Portrait Special: Weave a Story
Ambarin Afsar explains how the final photograph eventually depends on important narrative devices like aesthetic framing, graceful poses and props.
The crucial part of any good portrait is the pose and the composition. Do not think of these as additional rules that you have to follow. Instead, think of them as storytelling devices, just as you would with dialogues for a movie.
51. Do a Facial Analysis
Develop the habit of noticing remarkable features, gestures and mannerisms while speaking to your subject.
52. The Truth About Posing
A good pose often goes unnoticed. It is the bad pose that draws attention to the subject’s discomfort and awkwardness.
53. Try to Visualise Poses
Imagine your subject in various kinds of poses. A trained portraitist can plot the visual course of a portrait within minutes of meeting a subject.
54. Limit Yourself to a Few Options
Stick to previsualised frames instead of asking your subject to try different poses and confusing them.
55. Shoot the Full-face View
When you are looking at your subject straight on, you are looking at a full-face view. This type of portrait works for people who have sharp, angular features.
56. Use the Two-thirds View
This occurs when the head is slightly turned, leaving both eyes visible. This particular pose has a slimming effect.
57. Camera Angles
Raising the camera’s height lengthens the nose, slims the chin and jawline and broadens the forehead. Lowering the camera shortens the nose, widens the jaw and accentuates the chin. The focal length and the distance between you the subject also play a role in how the features appear.
58. Explore the Profile
When you see exactly half of the face, you are seeing the profile of a person. A classical pose, it works unfailingly well.
59. Advise Them on How to Stand
Tell your subject exactly how to sit or stand, and try to keep the body at a 45° angle to the camera.
60. Refine a Pose Carefully
Use simple hand gestures or verbal directions to refine a pose. People might get uncomfortable if you touch them too much.
61. Posing Hands
Try not to let hands hang loose. Give them something to do, even if it means holding a prop. When posing groups, hide hands in pockets or behind other people.
62. Coax Them into Relaxing
Often, people get extremely tense when posing, make sure that their shoulders are naturally relaxed and not lifted up militarily.
63. Establish Direct Eye Contact
The strongest insight into a person’s character is through direct eye contact. The viewer is drawn in and just cannot look away.
64. Direct Their Gaze
Centre your subject’s eyes in their sockets, so that they do not seem unnatural or appear to be squinting.
65. Give Them Something to Look At
Do not use your hands as a point of reference when asking people to look somewhere. When your hands move away, they have nothing to focus on.
66. And When They Look Away…
Photos where the subject is looking into or out of the frame make the viewer follow their gaze, thereby lending a more subdued feel.
67. Observe Their Expressions
Great expressions are the ones that come naturally. But you might have to look for them and catch your subject unawares, when they are at their candid best.
68. Watch Out For…
…the big smile. Just before you release the shutter or even just after, you might see a brilliant expression. So, be ready to capture the moment!
69. Do Away with the Fake Smile
Ask people to show their teeth or ask them to ‘smile with their eyes’. This makes them forget about their mouth.
70. Avoid Common Mistakes
Try not to ‘amputate’ the subject. Avoid cropping the hands, wrists, fingers, knees, ankles and feet.
71. Use Lines and Curves
Ensure that all the lines in the frame, including those formed by the posture of the subject lead into the frame or complement the composition.
72. Posing Feet
In most situations, feet look stumpy when photographed head-on, so position them at an angle to the camera.
73. Try to Balance the Frame
Either fill the frame with just the face or include enough of the subject’s torso to support the face.
74. How to Apply the Rule of Thirds?
For a head-and-shoulders portrait, the eyes should be about one-third of the way down, from the top of the frame.