Take A Portrait – Photography Experiments

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Today’s experiment is fairly easy on the surface, but so is most photography at first glance. Point, hit button, look at back of camera. But we want to go a little deeper and think about what we, meaning you, are photographing today.

Today’s topic is to photograph a portrait of someone or, if the mood strikes you, some animal. As is my plan with these experiments, I am going to back off telling you what to do and instead, this time, give you some things to consider when photographing. If this doesn’t work for you, please let me know in the comments section and I’ll pass along a few hints.

Things To Consider:

  • Do you want to shoot in manual or aperture priority?
    • Hint: Your aperture setting will be important here as you want to keep few things in focus. A good portrait typically uses varying degrees of focus to help bring attention to the subject. Knowing that, what do you want your aperture to be?
  • You can also use differing amounts of light to help bring attention to your subject. Move your subject around to find good light. Diffused (spread out and softened) light is often easier to work with than harsh light.
  • Not sure how to pose your subject? Me neither. But, Posing App will help you. It’s all of $3 and has 244 different poses. You can also take a look at Digital Photography School’s recent series on posing, which is taken from the app.
  • Focus on the eyes. Sony cameras now have a nice “Eye AF” feature that will make sure your eyes are always in focus.
  • Consider the mood and emotion you want to convey. Not all great portraits are shiny, happy people holding hands.
  • Once you have things set, check hair and small details. Do they help the portrait or detract?

There is a whole other world of things to consider when looking at complexion, clothes selection, advanced lighting, makeup, etc… We’re not heading there with this one simple experiment. I’m trying to get you to think of the baby steps it takes to get there.

What are your settings? How is the subject framed? Where is the light coming from? How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

Please feel free to post a link to your results.


Questions?  Pop ’em like Pez in the comments section below or email me at peter@peterwestcarey.com.

Photography Basics – A 43 Day Adventure, and its companion 40 Photography Experiments, are series written by professional photographer Peter West Carey. The series are designed to unravel the mysteries of photography, helping you can take better pictures. Subscribe here to receive all the updates and bonus material. Your comments are always welcome.

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