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Nov 27, 2016
4 Quick Tips For Better Portraits
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I've gotten quite a few questions about portrait photography - mostly from my mom in regards to why her iPad pictures come out blurry - but other people have asked for my advice as well (I swear) so I decided to put this quick guide together containing
improved my portrait photography. The best part about this advice is that the equipment is somewhat irrelevant.
This article is intended to provide a foundation for further research and experimentation as it does not go into extended depth for each topic that we cover. The information I’m about to share, I learned through a lot of research and practice so I hope it helps you out.
Alright, enough chit chat - let’s jump into this like a pool full of puppies. D’awww. Can you picture that? So adorable!
Tip #1: Intention
Intention is probably the biggest thing that separates professionals and amateurs. Anybody can press the shutter of a nice camera but it takes skill to
what to shoot
how to shoot it
So what is intention?
Intention is what you’re trying to accomplish
through your photography. Naturally, intention will change depending on the purpose of each shoot but it helps guide your choices for lighting, composition, and how you direct your subject. To help find my intention, two questions I constantly ask myself are:
What are you doing with your life?
When are you going to meet a nice girl and go pair off to die like all of your friends?
WHOOPS. I mean...Very true but that’s another story for another time.
The two questions I ask myself to help my
What am I trying to
How do I want them to
when they interact with my work?
Most of the time with my portrait photography, my intention is to show off the model’s personality and I want them to feel good about themselves when they see the photo. As a result, I try to make them feel as comfortable as possible when I take their portrait so they can open up to the camera.
Here are some examples of intention with some different portraits I've taken:
with your photography. Be intentional with your life. BOOM.
Tip #2: Appropriate Lighting
Photography is essentially the manipulation and capture of light which is why you should always light your subject appropriately in relation to your intention. Whether you’re using natural lighting or studio lighting, here are some general best practices:
t - This type of light illuminates more evenly and makes your subject glow. Non-diffused light, such as a built-in flash, can cause hotspots (over-exposed areas) on skin or heavy shadows which don’t usually look very good. The reason why people shoot at golden hour or use diffused light like softboxes is because they help produce a soft light.
An indoor softbox lighting setup might look something like this:
- Make sure the subject of the photo is separated from the background. This will add depth and a greater sense of focus to your portrait. The easiest way to achieve this is by using a hairlight or backlight.
Defined facial features
- The jawline, chin, and nose should be well defined which is why most photographers position their key light higher than and adjacent to their subject; it allows for a slight shadow to be cast on the facial features to help define them. Use fill lights and reflectors to reduce harsh shadows. Too much or too little contrast is typically unflattering. Kind of like my senior prom photos. Just kidding. I didn’t go to prom because I broke my leg. And because I was shy and awkward. Mainly the latter.
I highly recommend practicing and experimenting so you can truly understand on how light interacts with a subject.
Tip #3: Composition
Composition is how everything arranged in your frame. Intention is crucial for composition because it makes you ask yourself “does this make sense in relation to my goal?”
Rule of Thirds
- You can use thirds to help provide order and reason as you arrange your photo. Typically eyelines and horizons fall
on the top horizontal third, while the body of your subject tends to fall on one of the vertical thirds. Your key point of focus tend to fall on the intersections of the horizontal and vertical lines. If you’re not familiar with this concept, definitely research it because it might change your life as much as it changed mine.
- For the most part, people try to overcomplicate their photos because they lack intention. If you’re trying to take someone’s portrait, they should be the key focus of the frame and everything else in the photos accents or compliments your subject.
Fill The Frame
- You want to have space around your subject so the photo breathes but you also want to think of each frame as very valuable real-estate. You should be relentless and make the subject as large as possible to accomplish what you’re trying to do. For example, if you’re trying to capture a headshot of your friend for their Tinder profile, you probably shouldn’t take the photo from 20 feet away with a 50mm lens. It would be hard to tell what they’d look like and I’m not going to chance winding up on a date with a 1,200 pound grizzly bear. I’d definitely swipe left.
When I first started out in photography, I thought the headshot on the left was the greatest picture ever taken. Boy, was I wrong. Notice how far away I am and how distracting the background is? In my more recent headshots, I started focusing on filling the frame and simplifying the background to make sure my subject pops.
Tip #4: Direction
Portrait photography is a team effort and I cannot stress how important providing direction for your subject is. This is easily the area where I see most beginner photographers fall short and I remember when I was afraid to direct my model because I didn’t want to come off as pushy but the truth is, you’re doing a disservice to both you and your subject by not offering instruction. The model has an idea of what they might look like but they don’t fully know how the light is interacting with their facial features or how they look in relation to the angle of your camera. If you’re fairly new to photography and feel like you’ll come off as pushy if you offer direction, here’s some advice:
with the subject that you will be direct them so you’re both happy with the end result
opposed to commands such as “what would it look like if you did (blank)?”
