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Master Portrait Photography

Dan Eitreim

July 4, 2015

To not only learn, but to master portrait photography there are a few simple, basic steps that will not only get you started in the right direction, but will set you up for total and complete domination of your portrait photography.

At first, as you start to learn what is involved, portrait photography may seem somewhat daunting. There’s learning what an f-stop is (and which one to use), learning what shutter speed to use and when, which lens is best, how to compose the image, what type of light to use, the direction of the light and where the light is casting shadows… and on and on.

Portrait - Split light

Portrait – Split light

The best part is that it isn’t as hard as you may think! Once you “get it”, mastering portrait photography is really pretty easy.

Here’s a few simple beginner’s photography lesson steps that will not only help you learn portrait photography, but will move you head and shoulders above the local photo club competition.

First: ANY beginner’s guide to photography should start off by telling you to dig through your junk drawer and find your camera’s manual. Then, read it!

Portrait - loop lighting

Portrait – loop lighting

Yes, I know it is written by geeks and for geeks and going through it will be the most boring half hour of your life! Sorry, but you just have to do it.

Start at page one and – with camera in hand – go through it page by page until you completely understand everything.

This is important. You will quickly learn what all the functions on your camera are and what they are used for. You’ll be amazed at what this marvel of technology can do.

Second: Now that you know what your camera can do, it’s time to take it off automatic. Once you’ve had some experience with all the creative options available to you, you are never going to want to go back.

Consider this – none of the beginner’s photography courses will EVER recommend shooting on automatic. There’s a good reason for that. I know that switching over to manual is scary, but it won’t take long to figure it out. If you really have trouble getting it… check out one of the better photography books for beginners. Go through one or two and you will get it. It’s not that hard.

Portrait - Butterfly lighting

Portrait – Butterfly lighting

Third: All of photography is about light. What kind it is, what direction it is coming from, how harsh it is, what color it is and on and on. This is photography for beginners -101.

In learning portrait photography we take it one step further and start to consider the shadows created by that light. This is where the rubber meets the road if you want to learn portrait photography and start creating portraits that are the best ones your friends have ever seen!

The way a portrait is lit will accent your subjects’ best features and minimize the worst ones.

You can use light to visually take pounds off someone who is a bit overweight. By the same token, you can visually add weight to someone who is too thin.

No one likes acne and ta-daa! You can dramatically minimize it. You can shorten or elongate noses – you can make huge ears a non-issue, make elderly people younger and on and on. Light and the shadows created by it is the key.

Portrait - Rembrandt light

Portrait – Rembrandt light

The various lighting patterns you will encounter when you start to learn portrait photography are split light, broad light, narrow light, loop light, butterly light, Rembrandt light and so on. The interesting thing is, the light patterns are all named for the shadows!

There’s the pose to consider as well! Is it going to be a full body pose? Head and shoulders?

Will the head be positioned for a full face portrait, 3/4 face, profile… will you tilt the head (up or down)?

Once you start getting comfortable with shooting portraits, you should try to learn black and white photography. Believe it or not, black and white will give you some amazing opportunities to insert mood and emotions into your work.

Check out the various articles found in the learn portrait photography category in the side bar and you will be amazed at how much fun it is! Then check back frequently. New ones are being added literally every day.

To learn more about a great online class, check out – Photography Master Class

For a bit of fun check out – Trick Photography

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