ideally, the model should be facing the sun, or at such an angle that the lighting accentuates the features, but, on the contrary, smooths out unpleasant shadows. When composing a portrait, it is essential to look behind the model and note details such as distracting backgrounds, objects that break the composition, and so on. While on the camera display or in the viewfinder, such things are easy to miss, so you just need to learn and get used to.
So that these words do not sound lengthy, we will explain them in more detail. When we take a picture, we transfer a three-dimensional, 3d image into a flat 2d space. Therefore, depending on the focal length and the position of the camera and lens, you can either emphasize or hide imperfections. And of course, this will be reflected in the final picture. The number of individual characteristics of each of the millions of faces is limitless: it can be bright eyebrows, specific noses, double chins and much more. From this it may seem that it is almost impossible to take a perfect or even successful shot, but this is not at all the case. It is with the help of the location of the camera relative to the model that you can choose the most successful angle.
Depending on whether you want to shoot a portrait from a closer distance, you want to create a beauty shot, or you want to capture a character in a natural environment doing what they love, you will have to choose the approach to shooting. Especially when shooting portraits, it must be taken into account that the object or part of the face that is closest to the lens will appear larger than the rest. This effect is even more pronounced when using a wide-angle lens. Therefore, when shooting portraits, wide angles are not recommended.
Again, this characteristic needs attention when shooting characters with specific large noses. The longer the focus of the lens, the flatter and more compressed the elements will appear. The face, in this case, will be rounder, and the nose — shorter and more harmonious. That is, a telephoto lens with a focal length of 200mm, located a little further, but aimed directly at the face of the model, will create a more pleasant effect than a regular 85mm portrait lens.
The eyes are not without reason called the mirror of the soul, in portrait photography a lot can be conveyed through the look of the character, therefore, when shooting, often attention and emphasis is placed on the eyes. Similarly, focus is important — if the image is clear and bright, but the eyes are out of focus, the essence of the picture is lost.
With the help of a glance, you can convey both the mood and the idea of the frame, thanks to its direction, you can build a composition. In short, the possibilities are only limited by the imagination of the photographer.
Sony cameras have a very handy feature — ‑Eye AF, which allows you to focus on the eyes of the character. In addition, flexible focus points can be used to position the focus on the eye. Thus, regardless of the depth of field, the eyes are always in focus.
Photos can tell a story, and even if you like classic portraits, sometimes you can push the boundaries. Around the character there is always an environment that can also be used. Thus, by zooming in and out, moving further and moving closer, you can change the mood and atmosphere of the frame.
If you are photographing children, for example, you should not do this from the height of your own height. On the contrary, by shooting them from their level, you can achieve a greater effect of realism, convey their personality and make the photo more personal. The same thing works with adults — looking at a person at their own height is one of the tricks that will help you anchor your own psychological connection with the character in the frame and reflect his personality.
If you want to achieve a special effect, you can shoot from below, and from above, and from the side — everything will depend only on what kind of story you are trying to tell.
The tone and appearance of your subject’s skin plays a very important role when creating a portrait. Appearances are deceiving to the untrained eye, so a camera’s white balance can easily be deceived by the surroundings. Reflections from walls, clothing or greenery, even daylight, can make all the difference in balancing a shot. Therefore, you should not completely rely on the auto-balance of the camera — a mistake can cost time and productivity.
You should always have white balance cards, filters, and calibration tools in your arsenal. They will help to build the right balance in any situation.
If you’re working in low light conditions but still want your character to stand out, the available light can be realigned to match them with a collapsible reflector. The reflectors are available in white, silver, gold or black, and we have already written about their specifics in more detail.
Feel free to use their capabilities when shooting portraits.
In situations where the available lighting does not allow for a pleasing white balance, a completely affordable option is to convert the image to black and white. It also adds a vintage effect to the portrait. In addition, in a black and white frame, the background colors will not distract attention from the emphasized outline of the character at all. That is, all attention will be focused on it. You can shoot a portrait in color in RAW, and convert it to black and white after, this will make it possible to further twist the settings and achieve the desired effect. In this case, you can connect creativity and emphasize everything that will give the character character.
We often say that RAW is the most beneficial format for shooting. No matter what type of footage you’re aiming to capture, this format will allow you to achieve the best quality and more opportunities in post-processing. They weigh more than others and will require more free space on the memory card, but the benefits in this case greatly outweigh.
In essence, RAW files can be described as a kind of negatives of film photographs. Once you download them directly from your camera, you can edit them to add contrast, pull colors, tone, and more without affecting the original. The JPEG format that all cameras shoot is a compressed format in which the quality is reduced. And with quality, important information is lost. For tasks such as social networks, for example, JPEG photos are more than enough, although it is worth remembering that every time we reduce and change such a frame, we lose data. So, if we are talking about serious photography, about albums, printing, and so on, we mean that the work will begin with a RAW photo.
And in the end it is worth mentioning that it is always useful and always worth looking for additional inspiration. You can find it both in the works of famous photo artists, cinema, literature, and simply in your own mood, surrounding objects and people.