Of course, the model won’t be as responsive to your wishes if they don’t feel comfortable so remember to get to know them a bit, relax, and have fun. As I stated earlier, the purpose of this article was to help bring your awareness to aspects of portrait photography that dramatically improved my own work. I’d like cover these topics more in-depth at some point in the future but I hope this was helpful and feel free to reach out if you have any questions or nice things to say about the article, me, or your pet dog.
All the best,
Four Key Steps to Picking the Perfect Camera
Whether you’re a new photographer who wants to take better pictures of your cats or you're a seasoned professional, there will come a day when you decide that it’s time to buy a new camera. Photography can be almost as expensive as a gambling addiction which is why Praisee is dedicated to helping people avoid bad choices by hosting the information they need, all in one convenient place. This guide is intended to help lay out the process of buying a new camera so that you can choose the best possible option. NOTE: I’m basing this guide off my personal experiences working as a professional photographer and filmmaker so don’t take my word for gospel. Or do. I can’t tell you what to do - I’m not your dentist...Yet.
Step 1: Why do you want a new camera? Be honest.
This may seem like a pretty obvious question to ask yourself but it is probably the most important reminder when buying anything. ANYTHING. Sorry, I didn’t mean to yell. Do you
a new camera or do you
one? Is your gear the limiting factor in the quality of your cat photos?
A better camera won't make you a better photographer.
When I first started out on an entry-level DSLR, I initially spent more time trying to find a better camera than actually shooting with the one I had. Being new to the craft, I would compare my work to the pros and when I sat down to edit my photos, I would get frustrated and rage quit because they looked nothing like the art I aspired to create. I was young and naive so my thought process went something like this:
Why does this majestic Yosemite landscape captured at golden hour by a critically-acclaimed National Geographic photographer who’s been shooting professionally for over 50 years look so much better than this picture of my parents’ dog pooping in my neighbor’s yard? I’ve been doing photography for about 3 months so it’s DEFINITELY NOT a lack of experience, practice, or subject...It must be my gear.
I was a poor college student at the time so I couldn’t upgrade my camera without starving to death and was forced to use what I had. Since then, I’ve acquired several new cameras but I still use my original DSLR when I go out on hikes or random adventures (basically any time that I don’t want to worry about my camera being destroyed by bears).
Guess what? My photos look WAY better now even when I use my old DLSR. The things that made the biggest differences in my imagery were a ton of practice, lots of mistakes/experimentation, and self-education.
All I’m saying is that if you’re unhappy with your current photos and you’re shooting on anything more advanced than a toaster, it might be a lack of experience, practice, and/or subject rather than the capabilities of the camera so make sure you really question why you want to buy a new camera.
You don't have to justify your reason for wanting to upgrade to me but if you’re on a budget, make sure you’re buying for the right reasons because it might be more worthwhile to invest in better glass or workshops opposed to a new body. At the end of the day, I’ll support you no matter what - I mean...unless it’s a really bad decision. Like murder. I don't support murder. Anyway, let’s jump to step 2!
Step 2: What level are you? What do you need this camera to do?
Personally, I’m a level 20 Elf Mage...Just kidding! I’m actually a level 24 lonely. So now that you’ve decided why you want to buy a new camera, you need to identify what level you are and what this camera must be capable of because there’s a huge price discrepancy in the market depending on what your needs are. Are you a beginner? Passionate hobbyist? Professional? Ansel Adams? If you answered Ansel Adams, you’re a liar. I’m not mad...just disappointed. You know better.
If you’re a beginner that really just wants a camera for personal/social media use and plan on using automatic settings, a nice point-and-shoot would be more than enough for your needs. With improvements in technology, the image quality on these little cameras is pretty impressive and you can’t find a better compact option except for maybe a smartphone. If you’re a beginner that's interested in photography and has a desire to learn about manual settings, I recommend getting an entry-level DSLR or mirrorless camera. The reason why I dissuade most people from buying interchangeable lens cameras is because unless you’re shooting manual, they’re pretty much a really bulky point-and-shoot which tends to be very inconvenient. I know a couple people that have bought DSLRs and literally
use them because they didn’t read this article and realize what they really wanted was a little full-auto camera. Entry-level DSLRs can produce very high-quality images and are pretty versatile in their functionality (if you are willing to take the time to learn) but they’re cumbersome. They’re also very durable and relatively inexpensive. People usually go with the entry-level bodies from Canon or Nikon due to prevalence and price. Unless you decide to pursue photography professionally or your camera breaks (most likely from bears), this camera will last you a very long time (5+ years). Things start to get hot and spicy once we hit the enthusiast/professional level because this is where camera bodies really start to make a difference based on the intended use. At this point, your work might be limited by your equipment opposed to your artistic vision and/or skill. For example, if you’re shooting commercial advertisements that will be featured on billboards, you’re going to need a camera with a very high-resolution while if you’re an action photographer, it’s all about the high frame rate. We’ll get into key features in the next section but it’s a good idea to know what you intend on shooting so you can make your decision based on the features that will best support your art.
