Portraiture has always been an important way for humans to remember a person. Even dating back to ancient Egypt, individuals who served some level of importance in the culture were chiseled into stone or in burial chambers. We all want to remember the people we hold important by capturing them in time, if we can.
These days portraiture comes predominantly in the form of photography and is not just for the royals but for everyday people like you and I. With the introduction of digital cameras and iPhones, it is estimated that more photos have been taken in the last few years than ever before in history.
No matter how you feel about having your picture taken, I personally believe every woman deserves to have one fantastic, well composed photo that captures her unique and natural beauty. A personal session with a professional photographer (while highly recommended) can sometimes be expensive or too time consuming for your busy life. The good news is there are some simple steps you can take to achieve a lovely portrait. Guess what else? You don’t have to own a fancy camera!
These tips are best applied when you have somebody else take your photo. So grab a friend and make an event of it!
Tip # 1: Lighting Is Everything
The end and beginning of every photo has to do with flattering light. I believe this comes in the form of natural light. Natural light gives a soft, organic look that is simply stunning and additionally, it’s cheap and almost always available — no expensive equipment or electric bills to consider. As you can see below, gorgeous light makes any photo taken on a range of cameras look lovely.
Keep the following in mind when using natural light:
- Find EVEN natural light. Make sure there are no speckles on your subject’s face from a tree above, etc. A good way to figure this out is to look at where you’re standing, is the light on where you are shooting even on the ground?
- An overcast cloudy day is a gift. The even natural light will be abounding.
- On a sunny day, turn your subject’s BACK to the sun. Never photograph somebody’s face in direct sunlight (squinty eyes are no good for a portrait) and back lighting will give them a flattering glow.
- If indoors, a big north facing window will give you the best light.
Tip # 2: Composition
A well-composed photo can bring life to a picture. Composition really just refers to how you fill the view finder of your camera with the person you are photographing. Here is what you should know:
- In general (though not always) a vertical composition will be most flattering for a portrait.
- The “rule of thirds”: divide what you see when you look through your camera into 3 even section, then place your subject in ONE of those three sections.
- Keep it simple. Tilting your camera or shooting from super artsy angles can sometimes be interesting, but in order to capture a gorgeous photo in good natural light, a simple composition will be best.
Tip # 3: Natural Posing
The most beautiful shots of people we love generally have to do with their natural self coming out in the photo, while still helping them look their best. I don’t believe in making somebody look like anyone but themselves. Here is how to achieve that:
- Interact with your subject, try to make them laugh and be ready to capture that special moment when they smile.
- Photograph your subject in a place they are comfortable and enjoy (their home, favorite coffee shop or park)
- Have your subject look away from the camera if they are stiff or nervous, take a few shots. Some of the most beautiful photos are when people look away from the camera.
- It is usually most flattering to photograph a woman with her shoulders and hips angled slightly away from the camera as opposed to straight on. Play with different stances always shifting weight from one leg to the other.
- Props can be helpful! Have your subject hold something that is true to them. Do they love coffee? Give them a hot cup of coffee to hold. Do they play the guitar? Put that guitar in their hands! This can really set people at ease and allow for natural moments even if the actual prop isn’t in the picture.
Following these three tips can aid in having a gorgeous photo of yourself or for helping your friends achieve the same thing … with just about any camera you own. Remember, portraiture should be about capturing a beautiful moment of humanity. Sharing this with others is a great gift and also, fun! The world of social media has over-blasted us all (at times) with too many “selfies”, so keep it in mind to use good timing in how often you share your photo. Hourly profile picture updates take the joy of seeing a new side of you away from other people. Better to surprise them every once in awhile.
These tips can also be applied to photographing those who have never had the opportunity to see themselves in portraiture. You can use your skills to serve others who have less resources to do so, and that will be a great feeling indeed. Every woman should feel beautiful. May these ideas help stir up your creativity in order to accomplish that!
Images via Jenni Kupelian