We shoot portraits in nature

Summer is the season of filming outdoors, in the open. Many go on photo walks to make beautiful staged portraits. But how to move from creating random everyday shots to conscious portrait shooting?

NIKON D810 / 35.0 mm f / 1.4 Installations: ISO 64, F1.4, 1/200 s, 35.0 mm equiv.

This article is about shooting a production portrait: one in which a person poses for you. But most of these tips can well be used when shooting reportage frames, without setting.

Where to start?

Of course, it’s best to start with planning a shot.

Arrange with the person you want to shoot. If a person is interesting and pleasant to you, then the shooting will be comfortable. Let’s see what issues should be discussed with the model in advance.

  • The concept of photography . Discuss with the model which image you want to show in the photo (for example, romantic or fabulous). Think about the nature of the model.
  • Location of the shooting . The selection of location (slang word from the English. Location – the place where the shooting takes place) should be taken with special attention. After all, the area in which you are shooting can help reveal the plot of the pictures, the image and character of the model.

We emphasize that the selected location must meet a number of criteria. For example, there should not be a ban on shooting. It is advisable to choose a time when at the planned location the smallest number of passers-by. Good places for a photo shoot will be parks, the territory of estates (open to the public), streets in the city center.

Many photographers specifically select “secret” locations for filming — those that are not known to other photographers. In our lessons, we have repeatedly touched on the topic of choosing places for shooting . Programs also help in the search – with the help of them we can find out what a particular place looks like without coming there. Before shooting, it is recommended to conduct reconnaissance on the ground yourself.

Choose places that can be easily and conveniently reached.

  • We agree with the model . Immediately agree with the model on the timing and procedure for obtaining photos (even if the model is your close friend).

The number of finished photographs is difficult to predict. It all depends on the circumstances: how lucky with the place and the weather, how smoothly it will turn out to work with the model. It’s difficult to talk about some general rules, but most often they agree on 10-20 processed frames from a photo shoot, and the delivery deadlines do not exceed a month.

Usually, they don’t give all the frames from the shooting (source codes) to the models, because the author should select the best photos. Choosing the best shots is as difficult a skill as photographing. The ability to select photographs needs to be improved in the same way as your creative vision.

At the time of discussion of future shooting, the most important thing is to establish contact with the model. It is a good psychological contact with your hero that will allow you to make expressive pictures.

  • When is it worth taking money for a shoot? Of course, only you make the decision. I will describe my opinion on this subject. The money for the shooting is taken by a specialist who provides services to a less experienced person. Suppose you are a professional photographer, and your model is just a girl from a neighboring porch who has nothing to do with photography. Then you have to not create with it, namely, to work. And they take money for work. If your experience in photography is the same as that of your model, then it is quite possible to agree on the terms of TFP (Time For Prints – time for pictures).

The conditions indicated by the acronym TFP mean not just “free” shooting, but the joint work of two equal experts aimed at a high-quality result. If you do not make a living from photography, I recommend limiting yourself to shooting interesting, pleasant people in the framework of TFP – you will get not only pleasure, but also really good shots.

  • What time of day is it better to take pictures? Taking pictures on the street, we can control the lighting only to a very limited extent (using flashes and a reflector). To create beautiful shots, you need to adapt not to your circumstances, but to the mode of sunlight.

It is best to photograph during a regimen of time – in the morning or evening hours; when the sun is low above the horizon and gives spectacular, volumetric lighting. But sunny noon is not the best time to shoot. The model will squint, hard dark shadows will appear on her face, the lighting itself in the frame will look dull and flat. Cloudy days are well suited for portraiture. When the sky is cloudy, you can take pictures all day – the light will be diffused, pleasing to the eye.

What photographic equipment is needed?

Portrait photography is good because it requires a minimum of photographic equipment. It is enough to have a SLR camera and a fast lens.

Why do you need a DSLR? It is very convenient to operate, it is convenient to hold in your hand. And of course, it has a large matrix, which will provide not only excellent image quality, but will also beautifully blur the background in the picture. APS-C format mirrors (“cropped”) are affordable and easy to manage. These include the Nikon D3200, Nikon D3300, Nikon D5300, Nikon D5500. Full-frame cameras are more expensive; they are designed for the advanced user. This class includes models Nikon D610, Nikon D750, Nikon D810, Nikon Df.

Nikon Df with Nikon AF-S 50mm f / 1.8G Special Edition Nikkor lens

All SLR cameras have interchangeable lenses. It is important to choose the optics suitable for shooting a portrait . Of course, you can start with the universal “whale” lens. But many photographers are quickly switching to more highly specialized optics. Such, first of all, include fast fixed lenses. A classic choice for portraits is a lens with a focal length of 50 mm (for example, Nikon AF-S 50mm f / 1.8G Nikkor). It is relatively inexpensive, it is convenient to use it on both “cropped” and full-frame cameras. If you want to shoot full-length portraits with part of the landscape included in the frame, it is better to choose a wider lens with a focal length of 28 (for the crop) or 35 mm (for the full frame).

NIKON D810 / 35.0 mm f / 1.4 Installations: ISO 64, F1.4, 1/200 s, 35.0 mm equiv.

Note that when shooting at close range, such lenses will distort the proportions of the face and body.

Classic portrait lenses are considered lenses with a focal length of 85 mm (for example, Nikon AF-S 85mm f / 1.8G Nikkor). But they will be more suitable for full-frame devices, and on the “crop” they will “zoom in” too much.