Step 3: Features and Determining Factors
So now you know why you want to buy the camera, what level you are, and what you want to use it for. The next step is using this information to decide which features are important to you so you know what to look for in potential camera options. While most cameras are capable of producing similar results, some cameras are better suited than others depending on the situation. Of course there are more determining factors than what’s listed below but I think these are the most relevant topics: - Full Frame v. APS-C
- Mirrorless v. DSLR
- Low-Light Performance
- Auto-Focus and Capture Speed
Full Frame v. APS-C
Some of you may be thinking “Wtf, bro? Full frame all the way - why is this even a topic of discussion?” First off, rude. Secondly, APS-C might hold some advantages over full frame cameras depending on your budget and what you’re using it for. For those of you that don’t know know, the difference between full frame and APS-C is the sensor size. Full frame cameras have a 36x24mm sensor while APS-C cameras have a 22x15mm sensor. This makes a huge difference because full frames have 2.5x the surface area of APS-C sensors which means the photosites on full-frames tend to be larger and thus less prone to digital noise in low-light situations. So what are the potential advantages of an APS-C camera then? First, they're less expensive than full frames so if you’re on a tight budget, this might be a solid option. Next, APS-C cameras tend to be smaller which is ideal if you’re looking for something to fly on a drone or a high-quality travel camera. Finally, these cameras have a crop factor of 1.6x so if you’re shooting subjects far away such as wildlife or sports, these cameras will give you more mileage with your telephoto lenses allowing you to get a closer shot. As mentioned earlier, the full frame sensor does better in low light and produces better image quality overall but it's much more costly. Is it worth it? You decide.
DSLR v. Mirrorless
DSLR or digital single-lens reflex cameras have been the staple of professional digital photography since the advent of the digital revolution. They use a mirror to reflect the image that is exposed to the sensor opposed to mirrorless cameras that expose directly from the lens.
The primary advantage of mirrorless cameras is that they are way smaller than DSLRs and still produce amazing images. They also utilize an electronic viewfinder so you can see an accurate exposure of what will be captured when you release the shutter opposed to the optical viewfinder of a DSLR. On the other hand, because this viewfinder is a digital screen, this can prove to be quite challenging when used in bright, outdoor situations.
DSLRs tend to be cheaper since they dominated the professional/prosumer market so if you want to go mirrorless, it will be most likely more expensive. That being said, I predict that DSLRs are on their way out as mirrorless technology continues to dramatically improve each year.
If you’re unfamiliar with RAW, it is an uncompressed image format that allows you to maximize quality as well as provides the most versatility in post-production for editing. The advantage to shooting in RAW is that you can adjust certain settings such as white balance or sharpening without “baking” it into the original file. If you’re doing any professional work, being able to shoot in RAW is an absolute must.
For most digital or online purposes, resolution isn’t really an issue for many cameras. Images shot on a DSLR typically look great on computers, tablets, and phones because the image sizes are way larger than the screen resolution so the photos are downscaled to be viewed in full. Resolution becomes especially important if you plan on printing your images to anything larger than the common 5x7 picture size. Where are your images intended on being displayed? Social media? Galleries? Commercial printing?
Do you need a $3,000 42MP camera or would a $700 24MP camera accomplish the same goal?
This is probably one of the biggest things people are looking for these days. If you’re a studio photographer, this doesn’t necessarily apply to you since you control your light but for photojournalists, event, landscape, and travel photographers, low-light performance might be crucial. Personally speaking, I was shooting a lot of events where I couldn’t place additional lights so I needed a camera that could handle very dimly lit situations well. Since I primarily shot video, it made sense for me to invest in the Sony A7s II. When it comes to low-light, this is where full frame sensors and ISO become extremely important so make sure you do your research in these departments to determine if the camera in question is suitable for your needs.
Auto-Focus and Capture Speed
I feel like these two sections go together because they both relate to photography that is heavily action based. If you’re trying to shoot any sport, manually focusing can prove to be very difficult because the subjects move so fast. Nowadays, auto-focus has improved so that it can really make your life easier if you’re capturing motion heavy photos (it should be noted that lenses also play a large role in how well the camera auto-focuses so keep that in mind). At the same time, action photography is a numbers game. You need to be able to capture a high amount of frames in a very short period of time to make sure you get the perfect shot. When you’re researching cameras and crystal-clear focus at high speeds is important, make sure the camera is capable of capturing high frames per second with a reliable auto-focus. If you're thinking about adapting different brand lenses to your camera body, kiss auto-focus goodbye.
