Photography News Issue 53

Photography News | Issue 53 | photographynews.co.uk

Technique 32

3. Look away from the camera

4. Get creativewith cropping

Another typical rule of portrait pics is to have the subject looking into the camera, creating strong eye contact. Eye contact with the camera attracts the viewer’s attention, which is why it’s a style often used on magazine covers, adverts and posters. If you shoot so that the subject is looking away from the camera something changes. The picture becomes more about what they’re thinking. It takes on an element of mood and story, which is added to by the overall expression and the subject’s surroundings. Sometimes these ‘eyes off’ moments can come by accident, but a bit like the process of focusing away from the subject’s eyes (see below), it’s better that they’re looking well away from your shooting position rather than just off camera which can look neither here nor there. Usually, you’ll need to direct the subject, either giving them something to look ‘at’, or some way to act. Other than the general change in approach, there’s no particular technique involved, apart from still needing to focus on the eyes.

Above Square framing can be done in camera or via a crop in editing.

There are rules for cropping portraits. For formal shots, it’s advisable not to crop in too close, and to avoid cutting the subject off at the joints. For example cropping right on the elbows can look odd; it’s better halfway up the arm. Likewise, it’s normal not to crop off the top of the subject’s head, or leave a lot of room above it either, filling the frame as much as possible. But it can be fun to experiment with cropping by breaking some of those rules. For instance, try cropping very close so that the

subject’s face fills the entire frame. You might also try framing that’s similar to cinematic close-ups; this works well when using an ‘eyes off’ pose (see left). Equally, you can try including lots of headroom, especially if that area is pleasingly empty, or has something appropriate to the subject. You can even bisect the face in your framing. You can make these decisions in camera, but it’s also common to find new and interesting crops when reviewing pictures in Lightroom or Photoshop.

The picture becomes more about what they are thinking

Above Not every portrait needs to have the subject looking straight into the camera lens. Looking away adds an element of intrigue.

5. Focus away from the subject

The traditional method of portrait focusing is to set it on the eyes, making them the sharpest point of the frame and therefore the heart of the image. It’s a rule to follow 99% of the time, because the eyes are naturally where we first look. Also, even minor softness in the eyes makes a portrait look badly taken, even if the focus is just millimetres out. But you can also create compelling portraits by focusing away from the eyes. If there’s sufficient interest, you might focus on another part of their body, like their hands. Or you could focus on a tool, an object, or item of clothing they’re connected to in some way, like a soldier’s medals, or a bride’s wedding ring. You can even focus on something around them that their job or hobby involves, like plants or machinery. So long as there’s a connection and reason for shifting the point of focus, the portrait will still be successful.Insomeways,thetrick

is to focus far enough away from the eyes to make sure the viewer knows you’re being deliberate in the choice of focal point, rather than it just having slipped. You should also use a wide enough aperture to blur anything in front of or behind the point of focus. being deliberate in the choice of focal point The trick is to focus far enough away from the eyes to make sure the viewer knows you’re

Above Selective focusing and shallow depth-of-field can work really well but make sure focus is accurate.

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