Digital Photography 1 on 1: Episode 72: Composing Portraits

Digital Photography 1 on 1: Episode 72: Composing Portraits



adoramatv presents digital photography one-on-one where we answer your questions here's your host Mark Wallace everybody I'm Mark Wallace welcome back to another episode of digital photography one on one well this week we have a question from Lars in Denmark and Lars I said I was wondering what rules apply when composing a portrait sometimes I see great portraits where part of the head is chopped off so what are the rules for taking great portraits well Lars it's a great question and so what we're going to do is we're going to go into the studio and I'm going to start by showing you what not to do when taking portraits and then we're going to focus on something specifically composition and cropping so you get some ideas on what you should do when you're taking portraits so let's get started and head over to the studio all right well we're here in this studio and this is just she's going to help me out today and what we're going to start with are some things that you should not do the don'ts and to do this we're really keeping things simple and we've set this up on a plain white background we've got the softbox and so I'm going to shooting basically composition and the cropping of each of these poses and so we've ignored things like good lighting and all that kind of stuff so really just pay attention in this video to the composition of each of these shots and where I'm cropping things and we'll start by some of the things that you should not do and specifically to the question it was you know how close can we chop off a person's head well for a great shot you can get really close to a model and get a good head shot in fact this shot here illustrates how we just shot a picture of Jess and she looks great even though the top of her head is chopped off but one of the things that you don't want to do is chop off a person's head so let's say that we have a shot where we have all of Jessa's body or maybe a good portion of that well you wouldn't want to just chop off the top of her head because then that would look really wacky in fact I just took a picture and here is what that looks like and you can see that if you have the majority of a person's body in chopping off the head looks like a total mistake and it is alright in addition to chopping off people's heads there are some rules about how you should not chop off people's limbs and so here are the basic rules where you want to make sure that you don't crop somebody below the elbow so it's okay to crop somebody right above the elbow but below it looks all wacky the other thing that you want to make sure that you don't do is if you're getting a three-quarter shot make sure you crop above the knees so right above the knees if you crop below the knees what will happen is it'll look like your models feet are stuck in the mud and so you can see in these pictures we've intentionally cropped just incorrectly you can see her elbows look like they've been chopped off her hand is missing and her feet look like they've been stuck in the mud and so those are absolutely ways not to crop somebody now the proper way to do that again is to crop right above the elbows and so here's an example of that and it looks much better you can see the before shot where just looks like she's got some weird amputation and the second shot where it looks a little bit more natural and the same is true of the 3/4 shots here is a shot of Jess with her body crop right above the knees and that looks pretty good and then here's one where I just shot her with the crop right below the knees and one right above the ankles and those look horrible so make sure that you crop above the knees and above the elbows and you're going to get some great results all right well two more things that we need to make sure that we don't do and that is to crop too tightly on our models face and so I said earlier it's okay to get a nice tight headshot and chop off a little bit of somebody's head well you don't want to chop off too much and so the rule is don't get too close to the eyebrows because that looks really wacky you can see this headshot that I just took of Jess it just does not look good to do that well the other thing that you want to make sure you do not do and that is to chop off somebody's ear and that's really easy to do because they sort of go out of the frame and it's something that you may not notice so make sure that you look all around your frame when you're shooting and make sure you keep those ears in because you don't want to maim your model well there are two more things that you shouldn't do and these are mistakes that are made all the time by professionals and amateurs alike and they're so easy to make I'm going to just show you how it happens and so let's say we're going to do a model portfolio for Jess here and I come over here and she's got this really cool pose and I love it and I'm going to take a shot and at first glance that looks pretty good but when we look closer at this that shot is straight up her nose and that is flattering it all so make sure you take pay attention to make sure you're not shooting up somebody's nose you'll be surprised at how many people do that on accident so what I should do is if I see that happening just give some direction to the model so please bring your chin down just a little bit there you go chin toward me beautiful then I'm going to get it nice and close and click and now we have a shot that really works well there's one other thing that happens a lot and that is if your model turns a little bit too far from the camera this back arm actually disappears and it doesn't look as good as it could and so let me first take a shot here and you can see that in this shot well only the front arm is visible so it's a really easy fix so just turn a little bit toward me there you go and pick up your left arm just a little bit there you go beautiful just like that and I'm going to bring this in just a hair and yeah now I like that much better and it's a little bit more flattering than that first shot well now that we know what not to do let's talk about things that we should do well there are a couple other things that I'd like to show you and so I brought up this little stepstool and and so I'll get to that in a second but normally when you're shooting your lens is about the same height as your subjects face and that works pretty well but you can really add some punch to a portrait by actually elevating your camera so I'm going to do is I'm going to grab this ladder right here and bring it out and I want to go very high here just to one step up and then just look right at me good and that looks a little bit better now the other thing I can do is to start twisting my camera and so by twisting my camera I give my photos just a little bit of extra punch and you can see what it looks like with a straight on and a twisted shot and you can see by twisting that camera that looks a little bit better now the other thing that I like to do a lot of photographers don't like to do this and it's sort of controversial but I think it's worth it and that is to show your subject the pictures as you're shooting and so they know exactly what you're shooting and they know exactly what things are looking like and I think it gives them a little bit of confidence so I highly encourage you to do that well the last thing that you need to make sure that you do is to communicate with your subject because sometimes you have to have them move a little bit or turn away or toward the camera put their chin up or down so make sure that you're communicating you're not just sitting there shooting away in silence and also remember sometimes if you say move your right arm well they'll get it backwards and so make sure you use a lot of verbal nonverbal communications to say you know move over here this way or turn this way and so that will help them out quite a bit well I have a lot of fun showing you how to take some portraits and what not to do now take these rules and bend them and mold them and make a style that's all your own but these are some of the things that you should pay attention to when you're taking portraits well thanks Lars for the great question remember if you're like Lars and have a question for us you can sit it to me at ask mark at adorama.com and I might just use it on an upcoming episode and don't forget to subscribe if you like these videos click the subscribe button so you make sure you get every single episode and you don't miss a single thing well thanks so much for joining me and I'll see you again next week this episode is brought to you by Adorama TV visit the Adorama Learning Center where you'll find photography tips and techniques links to the gear used in this episode and related videos for all the latest photography video and computer gear visit adorama.com and the next time you're in New York City visit our store located on 18th Street between fifth and sixth Avenue it's hard to climb 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