Step 4: Research and Reviews
At this point, you have a good idea of what to look for. The final step is to do research on cameras that fit your intended purpose and needs. Compile a list of
potential options from google searches as well as insight from photography shops and/or friends (if you're like me and don't have any friends, just make them up). Make sure your search keywords are very specific so you can truly identify the best options for
. For example: “Best low light full frame camera for astrophotography” or “Budget point-and-shoot camera for daily comparison photos of my dog and Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson.”
Once you have your list of potential options, check out unbiased reviews on Praisee to see how other people feel about them so you can find the perfect match tailored to your needs!
Click here to help the online photography community by reviewing your gear! ---->
Was this article helpful? Did I miss something? Do you also distrust bears? Let me know in the comments below! All the best, Kyler
Sony Alpha 7S II Review
Sony a7S II - Video Juggernaut
As an independent filmmaker/photographer, I’m always trying to find ways to improve my gear list to create the best possible work for my clients. When I was shopping around for a new camera body, I was looking for something that was capable of shooting internal 4k and had great low-light performance within a moderate price range ($1,500 - $3,000). The cameras under consideration were the Panasonic LUMIX GH4, Samsung NX-1, Sony a7R II, and the Sony a7S II. All of my work up until this point has been carried out using Canon DSLRs, which I’ve always been a huge fan of, so I was little hesitant about switching brands but at the time, Canon didn’t have what I was seeking. While quite a few cameras on the market shoot 4K, the biggest deciding factor for me was low-light performance. I do everything from events/weddings to documentaries and in certain situations, the lighting may not be ideal. I researched many different cameras and the a7S II is by far the best performer in low-light conditions for the price. While the a7R II and a7S II are close in performance, I had to choose the a7S II because its smaller sensor makes it a little bit better for low-light video which is what I’m mainly hired for. When I first began testing the low-light capabilities with the a7S II, it blew me away. Since switching to this camera, it has truly given me a lot more confidence as I walk onto location for shoots because I know that I can capture beautiful images up to 12,800 iso and beyond which is so liberating. Additionally, the image quality is crisp and the possibility that exists for coloring in post is unmatched with its high-dynamic range achieved through using the S-LOG picture profiles. It can shoot 4K internally at 30fps/100 mpbs as well as HFR HD video at 120fps/100mpbs which is extremely handy if you need a versatile professional camera for a variety of purposes. The A7sII also has IBIS (in-body image stabilization) which allows you to shoot at slower f stops while still being able to capture a relatively sharp, smooth image. My main concern with this camera was overheating because it shoots such large, high-quality video and risking equipment failure on location could be catastrophic. That fear was quickly alleviated while I was capturing a festival in the middle of summer for hours at a time (80+ ℉) and never ran into any issues. I’m amazed at how durable and reliable the A7sII is while shooting in different conditions from being out in the summer sun to filming competitive skiers in sub-zero temperatures for multiple hours. There are a few things you should be aware of if you’re considering this camera. For starters, while I find the price relatively reasonable, it is 2-3x more expensive than other cameras in this category so if low-light won’t be an issue for your shoots, you could probably get away with something else and save money. Next, this camera is only capable of shooting 8-bit video so if that is important to you, it may be best to wait for the next release of this camera within the next year or so because Sony will probably introduce 10-bit into the a7 series. Lastly, the batteries are a little small and only last about 45 minutes to an hour so you’re constantly changing them out if you don’t have a battery grip. That being said, nothing is perfect and I find these to be pretty minor inconveniences to an exceptional camera. Overall, I cannot recommend the Sony a7S II highly enough. It’s superior in low-light, produces stunning 4K video, extremely reliable, and an amazing camera for the price. You can’t go wrong with this camera!
Here is a video I shot with the a7S II for a local music festival as well as a lightly retouched still from a recent shoot in Steamboat Springs, Colorado (pictured at top).
Sony Alpha 7S II
Canon EF 24-105mm L Lens Review
Amazing, Versatile Lens!
Being a run and gun event videographer/photographer, I needed a great, versatile lens that can do everything that I need it to do without having to worry about switching between lens. The Canon EF 24-105mm L lens has truly been a godsend for my line of work. The wide angle to slight-telephoto range provides a lot of utility when I'm shooting while remaining sharp, accurate, and durable. I would highly recommend this lens to anyone who needs a high-quality, versatile lens, especially for run and gun event shooting.
Canon EF 24-105mm L Lens