Take your best shot: the portrait

By Adrian Toon, Director of A2n.

One of the most difficult pictures to take is the portrait shot, or ‘mug-shot’ as some like to call it. Most of us don’t pose for images as a job or do it on a regular basis so it’s obvious that the ‘subject’ does not know how to relax and what to do.

The portrait picture is a partnership between photographer and subject; trust is important and the photographer and subject both need to know what image they wish to capture.

First it is important that the photographer checks that they can obtain an accurate focus, exposure and a side light source which offers some facial detail. A face-on flash often results in a rabbit-caught-in-the-headlight type of image, unless you know what you are doing.

A window to the side of the subject with natural light offers a great position to take portrait pictures. Choose you backdrop wisely and far enough away from the subject.

Technically, if you have the right kit, a 70mm or 135mm lens works best at a wide aperture, if this is not available a typical 50mm lens will work, but don’t try to use any wide-angle lenses.

A good quality phone camera works well, especially the one that blurs the background slightly (known as ‘bokeh’). A good lens with a wide aperture gives the same result.

Now to that ‘natural’ capture. Get the banter going between you and the subject, tell a joke, “you look like you are waiting for the dentist”, then snap. Take quite a few and change the head and shoulders arrangement by moving the subject.

Important for me is telling the subject prior to the shoot that they can choose the best image you take.

With a little practice you can take some excellent pictures with some basic kit including the phone camera. As is the case for most things, the more you do it, the better you will get.