Passion for Portraiture? Tips To Get You Started
Passion for Portraiture? Tips To Get You Started by Geri C.
What a pleasure to join the ranks of the JUXT(ers). As a former sketch card and portrait artist, I am drawn to portrait photography and wanted some tips from a few of my favorite mobile photographers for producing beautiful portraits using a smartphone. I’ve gathered their advice along with some stunning samples of their work. Photographers featured are both hobbyists and professionals from around the globe.
Sydney, Australia–Graphic designer/Art Director/iPhoneographer/Avid collector. I’ve spent a lifetime tinkering with photography. Though I am a qualified graphic designer, photography has always been my passion. Recently I chose to take that passion to another level and I am currently studying photography, so that I have both the technical know how and formal qualifications. It took me a while to get used to the notion that an iPhone could be such a potent and creative tool. iPhoneography now consumes my life and a day doesn’t pass without me using my iPhone & iPad to create. iPhoneography will always be a life-force.
Anthony’s Tips (There are absolutely no hard and fast rules when it comes to portrait photography. There are two approaches I use and are demonstrated by the two examples I have submitted. The first is random or candid photos of people I encounter while I am out and about. These photos are a record of a brief encounter with someone I find interesting in the street. I often enhance or embellish the photos later using one of many apps. The second is taking a portrait that is preconceived and planned. Ideas or concepts have been considered so you have a clear understanding as to what it is you want to achieve. Location, time of day, subject attire, lighting effect and props, if used, are all considered before the shoot is commenced).
- Develop your interpersonal skills. Connect or engage with your subject. Talking to your subject enables you to build a rapport quicker. Find out what they are passionate about, what makes them tick? When they talk about their passions they relax and you then capture the best results. It’s all about capturing expressions and portraying real character!
- Be confident when taking portraits of people in the streets. As a rule I always ask strangers if I can photograph them first so as to avoid the potential of a negative or unpleasant reaction! Interesting people make for more interesting portraits. Look for people that have more character. I strongly suggest if at all possible to show the end result to the person you have photographed. Either email a copy of the photo or as I do offer people a small print of the portrait as a way of saying thank you.
- Look for a fresh perspective or point of view. Try different angles and experiment. Try shooting your subject from different distances from a close up of the face, to a full body pose. A good portrait isn’t just a head and shoulder shot.
- Use available or natural light in preference to the flash on your device. The flash on an iPhone is harsh when used as the only light source and is pretty much uncontrollable. For a more dramatic and controlled effect, use natural light from a window or move your subject closer to an incandescent light source in an interior scenario. Natural lighting will be ‘kinder’ to your subject.
- Try shooting in interesting or unusual locations. Look for interesting backdrops or props that will enhance the subject and tell the viewer more about the subject. However don’t let the background or props in a portrait dominate the subject as they may detract from the outcome.
Find Anthony: EyeEm
Photo by Anthony Ginns
Photo by Anthony Ginns
Recovering Musician. Writer. Breeder (six kids) iPhoneographer. Native Californian who fled Los Angeles in 1994 for the big city lights of Nashville. 2 record deals, 4 albums, 6 sold, message received! Photography became the transition drug that helped me get over myself and get on with my life. I have an affinity for the past with an appetite for the future (oh paleeease!) Big fan of 30′s, 40′s and 50′s black and white imagery. Particularly Life Magazine’s from those periods, Dorothea Lange. George Hurrell. Vivian Maier. A lfred Hitchcock freak. Once followed a woman who looked like Grace Kelly for 5 city blocks before realizing that I’d stumbled into a “Gay Pride” parade.
- Location! Location! Location! Look for an interesting spot to use for your pallet. Old house, huge tree whatever. Then build your image around that.
- Narrow your visual subject. Be aware of any distracting things creeping into your shot. I hate telephone lines!! Even a bright piece of material popping out of your models clothing or a misplaced hair. You want the eye drawn towards the correct spot on your shot. Avoid a cluttered frame.
- Time of day. I prefer to shoot in the late afternoon/early evening when the sun is setting. It makes my subjects and even backgrounds have an almost surreal image. Early morning is good as well. If it’s noon, then just put your phone in your pocket and finish your sandwich.
- Try to make your subjects comfortable to be around you. Ask them questions about themselves, make them laugh. (with you, not at you!) I want to bring out their beauty and/or their unique quality. I’m what the Native Americans and Amish fear most, I want my iPhone to capture their soul.
