Do you just snap pictures of friends without a thought to how it my turn out? Portrait photography takes you a step up from people photography. It gives you elements to notice such as the angle you take the photograph, the lighting you will use, and the expression of emotion on a persons face. While you may be an amateur photographer deciding to take Christmas photos without the expense you will need to have some basic knowledge of techniques used by the professionals.
First when taking a photograph of a person you need to study their face. The face is important to the angle you will shoot from. Though it is a cliche, it is true some people have a better side. This could be in relation to scarring or acne breakouts or even simpler. For instance my left eye is larger than my right by just a bit, and looking head on into the camera will cause a horrible portrait, however if the photographer comes from the right side and angles up a little the light and shadows will help even out the features while keeping the distinctions that make me who I am.
Portrait photography is about capturing the essence of the subject, the personality. The little nuances of a face add character to the portrait. You will want to loosen up your subjects. If you are becoming a professional portrait photographer you will want to learn about your subject as you are taking pictures or perhaps meet them before the session. If they are just your family then you should know what would get their personality captured on film.
Lighting is the next important step to portrait photography. A lot of photographers prefer natural light to artificial. Your subject will in part decide this for you. Remember you will use the light you have. Natural light will often require setting the aperture to compensate for the cameras lack of definition. In other words you need to create the contrast with the light and shadows for the effect you want. Often artificial light is harsh and not directed properly unless in a studio. Again you will need to use the manual settings on your camera to create the perfect portrait.
The background is also important when discussing light. In a studio a photographer will pick a background that will not wash your features out or your clothing. They want to have a distinction or contrast between you and the background. This is also important of home portrait photography. You will want a background that gives color to your subject rather than taking it away. Finding a nice spot with a tree to sit on and mountains in the background can be a great portrait, but you will want to make sure the background is not too busy to distract from the subject. Make the subject seem apart of the picture rather than outside of it.
The type of camera and film you use will also determine the quality of the photography. Once you combine techniques such as lighting, angles, and understanding your subject you will be able to create a near to professional if not professional portrait for your friends and family no matter the occasion. Just snapping a picture is possible, but it would be great to have a better portrait?