Portrait Special: Into a Vast World
Ambarin Afsar explains how one must understand the choices that one needs to make before one shoots, especially regarding backgrounds and colour.
There are plenty of considerations that you need to make even after you have settled on the basic idea behind the portrait. You need to decide what your subject is going to wear, where are you going to do the shoot and so on.
12. Decide on a Backdrop
Choose a background depending on the mood you want to create in the photo. Consider whether you want to convey a casual or a formal feel. Do you want to shoot in someone’s room? Do you want to recreate a fun day at a park or a beach? You could also consider shooting the person at their favourite coffeeshop or bookstore.
13. Keep Them Close
If you do not want the background to overpower the subject, then ensure that your your subject is the most prominent element in the frame. Using a wide angle lens will ensure that both are sharp.
14. Inform the Subject Beforehand
Advise them about how different clothing will affect the portrait and explain using illustrative photos. If they do not take your advice, then make the most of the situation and try to get them to look their best.
15. The Right Sort of Clothing
Too many colours can be jarring. Subtle colours usually work well. If you are shooting groups, pick a colour scheme and ask everyone to stick to it. Dark colours for tops and lighter shades for lowers usually work well. Colours that complement each other as well as the background will help you draw attention to the faces of the group members.
16. Deal with Odd Outfits
Take a piece of fabric along with you so that it can be draped around someone if they are wearing something jarring, such as heavily patterned or extremely bright clothes. However, this trick might only work with head-and-shoulders portraits.
17. Colour Schemes for Skin Tones
Avoid choosing colours that contrast with skin tones. Lighter skin tones look better with lighter colours and vice versa. Opt for cooler colours such as green and blue as they emphasise skin tones.
18. Create Your Own Background
Carry a background with you. A simple foldout screen or a piece of fabric will do. A translucent screen held against the sun will make it seem as if there is no background in the frame, only light.
19. Employ Bright Colours
While brilliantly coloured backgrounds can be distracting, they can also convey a strong, graphical quality. Use colour, but be aware of its effect.
20. Make Environmental Portraits
You do not always need to shoot close-up portraits. You can capture the surrounding area of the person to show their habitat or their living space.
21. Monochrome or Colour?
Using the right colours can make wonderfully expressive portraits. However, sometimes, colours can take the viewer’s attention away from important details in the image. You might find yourself desiring the simplicity and the elegance of the black and white medium.
22. Location… but no Model?
Often, you will come across great locations and quirky backdrops. Keep them in mind and weave a portrait around them. You can always go back to them later.
23. Think with All Your Senses
Sometimes, the spirit of a location, a fleeting sight, a distant sound such as the cawing of crows or breaking of waves can help you compose an evocative photo. Use all your senses to create your portrait.
24. Before the Shoot
Ask the person you are shooting to get enough sleep the day before, so that they look rested. Speak to them about their look and let them know that anything they do is supposed to emphasise certain features, not make them look like a caricature of themselves.