January 28, 2011

“How do I take a great looking, no fuss portrait in 30 seconds?”

You want it fast. You want it good. Memorize the steps below and you’re already impressing friends and family with your brilliant photos.

Position your subject.
Grab your mom/dog/son and position them facing a large window. It’s best to do this on a nice overcast day because the light is soft and flattering. If it’s bright and sunny, try putting a white sheet over the window. Position your subject in such a way that there’s a neutral background (like a wall) behind them.

Look for the shiny, shiny catchlights.
Catchlights are the reflection of the light in the eye of your subject and they look smashing in kids and animals. The closer your subject is to the screen door, the bigger the catchlight. Position your subject until you can see the reflection – they may have to turn their head or body.

Set your camera.
For starters, click your settings dial over to P. Next, turn off your flash – the window will do all the heavy lifting for you. If you feel comfortable, you’ll also want to change your white balance to “Cloudy” or “Sunny.” This changes the colour of the light into something a little warmer.

Zoom in.
Look at your LCD screen and zoom into your subject so that the face fills the frame. This is your chance to play around a little. Try a head and shoulders shot or zooming in cropping out part of the face.

Do a mental check.
Before you snap the shot, ask yourself two key questions:
  • Is her face clean? I’ve taken too many spaghetti-stained face shots to count.
  • Are there any weird shadows falling anywhere in the photo? Look closely. Does anything look wrong?
Don’t ask anyone to smile.
The best skill you can learn as a photographer is how to make anyone forget the camera. In theory, it’s a simple trick – just keep talking to whomever you’re photographing. Want a smile? Tell a joke, rather than ask for a forced face full of teeth.

That’s it. A whole lot of words, a spiffy portrait that the family will love.

Next up: Boring stuff that will save your (photo) life.

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