• Silke Dietz

How to take a Portrait like a Pro!

Who doesn't want to spend their holiday in Italy? Even my teenagers were thrilled when we chose Tuscany for our last family vacation. World famous food, picturesque landscape and instagrammable lifestyle. Of course I brought my camera with me as the colours are amazing and the light is divine. Furthermore, this is a fabulous and effortless opportunity to take a few portraits of my beloved ones.

Now, maybe not everyone gets to spend their holiday in historical Europe, but no matter where you go for your family vacation, I am sure you always bring a camera, at least your mobile phone, right?! We know that family pictures with teenagers can be challenging, so here are a few tips to painlessly capture a few pro headshots for your family album.

1. Light! Light! Light!

You know how obsessed I am with light, for me it is THE most important component of a great picture, any picture by the way. I love playing with the different tones of light, as it always changes during the day.

Early morning light is rather cool in tone, therefore it is called "Blue Hour", just before the sun rises. During midday the light turns very harsh , leaving many unwanted shadows on our faces, not impossible, but a bit more difficult to use. And towards the evening the all admired "Golden Hour", soft and golden, divine light, especially for us women.

Find open spaces, where your subject is surrounded by light. Use natural reflectors like white house walls, bright streets or paths. Whereas be careful with shadows or unwanted reflectors like trees or red bricks (which results in green/red faces). Use the sun as your light source, meaning your subject should face towards the sun.

2. Background

Choose your background wisely. When we look at a picture, our eyes get immediately drawn to the strongest colour of the image. Sadly, this is often not your subject. For a great portrait you want to choose your backdrop to complement your subject! In Tuscany old walls or doors in their warm tones were perfect for that. Even colourful walls can work very well, but make sure the person in front is not "swallowed" by the colours of the wall. Same goes for a vivid scene, like a market or row of houses. Here you have to be a bit more attentive to the head of your subject. You don't want to have light poles sticking out or funny objects around.

3. Portait Mode or Bokeh

When you are in control of your camera, blur the background, add some "bokeh" to your picture. In the newest iPhones this feature is in "Portrait Mode". In order to get your background blurred your subject needs to clearly be separated from the background, meaning not leaning against it.

4. Composition

While camera settings are important, composition of an image is crucial, as it determines whether a picture is emotionally engaging. There are different ways to compose a picture. One, very simple, just put your subject in the middle. This works well when your background is uniform, either equally interesting or colourful, or when the surrounding works as a frame. Another way, a bit more advanced and definitely more interesting, is to create negative space, by applying the "rule of thirds". Put your subject in one third of your picture, left or right, doesn't matter. Our eyes get drawn to the middle of a picture because it is considered static. Therefore when your subject is positioned closer to one of the edges, it forces your eye to follow it…to find it. This allows the viewer to linger on your image longer. It makes for a more captivating photo because it's almost interactive. Like a conversation going on between the photo and you.

5. Personality

While it is nice having your family smiling at you in every single picture of your album, it can also get a bit boring. Why not encourage them to show off a bit personality? By walking down the street, dancing along a river or simply sipping a milk shake. And instead of looking straight into the camera, ask your subject to turn the head, look to the left or right, up or down. Also try to alter your perspective, shoot from different angles. Get up high and shoot down on your subject or get as close to the ground as you can and shoot up. Either way you’ll be seeing your subject from an angle that is bound to create interest. The best way of course is to catch your beloved ones in a candid pose, so have your camera ready!

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