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Through the Lens: Portraits

For the longest time, portraits were the hardest pictures for me to take. Mainly because growing up, my idea of what made a good portrait was formed from my mother straining to get all of her six young kids kicking and screaming to hold still for a Christmas card picture. Now with Photoshop she can just make her own portrait by editing us in from old pictures. It was tough times before technology, but I digress. What can you do to take better portraits?
1. Shoot candidly
Let’s get real, most people don’t love getting their picture taken. So just sneak up on them. You’d be surprised at how many decent portraits you can snap just by following your subjects with a camera. In the end, it creates for a more true to life portrait than you’d ever get in a face to face studio environment.

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2. Lighting
You don’t always have control of the lighting but you can manipulate your subject. Harsh shadows or blown out highlights are bad! Try to keep the light even and soft to make your subject appear radiant and beautiful.

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3. Action!
Have your subject do something. Give them a prop to play with, have them jump, throw something at them, do something! People sitting still makes we want to take a nap. Most people have a fun and quirky side that you need to bring out.

4. Framing
You could write pages upon pages about composition if you wanted. To simplify your life here are some quick tips: try not to place the subject in the center of the frame and don’t put the subject directly on the sides of the frames. Images tend to look flat if when your composition is off. However, if you’re going for an artsy look for your portrait, there are no rules. Do whatever you want.

5. Comfort
Sticking your camera in someone’s face is probably going to get you slapped and you’ll most likely end up with an uncomfortable, angry looking subject. We don’t want that. Ease into the shoot ESPECIALLY if you’re trying to take a candid photo. Please don’t get the police called on you because you’re taking a photo of a stranger. Let them know you’re there, get their permission, be smart. All there is to it.

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I prefer to take my photos outside of the studio. I’m not a fan of a controlled environment. Also, I feel that portraits taken candidly in a natural environment are about as real as you can get. It’s cheaper too. South Park in Oshkosh was a great place to walk around and snap some portraits. If you’re a parent struggling to get good photos of your kids, take them to the park and let them go crazy. I guarantee there will be some great photo opportunities.

Got a favorite portrait you or someone else has taken? Do you have a great place in the area where you like to take portraits? Have any specific questions? Feel free to comment on the website or on the FOX CITIES Facebook page. Oh, you can tweet at me too ; ) @andrewscholz

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