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General photography questions and answers: Discuss Portrait photo novice...Family have asked me to do some portrait shots of them over christmas when they visit.. I will hopefully have ...
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Old 27-11-2007, 13:46   #1 (permalink)
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Portrait photo novice

Family have asked me to do some portrait shots of them over christmas when they visit..

I will hopefully have a new camera then, but know nothing about the correct setting up.

I have a tripod, but no lighting equipment, can i still get some good images?

Does anyone have any tips?
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Old 27-11-2007, 14:37   #2 (permalink)
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Re: Portrait photo novice

You can definitely get good portraits without flash... but it all depends on the lighting you do have. Most recent DSLRs give usable results at higher sensitivities (ISO settings), allowing you to use shutter speeds fast enough for handheld shots.

I would personally avoid the tripod in favour of bumping up the ISO value, because the tripod won't help when the subjects move (which they undoubtedly will unless you're talking about posthumous portraits!). A tripod will also tend to formalise the portrait and make the subject feel like they need to 'smile for the camera'. You'll get more natural results if you are more casual in your approach - try to set up the camera and roughly frame the shot before the subject is aware.
I'm not saying that tripods are incompatible with good portraits - far from it - but you may need to be more experienced at directing your subject and putting them at ease that way. I think if you're new to the camera and new to taking portraits with it, you should leave the tripod for later when you're more comfortable with it.

I don't know what Santa may have in store for you, but assuming you're getting a DSLR with kit lens, I would spend an hour or two reading enough of the manual for you to get a handle of what the main controls on the camera do. Then of course the joy of digital is that you can play away to your heart's content with various settings and controls without worrying about developing costs. Instant feedback on the LCD allows you to see how your changes are affecting the output.
Then, assuming you'll be shooting indoors, try some shots at ISO800 or ISO1600 using 'aperture priority' mode (called Av on Canon DSLRs) and practice using different aperture settings (f-numbers) and checking the effect it has on both shutter speed and depth of field.
You may soon get a feel for the best f-number to use under the conditions to allow reasonably sharp handheld shots with a nice blurred background. (Most likely something between f/2.8 and f/5.6 but maybe different.)

Next, experiment with white balance settings and check if there is a preset, e.g. tungsten or fluorescent, that gives better results than Auto White Balance.

After a few hours playing around and taking shots of other people's Christmas presents, then you can start off with some nice candid shots and when you've got the hang of it, ask for some willing volunteers for your first portrait shoot!
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Old 27-11-2007, 14:52   #3 (permalink)
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Re: Portrait photo novice

Gainful covered a very good approach, Can't say much for outdoors but indoors you might think about useing those small halogen light bulds in a small lamp placed up high, shineing on the ceiling. Up out of the way, they give off a lot of soft light reflected down on everybody in the room. Last week with lots of kids over, we turned on the small lights hidden up on china cabnets or whatever and lite up the room. Works for me.
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Old 27-11-2007, 16:56   #4 (permalink)
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Re: Portrait photo novice

If you end up with mix lights you may find that the camera deals with the WB OK. Particularly if different types of light light different parts of the image it may still look OK. If you hit problems then consider post proccessing to mono to get around WB problems. They may even think the pics are more arty.
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Old 27-11-2007, 17:09   #5 (permalink)
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Re: Portrait photo novice

That's a good tip, yes... mono photos often hide problems with noise at higher ISO settings, too - looking a bit like grain from fast film and adding to the arty effect.

Always shoot in colour though, even if you intend the final pic to be mono. You will get the best mono result by converting from colour (e.g. using channel mixer in monochrome mode or some other method).
Remember you can always make a mono from a colour original but it's hard if not impossible to create a colour image from a mono one.
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Old 28-11-2007, 16:34   #6 (permalink)
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Re: Portrait photo novice

Wow thanks for the all the tips - really appreciated!!!

sorry for delay in replying just bought a house.

Hoping santa will bring a pentax K100d, that way my other lenses will fit even thought they lose a bit in translation so to speak!!

I'll look forward to having a go and in the men time play about with my 35mm version

Thanks again
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