- Be careful how much you edit. I just learned a very valuable lesson. Your original picture that started out at 2MB can quickly shrink to under 100KB if you run it through too many apps. If you’re going to transfer to your iPad, then use an app like Dropbox. It will maintain the integrity of the file. NEVER email the shot to transfer. However, this is only important if you ever plan to enlarge the shot beyond the size of your phones screen.
Find Bret: Blog / Facebook / Flickr / Twitter / Instagram / EyeEm
Euferzine by Bret Pemelton
Little Women by Bret Pemelton
Born March 14 1968. iPhoneographer since August 2012 – Rookie. I do portraits. Did fashion, dance and artistic photos in another life, twenty years ago. Learned in a darkroom when taking picture was a long process. Now I enjoy editing at any moment of the day. Like now…
- Work in perfect light (natural). The iPhone performs best on cloudy days. If you want details in your portraits like I do, this helps because the iPhone doesn’t like bright light – it doesn’t read it well. For studio work, make yourself a soft box. Google it to find instructions or a soft light from a portable lamp can do it.
- The editing is key. Visualize the final result. Don’t over do it. Know your apps, study them, push it to the limit.
- Make your subject comfortable. Listen to them and if you’re like me you will do what you want anyway, ha! Be calm and confident which will help your subject to be comfortable.
- The eyes have it! Eyes and light are the most important things for me in a portrait. The eyes of your subject will tell you their secrets and that is what you want to catch…their secrets.
- Did I talk about the light ?
Find Patrick: Instagram / EyeEm / iPhoneArt
Titoiz by Patrick St-Hilaire (Studio Portrait with Soft Box)
Being Rasta by Patrick St-Hilaire (Natural Light)
I’m originally from Illinois, but now reside in Louisiana with my wife and son. By day I’m a logistics coordinator for the US Army, and a mobile arts enthusiast the rest of the time. I’ve always been in touch with the arts in one form or another, mostly culinary and music, but it wasn’t until I purchased an iPhone that I really developed a passion for mobile artistry.
- Subject matter: Find a subject that speaks and really resonates. In your final composition you’ll find it will resonate with the viewers as well.
- Focus: Using a vignette or blurring feature for your background makes the subject portrait really “pop”.
- Color vs. Black and White: (This is strictly my personal opinion) When a portrait is B&W, it strips away the distraction of color and really sets focus on the subject.
- Avoid direct sunlight: Like a vampire, this can be harmful to your portrait. Overcast seems to work well for me.
- Experiment: Shoot from different angles. Try wide lens shots. Take random street shots.
Find Joel: Flickr / iPhoneArt / AMPt / Backspaces / Twitter
fútbol by Joel Adam
Abel…by Joel Adam
Crystal F. Spellman
Currently I am an oncology nurse and graduate student, however my initial training was in mixed media and painting. There are two very different parts to my brain and I think it is through mobile photography that I have finally been able to reconcile them. To do either I must be totally present, and committed to my observations. In the last year, using my iPhone to make pictures has become one of the most cherished parts of my day. I consider myself to be much more of a portrait dabbler, but here are a few things I’ve found that help.
- Take a bazillion photos. This cannot be underestimated enough. Even if I can get someone to cooperate long enough for me to get a million takes, sometimes I still end up dumping them all. But that’s totally OK. I’m just that many steps closer to the next decent shot.
- Practice on yourself. Sometimes you’re the only one you got (for me, that’s most of the time). When there’s nothing at stake, and no one to accuse you of making them look fat, you are free to shoot away to your heart’s content.
- Look at other portrait photographers work. Find ones you like on your social media platforms, and from history, and from your community. Study their work. Figure out how they are framing their subjects, or using light, or conveying emotion. Learn all their rules, then break them and make them your own.
- Experiment with different apps. I’m pretty sure the Hipstamatic camera app has set my soul on fire. I am an enormous fan of the Tinto 1884 lens and its crazy blur combined with anything. I end up starting out with a much more interesting image before editing than I would if I had shot with the native camera. Speaking of editing, Snapseed remains a favorite for a Photoshop flunkie like myself.
- Make your models comfortable. I kinda suck at this. Clearly when I feel weird about taking their picture, they feel weird about me taking their picture. To compensate I talk until I bore them to death, and the nervous smiles and giggles stop. Although, those can be pretty nice too…
Find Crystal: Instagram / EyeEm / Backspaces / Flickr
Photo by Crystal Spellman
Photo by Crystal Spellman
Mobile Photographer – ”I’m enjoying what I love to do the most… I love to be free to wander and take photos of whatever interests me. I love to have time to create…to escape into another world.” I have chosen my 5 tips because they are essential to me as an artist. They are chosen relating to ‘self’ portraits, not generalized portrait work.
