Welcome to our second guide to taking better photos. In our first guide, we discussed some basics of composition to help you achieve more striking photos. This time, we are going to focus on how to improve portraits. Have you ever tried to take a picture of a friend or relative, only to see them turn away and say, "I'm not photogenic"? Perhaps one of the reasons people think of themselves this way is that they often see poor portraits of themselves. If only the photographer had the techniques to take better portraits, these people might have a different attitude towards themselves and their photos.

There are many simple things that you can do to improve the overall quality of your portrait shots. For example, one of the most common problems in portrait photography has to do with the way a subject is lit. While we are not going to get into ultra-technical indoor lighting techniques, we will show you some very simple ways to produce great portraits with good lighting, both indoors and outdoors using very few tools.

A portrait should reveal the character of your subject. Obviously, this is easiest to accomplish when your subject is comfortable in front of the camera. If they are not immediately comfortable, it may take some time for them to warm up and show their true character. You will most likely find that after taking a few pictures, they will begin to open up and start to feel more uninhibited. Since portrait photography is all about capturing that special moment where a subject's character really shows, be sure to take a lot of pictures. To do this, it is clearly beneficial to have a relatively fast digital camera and a good size memory card. Now, let's move on to some portrait basics.

The Basics


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  • j23smith - Wednesday, January 19, 2005 - link

    Another tip for people to consider with digital cameras. When doing indoor photography and you want to avoid the harshness from the built-in camera flash, you can reduce the ISO setting and use the flash. It should reduce the harshness of the flash.

    i.e. instead of flash indoors at iso400, use flash indoors at iso100 or lower. play around and you will see what i mean.
  • stephencaston - Wednesday, January 19, 2005 - link

    Thanks for all the kind comments. Remember as always, if anyone has any suggestions for content you'd like to see in future guides please let us know.

  • WooDaddy - Wednesday, January 19, 2005 - link

    Great article. Great pictures.

    I would mention using a cable-release for slow shutter speed picture even if you have a tripod so as to prevent from camera shake when releasing the shutter. If a cable-release isn't available, then hold your breath and slowly depress the shutter release button to reduce the camera shake even further. It helps out with newbie photogs. I see you probably didn't need one though.
  • Calin - Wednesday, January 19, 2005 - link

    Things I never even thought about...

  • CurtOien - Wednesday, January 19, 2005 - link

    Thanks for the tips. :) Reply
  • Jeff7181 - Wednesday, January 19, 2005 - link

    More good tips... now we wait for the photography nuts to come say how elementary the article is and tell us all that nobody can tell you how to take good photos, you have to have an eye for it, etc. etc. etc. blah blah blah :) Reply
  • Staples - Wednesday, January 19, 2005 - link

    Some great tips. I know most of these but I forget to look at lighting when I shoot them. The pictures come out fine but later I kick myself for not paying attention to the lighting. My biggest problem is not paying attention. Reviewing the pictures on the tiny LCD does not tell me anything. My Canon camera a lot of times really picks terrible white balance in incandecent light but I can never tell till after I upload. Reply
  • sphinx - Wednesday, January 19, 2005 - link

    Can't wait till your next article. Reply
  • sphinx - Wednesday, January 19, 2005 - link

    Once again great article. I enjoyed your first article in this series. After reading the first article, I had taken my camera out of storage and started taking pictures again. Thank you for the renewed interest in photography. I'll be looking forward to your next article. No matter how hard I try I can't seem to take excellent night photos. Will you be combining all the articles into one PDF file. Reply
  • thehorriblejoke - Friday, October 15, 2010 - link

    This is a really good Comment just beacuse i don't know. Reply

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