[Editor's Note: As senior contributor Dan Bailey noted recently, there are all kinds of photographers out there, each at different stages of development. The following post is intended for beginners.]
Portrait photography is one of the more difficult kinds of photography to master. In addition to the difference between creating art and creating a commissioned family portrait – the goals of artist and client are not always the same – eliminating unwanted shadows can be very difficult.
Control over light and shadows makes the difference between a good portrait and a great one. To ensure a great portrait, here are some basic ideas you should keep at the front of your brain.
Great photographs have a major focal point and sometimes several lesser focal points. When photographing people, their eyes often tell the story, but capturing a subject’s soul by highlighting other parts of their faces or bodies is an art. A basic portrait studio should contain a strobe light, reflector, and a spot light. Smaller spot lights, which can add subtle highlights that make a subject come alive, are also helpful. These tools are required to control your portrait’s depth, highlight, and shadows: a strobe light and reflector, for example, can work together to eliminate shadow; a strong spot light will highlight certain features and create deep shadows.
Smaller spot lights can add subtle highlights that make a subject come alive. A photographic studio should be set up to always achieve neutrality. The photographer can then manipulate the setting to create the look that the client or the photographer is looking for.