Everything except the camera and lens is optional and depends on the author’s creative ideas and style of shooting.

NIKON D810 / 50.0 mm f / 1.4 Installations: ISO 31, F1.4, 1/320 s, 50.0 mm equiv.

Set up the camera. Technical tips

  • When portraits are usually photographed on open apertures – this turns out to blur the background, separating our hero from him. In addition, on an open aperture, it will be possible to make better shots in low light conditions. The aperture is conveniently adjustable in modes A and M.
  • How to make a frame darker or lighter? Use exposure compensation. This is the easiest way to correctly change the brightness of the resulting photos.
  • Learn to focus exactly . This is especially important when working with aperture optics. If the aperture is F1.4 – F2.8, it is very easy to miss the focus. As a result, your hero’s face will be blurry. Learn how focus points are selected on your camera. It is convenient to work with high-aperture optics in the single-point focus mode, focusing on the eyes of the model.
  • It is also necessary to monitor the shutter speed. If the shutter speed is too long, the model will “smear” from its own movements, a “shag” will appear in the photo. It is best to photograph at shutter speeds shorter than 1/125 s , this will insure against strong blurry images. If you are shooting with a telephoto lens, or if your hero is in constant motion (running, jumping), it is better to use a shutter speed shorter than 1/250 s.
  • Portrait photography often involves processing photos. This can be a simple correction of white balance, or retouching images, removing skin defects and serious color correction. Therefore, it is advisable to photograph in RAW format , so that when processing, provide yourself more freedom for creativity.
  • At what distance should I take a portrait? Keep this distance so that the proportions of the face and body of the person in the frame are not distorted. It is best to photograph from a distance of at least 2-3 meters . The size of the plan can be changed by choosing the focal length.
  • Many photographers fanatically pursue a beautifully blurred background (bokeh) and a “unique lens design”. But you need to remember that the main character in the frame is a man. Pay less attention to technical refinements and leave more time working with the model and plot. This is the way to expressive photographs. Beautiful portraits can be done even on the simplest technique, if you approach the shooting with the soul.
  • If you decide to use lenses with manual focus, then keep in mind that accurately focusing with them will be extremely difficult. If the model is relatively motionless, you can focus through the Live View screen. Shooting through it (with magnification) will allow you to focus more accurately.
NIKON D810 / 50.0 mm f / 1.4 Installations: ISO 100, F2.8, 1/320 s, 50.0 mm equiv.

Creative tips

There are a great many different approaches and styles of shooting production portraits. We recently had a lesson with basic creative tips for aspiring photographers . These tips are quite relevant for shooting a portrait. And here are a number of useful recommendations for creating expressive portraits:

  • A portrait photographer must be able to win over people, interest them, and inspire. If there is mutual understanding between the photographer and his hero, during the photo shoot you can make a lot of good shots.
  • Explain the essence of the frame to the model, tell us what you want to see in the photo. Not in words: show by your example, make sketches on paper, suggest an associative series. You may recall a suitable image from some famous movie or book. The ability to explain your plan is an important skill of the photographer. Of course, in order to be able to do this, you first have to think carefully about the essence of what you are photographing yourself.
  • It is good when the result of portrait shooting is not one shot, but a small series of shots, united by a common idea, history, style.
  • The performance does not cancel life and emotions in the frame. It only determines the plot in which our hero lives. Talk to the model, try to evoke the necessary emotions in her. Offering clear, well-defined poses for shooting is not the best option. Most likely, with this approach, the model in the picture will be clamped.
NIKON D810 / 85.0 mm f / 1.4 Installations: ISO 900, F1.4, 1/160 s, 85.0 mm equiv.
  • Similar advice on shooting children: do not expect children to be arranged like dolls. Come up with a plot, a general outline of shooting and combine it with a children’s game to make them interested. Play, chat with your child. Pick up fun accessories for a photo shoot: interesting clothes, toys, etc.
  • Look for diffuse side lighting. If the shooting takes place in regime time, you can try backlighting.

Backlit Shooting

  • A series of portrait photographs (photoset) can be supplemented with other interesting pictures – for example, photograph the hands of a model.
NIKON D810 / 35.0 mm f / 1.4 Settings: ISO 64, F1.4, 1/400 s, 35.0 mm equiv.
  • Praise the model! Do not forget to celebrate her successful actions. Indicate what you like. This will help to find contact, liberate your hero. If something goes wrong as you conceived, then it’s better not to reproach, but to tell in a friendly way about your vision of the frame.
  • Use basic layout rules. Compose the frame according to the rule of thirds, do not “cut” your hero’s limbs by joints, leave more space in the direction of the model’s gaze. Of course, these rules can and should be broken sometimes. But it is important to understand that the one who knows and understands them is effectively breaking the rules.
  • It is believed that it is most beneficial to photograph a person at the level of his eyes (yes, when photographing children, you will need to sit down). Let this be your starting point in choosing a perspective. It is important to consider that people’s faces are different, so in each case, the shooting point can be taken lower or higher.
NIKON D810 / 85.0 mm f / 1.4 Installations: ISO 31, F1.4, 1/320 s, 85.0 mm equiv.

Traditional advice – don’t be afraid to experiment! All good photographers did not immediately come to their shooting style. Think creatively, but don’t forget the theory! And you will certainly succeed.

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