In this instructable you will learn how to take great photos of people. You can visit my website (link in profile) if you want to see some more of my work.
The only things you will really need is a camera (Not cell phone) that can zoom, some type of reflective sheet, light or flash and the sun.
Step 1: What the Photos Will Looks Like. Composition Basics
Above are some sample photos from my portfolio. All of these were taken with minimal equipment and a very basic set up which we will go over in step two. One thing to note is when taking photos of people you want to hold the camera so it takes photos in the portrait aspect not landscape. What this means is if you say hold a piece of paper in front of you with the long side on the top and bottom and short sides on the left and right that is landscape. If you flip this so the long sides are on the sides going vertical then you are taking a portrait. The reason we want to do this is because it gives more a view and focus on a person rather then having a ton of background that will distract from the photo. One other thing to keep in mind when taking photos of people its not something that is easy to do right off the bat so don't get frustrated if they don't look how you want them to right away. I am sure with the help of this and a bit of practice very soon you will be able to take photos like the ones above.
Composition & Rule Of Thirds:
Rule of thirds, first off don't be scared by the big terms. All this means is if you imagine a grid over top of your photo (like the one above) you will want to line peoples eyes up with the grid points in red. The reason we do this is it is more attractive to the brain and takes the photos from amateur to professional looking. Next time you watch TV take a look at how they frame the shots, they will usually follow the rule of thirds, this is done because it is what our brain likes and what keeps it interesting looking. You may be tempted to put your subject in the centre of the frame (for headshots this is alright) but for most photos of people where there is a bit of background you want to have a bit what is behind them visible as it tells a story which is your main goal as a photographer.
Step 2: Composing. Advanced.
When it comes to composing your image using rule of thirds here are some things to consider. As you can see above the photos with our beautiful models Ayden (in blue) and Jade we tend to align them as close to the points in red as possible. One thing you can see in the other photos as well is they all follow the rule of thirds. It gives enough mix of background to tell a story yet still be appealing to the eye. Another option too (As you can see in the first photo on this step) is to use things in the frame to pull the eye in. By having Ayden stand in between the two trees the trees act as a frame to naturally draw our eye in. No matter where you are shooting you should look for natural frames or lines that can draw your eyes in. One example of this would be a door frame. Having it on the edge of the photo and your subject on the other side it will draw the eye towards the subject. Another example of this too would be including the wall in your picture of your subject. The wall will pull the eyes in as the farther it gets the more it angles inward toward them.
Step 3: Basic Set Up. Best Shooting Conditions. Double Chins.
The best time to take photos especially when outside is to do so during golden hour. This is typically one hour after sunrise or one hour before sunset. The sun in low enough in the sky to provide a nice light and not give too harsh shadows. As for the above set up what you want to do is have the light or in this case the sun facing their back. This creates a glow around them which separates them from the background, since photos are two dimensional we want to add as much dimensionality as possible. We then can use a reflector, flash or light (remember you have your phones LED flash light use it) to illuminate the face of the subject. The reason we don't face them into the sun is it is usually too harsh and doesn't look nice on the skin, it gets them to squint and we loose shadows which would add to the depth of the image. You can find cheap "5 in 1" reflectors on many websites, you can usually pick one up for less then $20. If you want to know more about lighting look up "Three Point Lighting". What ever you want in the background you will want at least 10 feet behind you're subject for some parts of it to still be visible (We will explain more in the step about Zoom).
When it comes to posing someone there is a few basics that can help your photos and your model look alot better. The typical pose is to have them turn their body to a 45 degree angle from the camera but then have their face looking directly into the camera lens. This gives the standard look and is great for portraits as it gets the body out of the way. Another variable to this is to have them face the camera or be slightly off centre from it.
The Dreaded Double Chin:
You may notice in alot of photos your model may have a double chin. The usually reason for this is because the camera isnt high enough. Just try this at home with your cell phone, if you hold it down near your stomach shooting a selfie of you, you will have a double chin. But if it is past or at eye level you will see that it is gone. You will always want to have the camera be either a bit higher then the person, shooting downwards slightly towards them or directly at eye level of them.
Step 4: Zoom In.
As you can see above using our robot model zoom makes a difference. To get the "portrait look" you will want to zoom in. What this does is makes the background a bit blurry (which we want) and brings it inwards making it seem closer then it actually is (See Wide and Close). It creates more separation from the subject and background and brings focus to the subject with the background being secondary. As you can see in the close shot we can still make out some details (this is why we want this 10 feet at least behind so we still have detail) but the main focus is on our robot model. If your camera has manual controls you will want to use the widest aperture possible, this will give us the blurry background (Bokeh) and nicer looking image.
Step 5: FOCUS!
Last but not least focus is one of the most important things. If your camera has the option to manual focus I would suggest doing do or putting the auto focus point on the eye. You will want one eye to be in focus, this adds more emotion to pictures and is what makes good pictures stand out. As you can see the above photo even when zooming in on the image the eye is sharp and in focus. Eyes are called the windows to the soul for a reason, they add life to the picture so make sure they are in focus.
Step 6: Review.
Finally remember it takes hours of practice to take good portraits so don't give up if they don't look the way you want off the bat, go back to them try to figure out what you want to do different next time. Lastly experiment. You want to have fun, try new things such as playing with coloured lighting or blowing out parts of the image with lights, or even things like playing with having lights in the background of an image if shooting at night. Also always remember to try to not use the on camera flash as is won't ever give you the look you need, I suggest upgrading to a real flash that can be used off camera. If you have any questions or need more tips feel free to contact me through my website anytime as I would be happy to help.