- Planning Have an idea of what you want to do, think about what you want to convey in your portrait and how you are going to achieve it. Choose a day or time without any distractions, have the time to be free to try new ideas.
- Lighting is so important, particularly with mobile photography, try and choose a day where there is great natural light, or maybe create your own using various methods, lots of interesting effects can be created by using directional light.
- Perspective can make or break a portrait, be creative, invest in a tripod for your mobile device. You can be far more adventurous if you’re not having to hold your phone and unusual angles always create interest.
- Break the rules! Try not to be guided by the many rules of photography when creating self portraits, be original and free, express yourself, the more creatively the better!
- Titles I’m not a fan of titles generally but I use them for self portraits, it helps to create the mood and gives the viewer an idea of the expression you had in mind. Many people feel that titles influence the viewer or that it may affect how the photo feels but it doesn’t have to be a descriptive one, it could just be a thought or lyric that fits the image.
Find Louise: Website / Instagram / EyeEm / iPhoneArt / Flickr / Facebook
Heartbeat by Louise Fryer
My Heart and I by Louise Fryer
I am a wife, a mother to four wonderful children. I studied photography and fine art at various colleges in London, which enabled me to harness the creative soul within me. I am currently based in London, however photography has made it possible for me to ‘visually’ travel on a global scale. My own photography business was launched in 2010, alongside my blog as a creative writer. Through mobile photography, my creativity has evolved, my interpretation of life has been revolutionized. I am a visual storyteller with a passion for telling stories.
- When thinking about shooting a portrait whether it is a self portrait or of a model, lighting is the first thing I think about – it has to be perfect. I prefer natural lighting, so finding a soft natural light source is key – maybe next to a window or patio, perfect if it’s outside. Be careful not to overexpose when shooting outdoors. I find a natural light source inside, creates lovely soft shadows.
- The perfect backdrop. Now obviously we can’t all have a studio set up when we shoot. However, just be mindful of the background and foreground, you don’t want them distracting the viewer from the subject, I tend to use a plain wall or drape a cloth behind my subject, if all else fails there are wonderful apps out there that can improve on any imperfections within the background or foreground.
- Composition, think about how you want the portrait to be received. The way you position your subject is very important. You can create a dramatic or elegant feel to the portrait just by the positioning. If you’re like me and shoot very active children or maybe you didn’t realize you’ve caught something distracting in the background, then post editing is always a savior, plus with apps like AntiCrop and Snapseed, composition issues are a thing of the past.
- What I love about shooting with the iPhone is the countless apps. You can turn an image that hasn’t been shot within perfect circumstance, into the perfect image. I have done this with many of my portraits. Find your staple application the one you can use to edit an image with ease and efficiency, to make your portrait stand out. I use Snapseed 99% of the time for most of my post editing work on all my portraits.
- Continuous shooting, I use this mode on my Nikon. So why not on the iPhone, just keep snapping, especially when working with children or self portraits. Most of my self portraits I’ve usually shoot about 20-30 frames, then I pick a few to work from. This way you can slightly, move change expressions etc. to ensure you got the perfect shot. Enjoy it, it’s fun!
Find Paula: Flickr / Tumblr / iPhoneArt / EyeEm / Twitter
My Own by Paula Gardener
His Seventh Year by Paula Gardener
“It wasn’t until I got my first iPhone, that I started to take pictures and discovered the possibilities of this new amazing art form. The future of mobile photography is a bright one!”~Nei Cruz, iPhoneographer
Nei’s passion for photography dates back to the time he was a boy. Having worked as an art director, Nei has had the privilege of working with many world renowned photographers and important fashion publications such as Vogue, Elle, Bazar, Allure, W and many others. Nei Cruz resides in Manhattan, New York City and continues to work in the fashion industry.
- Make sure your subject is comfortable and relaxed. Trust is key.
- The surroundings are as important as the subject. Make sure it enhances the subject and expresses what you are trying to convey in the photo.
- Stabilize your camera as well as you can. A tripod helps, even though I never used one yet.
- Like any other photo, light is important to express the mood and feel of the photo.
- Don’ hesitate to try different things. Experiment!
Find Nei: Instagram / EyeEM / Google+ / Ampt / Facebook
Photo by Nei Cruz
Photo by Nei Cruz
A big thank you to all who contributed their tips. Do you have any of your own advice for capturing a perfect portrait? Please leave your tips in the comments below. I look forward to learning from you!