Digital Photography Taking Portrait Pictures

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Digital Photography Taking Portrait Pictures

A portrait photograph is a picture of a subject (usually human) that occupies all or most of the frame. In a portrait, backgrounds are distracting and should be eliminated or reduced. Likewise, foreground clutter can obscure focus and should be eliminated.

Sharp focus is the single most important part of a good portrait photograph. The subject must be in crisp focus. An exception to this rule is when deliberate soft-focus techniques are used. A soft focus filter, or simply breathing on the lens, will provide a deliberately soft and diffused image of the subject. Soft focus eliminates sharp edges and skin blemishes, making beauty more beautiful. Note that (or this, or whatever) soft focus does not mean out-of-focus or shaky portraits, the subject must still be in proper focus, just the final digital photography image has a diffused effect.

When photographing people, always focus on the subject eyes (or nearest eye, if appropriate). For inanimate portraits, focus on the sharpest and/or nearest point of the object being photographed.

Portraits are usually taken with the largest aperture exposure setting (highest f-stop number) along with the fastest shutter speed as suitable for the light source being used. This forces a narrow depth of field, the subject will be in sharp focus while the background will be less distracting.

The larger aperture setting allows more light to fall upon the DSLR CCD photo sensitive element. A fast shutter speed prevents the background for forming completely, while the subject in the foreground is captured in good detail. This provides a sharply focused portrait subject, while the background is not distracting or taking away from the subject.

Different aperture setting and shutter speed combinations will provide vastly different results. In some cases, "too sharp" a focus may highlight blemishes in skin tone or exaggerate sharp features (noses, for example). Spot metering different areas of the subject's face and trying different f-stop and shutter speeds will provide that one "perfect" shot.

Proper framing of the subject in portraits is critical. Only the subject of the photo must stand out, the beauty of the model, for example, must not be overshadowed by a breathtaking background. The rule of thirds should be followed for framing the perfect portrait.

When looking through the viewfinder, draw mental lines across the image, breaking the image into "thirds" (three parts) both vertically and horizontally. Place a portion of the image that is stark (dress crease, or background line, or even the eyes) along a third-line (if straight) or at the junction of a vertical and horizontal third-line. The more image elements that you can place on or along thirds, the better the final portrait will be. Portraits are almost NEVER taken with the subject smack dab in the middle of the frame, thats just boring.

Good lighting is essential to all digital photography, especially portraits. While the sun is best light source, it is often too bright and creates excessive shadows and may make the subject squint against the glare. Ideally the sun should low on the horizon, behind the camera. On a cloudy day, or in shade, lighting may not be adequate to capture skin tones or bright eye colors. Additional lighting may be required to compensate.

The built in flash that comes with most DSLR cameras is largely a gimmick, and will not provide a good portrait illumination. If flash photography is to required, and external flash unit should be used. Tungsten or halogen lights can create red or blue tints and hues in the image, which may be correctable through proper white balance settings or post shoot editing.

The lowest ISO (film speed) setting that like is natively supported by the DSLR camera should be used for portrait shooting, usually ISO 200. This provides the sharpest images and most lifeline skin tones. Note that some digital SLR cameras have "emulated" lower ISO speeds, these should not be used as they are manipulated by the on-board computer and will result in image degredation or "artifacts" (spots or dots in the final image) that will mar the portait purity.

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