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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  • krismar - Tuesday, December 4, 2007 - link

    Tips and techniques from HP Digital Photography to improve your digital photos and make them stand out in your photo album.">
  • thehorriblejoke - Friday, October 15, 2010 - link

    this is not spam
  • kappy - Thursday, February 10, 2005 - link

    There's one simple thing that I feel was missed. I am always handing off my camera for a potrait, and when I finally see the picture, my head is in the absolute middle of the frame. Above is a huge, boring gap, and I am cut off at the torso. Beginners don't realize that in daily life, their eyes are naturally drawn to faces, and this carries over into putting faces in the center of their photographic compositions. This, to me, is the #1 no-no of portrait photography. Use the Rule of Thirds or something interesting instead.
  • michael2k - Tuesday, January 25, 2005 - link

    But without pictures, what's the point of a photo video player?
  • thehorriblejoke - Friday, October 15, 2010 - link

  • shuttleboi - Sunday, January 23, 2005 - link

    Hey AnandTech photo writers: how about fewer articles wasting our time like this one and more tech-related photography articles (tech articles at Anandtech, go figure), like reviewing photo video players like the Epson P-2000?
  • Jedi2155 - Saturday, January 22, 2005 - link

    But I think its always nice that they occasionally have stuff like this, just ignore the article if you don't like it.

    I personally love hte article for something this useful for the noobs like me!
  • Zak - Friday, January 21, 2005 - link

    Honestly, I don't come to Anandtech as much as I used to because of articles like this. Don't get me wrong, great work but that's not why I come to Anandtech for. If I want digital photo and cameras articles or Mac realated stuff I go somewhere else. Then you have the useless reviews of butt agly cases. I think you guys are losing focus. It's just my 2 cents.

  • AtaStrumf - Friday, January 21, 2005 - link

    Just because I see some people sill dont' get it, DOF is indeed affected by all three variables mentioned above. Just a minor correction. The size of the senzor (film format) itself does not affect DOF, it's the relative focal length that's to blame. e.g. a 4x zoom digital camera specs migth say 35 - 140 mm, but it's actually a 7,2 - 28,8 mm in 35mm film (leica) format terms - conversion factor depends on the difference between CCD sensor size and classic 24x36 mm film size. That explains the huge DOF in digital cameras.

    Anyway a nice little article. I especially liked that nifty Photoshop trick. Keep them comming.
  • kcma - Friday, January 21, 2005 - link

    #17 try shooting with 400mm lens at f16, and 14mm lens at f2, come back here and say that again ;) better yeh, take a fisheye and see if you can throw anything out of focus.


    also, the size of sensor affects depth of field. that's why with medium format/4x5/8x10 camera, it's very easy to blur things out. and for the longest time, it's impossible to throw things out of focus with digital camera.

    and last... OH NO!! the secret's out, dont use on camera flash and you're picture won't look HORRIBLE!! i'll be outta job soon... ppl won't need photographers anymore... but seriously... unless you know what you're doing, on camera flash just mess everything up. they are great for filling in shadows in daylight and some other things... but not great as the only source of light. i shoot in blackness and concerts without them. and top of the line SLRs don't have them.

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