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Portrait Photography Tips – Camera Settings

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Five photography tips for successful Portrait photographs

Photography tips for Portrait

Whether you shoot portraits, landscapes or other kinds of photography, camera settings are an important part of your success and each type requires different camera settings; for example your camera settings for sport or action photography will differ from those used in landscape photography. In this article I am going to cover five important tips for portrait photography camera settings in Natural/Constant Light.

Portrait Photography Tips

Photography tips
What are the errors in this photo? Find the errors and try to avoid them

Camera settings for portrait photography

1- ISO

For natural light portraits I recommend using the lowest possible ISO. The lower ISO settings (100-400) provide a clean and sharp image; additionally you will have a better Dynamic Range, which means that you can retouch the photo later with more detail.

2- Shutter Speed

Although Shutter Speed may not seem all that relevant in portrait photography, it is very important to select the shutter speed wisely. We know that in portrait photography the subject does not move…or do they? People can move, especially when they are in front of a camera, even slightly, which can cause blurred photos. This is important if you take photos of kids or people who are not comfortable in front of the camera.  Another point to consider is that a very fast shutter speed may force you to use a higher ISO.
As a general rule a shutter speed from 1/100s to 1/400s serves you the best because it is fast enough to freeze slight movement of your subject without pushing the ISO too high

3- Aperture settings

Depth of Field is another important key in portrait photography. Although a shallow depth of field is often desirable for portraits, you want to be careful when selecting the f-Stop. Look at the focal length of your lens and set an aperture which provides some depth of field. For example, if you are using an 85mm lens with f1.4, you don’t want to open the aperture all the way to f1.4 because the depth of field is so shallow that the eye may be in focus, but the nose and ears would not! (Unless, of course, you are going for this effect) As a rule of thumb, usually f4.5 to 5.6 will provide a nice over-all depth of field.

4- White Balance

Our camera’s Auto White Balance can sometimes become confused and create heavy colour cast. One example is when you shoot portraits in the shade but there is sunshine in the background. In this situation you usually wind up with an unwanted colour cast. Always try to use Custom White Balance. If you cannot set the custom White Balance, I recommend using one of the White Balance Presets. Using Presets allows for faster and better post processing

5- Use Continuous Drive

This is helpful especially if you’re taking group photos of people. Set your camera drive for 3 to 4 frames per second and capture more than one photo at a time. Continuous Shooting allows wiggle room for those people who close their eyes or make funny faces when you release the shutter. Having multiple images allows you to pick the best one!

Stay tuned for more articles about posing.  If you are interested in perfecting your techniques with portrait photography, consider signing up for our Natural Light Portrait Photography Workshop scheduled for April 22nd. This full day class covers many more Portrait Photography skills, with lots of opportunity to put them into practice during this hands-on workshop.

Ted and the Omnilargess Team

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