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Tips & Tutorials >> All Tips & Tutorials

Portrait Photography Tips for Work and Play

Whether for your resume or social media pages, there’s always a legitimate reason to snap a great portrait of yourself (selfies not included). And while the prospect of making an impactful portrait can be daunting, the good news is that you can do it in the comfort of your own home. Photographer Christopher Sim walks us through portrait photography tips for both work and play. (Reported by: Christopher Sim)

Let’s start with the equipment you’ll be using. Apart from the camera, you won’t need anything fancy, though I recommend a flash and/or a reflector on hand to offset any dark areas in the photo.

Feel free to experiment with anything you have lying around - a desk lamp with cellophane over the bulb, or a couple of torchlights taped around a hairdryer.

As for camera settings, turn the knob to Manual exposure mode on your DSLR for better control, though Program AE modes would work well too.

Opt for aperture priority since the subject will only be moving around between shots. Remember, a higher aperture value brings more of your photo in focus while a lower value ensures the subject remains the centre of attention.

The photos were shot with the EOS 5D Mark III.

The most important thing to pay attention to is lighting. A simple and extremely effective setup is to use sunlight diffused by windows as your main light source. You can experiment with angles, but start out with lighting your subject from the side and work from there. In the portrait above, the subject is lit by the window on the right.

Side-lighting brings out detail in textures, giving more depth to the captured photographs. Photos with side-lighting also tend to be more striking than those lit directly, where the subject is facing the light rather than standing next to it.

Posing your subject is important too. For professionally-used portraits, angle your subject's body slightly away from the camera, while still facing you. This offers an angle that is more flattering to the subject’s figure as opposed to him or her standing perpendicular to the camera.

You can be more creative with portraits for social media. Capturing someone in the midst of an activity would make for an engaging photograph - straightening a tie, smelling a flower, tossing aside newly-dyed tresses.

Getting your subject to do something will help if they feel awkward in front of the lens. For more formal portraits, I often rattle off a string of jokes in hopes of eliciting natural mirth.

Lastly, have fun with your photography – fiddle with your camera’s dials, stand on a chair! Photography is all about creative expression, so treat what’s written above as a compass in your hand, enjoy the process and find your own path instead of plodding along one that's been set for you.

Christopher Sim

Christopher’s forays into photography began in 2011, having worked at local print and online publications since then. Adoring how expressive the photographic medium can be, he’s always tinkering with equipment and processing techniques to tell stories in new ways. Christopher is based in Singapore and has completed projects in China and Japan.