I'm pleased to welcome, quite literally from the other side of the planet, Australian photographer, Samantha Townsend. Sam runs Shuttersnap Photography, a wedding and portrait photography business based out of Brisbane. I stumbled across her work online a few months ago and just absolutely loved her fresh style. We're very lucky to have her sharing some tips on taking our portrait photography to another level. Without further ado, take it away Samantha...
Recharging Your Portrait Photography
Written By: Samantha Townsend, Shuttersnap Photography
As a wedding and portrait photographer, my favorite part of my job is taking the bridal portraits. It's a great opportunity to explore your creativity and have a bit of fun.
I'm always looking at ways I can do something new and fresh. Frankly, it is pretty hard sometimes and I struggle. It’s all too easy to fall back on your 'greatest hits' - after all, they worked once. Why not again? Staying on top of your game (and avoiding repetition) is a constant challenge, but it’s what makes photography exciting. Here are some tips on how to improve your portraits.
Know your weaknesses
Before you start shooting, it's important to know what your weaknesses are. Take a step back and look over your work with an honest, unflinching eye. Are there any patterns emerging? Do you take the same photograph again and again? Are there certain areas you need technical help with? If you are having trouble, seek out a friend who can be brutally honest (but in the nicest possible way!).
Once you have identified your problem areas, you need to work on them. Not great at flash photography? Find out what the best available books are on the topic and purchase or borrow them. Are you like me and take a lot of your photographs from a vertical perspective? Next time you photograph someone, try a horizontal perspective instead.
Practice, practice, practice and you will soon see a difference.
A new angle
There are two people standing in front of you. How do you photograph them? Many people would simply raise their camera at eye level and press the shutter release. There's nothing wrong with this, but there are plenty of other options you could try. Step out of your comfort zone and take a photograph from a new perspective. Experiment a little - rules are mean to be broken!
Shooting sideways is one option....
...and shooting down is another.
Shooting with a different lens is a great way to freshen up your portraits. Always using your zoom lens? Try a wide-angle lens or the macro that's been sitting in your bag for months. Fixed lens are terrific as they force you to get close to the action and consider your shots more. Hire a lens for the weekend and see what you can come up with. There's a world of possibilities out there.
It’s all about the light
Always remember the light. Focus on finding great light, rather than a great location. As long as the light is right, you can make a dingy alleyway look terrific.
Shoot into the sun
It may sound counter-intuitive and against everything you may have learnt, but shooting into the light can produce amazing results. I have shot some of my best portraits by shooting into the sun.
This photo was taken in a car park, believe it or not. Despite the strange location, the light was amazing and I knew instantly the shots would be good.
Depth of field
Experimenting with depth of field can result in some cool pictures. Try a shallow depth of field and place your main subject in the foreground and your secondary subject in the background (or vice versa).
I prefer backgrounds that are clean and clutter-free. Take a few seconds before you press the shutter and look around. Are there any signs in the background? Rubbish on the ground? If there is, remove it. Believe me; it only takes an empty coke can to ruin a perfectly good photograph.
Face up to the facts
Remember, not all portraits need to focus on the face. You can also capture the essence of a person, place or time by focusing on other body parts like their hands, eyes, feet, etc.
I was at a wedding at Surfers Paradise earlier this year and was looking for a different way to capture the beach setting and the relaxed, casual atmosphere. I looked down and there was my answer!
Know your subject
It sounds obvious, but establishing a rapport with your subject does wonders. If your subject is uncomfortable, you will see it in the images. Be sincere, be nice and everything else will flow.
I often read magazines or art books to see how the subjects are posed in the photographs. I’ll store some of the images away in my mind, and then reinterpret them on a photo shoot. The idea is to find inspiration and then put your own little spin on things. Remember, copying is not cool.
One new idea
Before each wedding or engagement shoot, I like to think of one new idea I can photograph. Find some quiet time with a notebook (or just your thoughts) and plan out what you will do. It might be a new photographic technique, a new angle or a new pose. I find that this keeps my work fresh and helps me stay inspired and excited about photography.