Photography basics and what beginners should know. What I wish someone had shared with me.
Hi there, I wanted to talk about a few things that I wish I knew when I started doing Portrait Photography. There are so many things to think about when it comes to photography. It is not just owning a nice camera and shooting in auto Modes. I would suggest learning in manual mode first. I think of it like this, I learned to drive with an automatic transmission and now I wish I had learned on a stick shift… because trying to learn to drive a stick was difficult and I gave up.
I did not learn to shoot in manual mode when I started. I worked in a portrait studio and we never learned the ins and outs of how a camera works. So when I went freelance I was shooting in auto modes and didn’t know why my camera was doing what it was doing. What a disaster.
When I decided that I wanted to take my photography to the next level and create a business out of it, I knew that I needed to learn everything I could.
First, we have the passion, then we have to build our artistic eye and growing at all times. But… I think the first thing you should focus on is learning the exposure triangle.
Aperture, ISO and Shutterspeed. These things determine how light or dark and image will be. It is super important to understand these 3 components if you want to take your photography to the next level! GET OUT OF AUTO MODES!
I won’t get into detail about how it all works in this blog since this is about the basics of what to learn.
While learning the exposure triangle, learn white balance as well.
After you understand the above and you are out practicing (because practicing potentially makes perfect, but the growing never ends and the possibilities are endless.) You will want to think about things like what time of the day to do your photoshoot. The early morning is called the blue hour just before sunrise and makes a gorgeous calming blue hue. Then we have the golden hour which is about an hour or so before sunset which gives you a nice golden glow to work with. Then we have that atrocious high noon light from the sun! But if you learn to work with it, you won’t fear it.
When the sun is highest in the sky it can cast some unattractive shadows on your subject’s face and body. But you can learn to use the things around you to your advantage. For instance, if it is a cloudy day, the clouds create a natural diffuser which I love!!! If the sky is clear and maybe a few clouds here and there, then you may want to think about having an assistant hold a diffuser for you. Or you could find a more shaded yet still well-lit area to shoot in. You can even look for sidewalk or concrete to help reflect the light off of the ground and back up onto the subject. If you are shooting on a blacktop, then the sunlight will just be absorbed by the dark ground and will not help you. So if you don’t have an assistant or even a light reflector/diffuser then use your surroundings to your advantage. You can even use shadows as a tool to create some cool images as well.
In-studio sessions, you will want to learn about the different kinds of shadows that complement and image.
Here is a list of different lighting patterns you should learn.
- Split lighting
- Loop lighting
- Rembrandt lighting
- Butterfly lighting
- Broad lighting
- Short lighting
- Rim lighting
- Flat light
Another great thing to think about is catchlights in the eyes. The placement of the catchlight is important. Catchlights are the reflection of the light source in your subject’s eyes.
The eyes are the window to the soul as they say and are a very important part of portrait photography. Your subject should be facing the light source. If you are using Studio lighting or flash lighting, it is a good idea to put the light higher than the subject to mimic the placement of the sun.
One more thing I want to mention about the eyes in Portrait Photography is the direction in which your eyes are facing. You don’t want the sclera to overpower the eye in an image. In other words, the whites of the eyes should not take up the real estate of the eyes. Two ways to guide your subject is to ask them to follow their eyes in the direction of their nose. If you want the head slightly directed away from the lens but still want the subject to look at the camera then be sure that the whites of the eyes do not overpower the eye.
The last thing I would like to discuss is composition. Cropping and the rule of thirds can make a huge impact on an image.
You will want to be sure that there isn’t too much space between your subjects head and the top of the image if you are shooting let’s say a close-up. Negative space at the top isn’t very flattering in that type of portrait. Getting it right in the camera will be better than trying to fix it in the editing room. Post-editing on cropping should be more about straightening as opposed to composition.
Which leads me into the rule of thirds. I love using the rule of thirds in my images. Which means that the subject isn’t centered in the image. It brings your eye into the composition instead of going straight to the center of the image. Play around with composition and you will find what you love.
I hope you find these tips useful when starting in your photography venture. The fun is in learning and growing. We have so many resources at our fingertips… utilize it!
Cheers to being creative!