When it comes to taking photos, nothing is ever quite as expressive or evoking as portrait photography. However, with most of us staying home to stay safe amidst a global pandemic, organizing a full-day shoot for professionally shot photos by a portrait photography company is easier said than done for most. Save the professional shoots for special occasions and learn how to take portrait photos at home with this short guide!
Learning the process of taking portrait photos at home is best summed up with the acronym L-I-S-T-E. And no, it’s not just a fancy way of spelling the word list. L-I-S-T-E stands for lighting, itinerary, settings, tips, and equipment. In order to get the basics of how to take portrait photos down, it is important to get back to the basics. As we go over each one, you will eventually notice that the addition of even one of these to your process of portrait photography can make a big difference in the quality of your work.
Lighting is Everything
Fun Fact: Did you know that most content creators and photographers opt for south-facing homes or studios when choosing a space to live? This is because south-facing homes receive the most amount of natural light. When it comes to portrait photography, lighting is a big factor for the overall vibe and outcome of your composition. If you work or live in a space with plenty of natural light, feel free to take advantage of its presence by creating a shoot that is light and airy. However, if you do not have access to natural light, securing an artificial source in its place can allow you to create powerful and moody shots. Play with the angles and colors of your portrait photography lighting to add drama to your shoot.
Portrait Photography Tip: Shooting your photos on a budget? Purchase a cheap gooseneck table lamp and a smart light bulb that you can connect to your phone with a simple app. This way, you can adjust the brightness and color of your lighting, as well as the angle by manually tweaking the gooseneck of your table lamp. One of the simplest set-ups for this is the 45/45, wherein you position the light at a 45-degree angle from your subject at a 45-degree tilt vertically. Add in an umbrella into the mix to allow the light to bounce back from it, diffusing harsh light into one more suitable for portrait photography lighting.
Itinerary to Stay on Sched
Even a home-based shoot can get completely derailed without the proper planning. Whether you are learning how to take portrait photos for content creation or perhaps as a side hustle or hobby, planning out your shoot day can do wonders for the success of your shoot. Put your pen to paper and create a game plan, such as the models, props, styling, and time slots for each segment of your shoot. Not only does this benefit you, but also any models or hair and makeup artists that you may be enlisting for the day of the shoot.
Tweak the Settings
The ability to tweak and play around with your portrait photography settings is one of the reasons why investing in a DSLR camera is a must. Not only can you swap out the lens of your high-powered camera, but you can also adjust specific settings like the ISO, exposure, shutter speed, and even the aperture. Being able to adjust the settings of your camera to your subject and the circumstances like different lighting, styling, or subjects of varying skin tone. Still subjects in natural light can get away with 1/15 shutter speed, while ISO ranges in the same kind of light can go anywhere between 100 and 400. The darkness of a room, and the speed or motion al contribute to the adjustments needed for your money shot.
Portrait Photography Tip: Navigating your portrait photography settings can be an intimidating task, so don’t be afraid to take it slow or do your research. If you are a visual learner, there are a number of tutorials and masterclasses available online. However, if you are still in doubt about your skill in assessing the shoot and adjusting your portrait photography settings accordingly, it is best to shoot images in RAW instead. You retain the details of your photo while leaving room for color correction during the post-processing phase of your work.
Equipment is an Investment
It’s no secret that investing in portrait photography equipment, or any photography equipment for that matter, can easily burn a hole in your pocket if you get carried away. If you are just starting out in portrait photography as a hobby or even a business, feel free to start out with the basics. A good quality DLSR camera is a necessity for ample customization options and switching out between appropriate lenses for your shoot. On top of this, a sturdy tripod, a reflector, and a selection of one or two lenses that you can work with is also a good start for your kit. Opt for one standard lens length, and another that is on the longer side—like a telephoto lens. A longer lens allows you to shoot subjects from further away, capturing more of the scene and the people without coming too close.
Portrait Photography Tip: Don’t rush into buying portrait photography equipment right off the bat! Quality pieces of equipment can easily add up, resulting in thousands of pesos and dollars if you aren’t careful. When starting out, feel free to make DIY reflectors or start with a tripod for a stable shot. Remember that one of the things that make photography fun is the process, so don’t rush into it or it may just be a headache because of the heavy price tag!
We hope that the elements of L-I-S-T-E helped you learn how to take portrait photography—or at the very least learn more about the basics. If you require the portrait photography skills of a professional, or simply want to learn by exposure, get in touch with the Stellar Studios team and organize a portrait photoshoot of your own!