70 Ways To Take Better Photos (Part 3) - Portraits, Adjust light intensity

8/20/2012 2:43:09 PM


Get to know the pro

Name: Ali Sharaf


Photographic specialism: Fashion and beauty

Description: Ali Sharaf , One professional photographer shares his secrets for achieving successful portrait shots.

Ali Sharaf , One professional photographer shares his secrets for achieving successful portrait shots.

Studio or location? Location as natural light is what I prefer to work with

Who would you most like to photograph? I would love to photograph a range of celebrities on the go someday.

Preferred kit? I work with Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III and Canon EOS 5D Mark II. I also use Profoto to get the light right.

Mini bio: Ali is a Bahraini photographer who specialises in fashion, beauty, portrait and lifestyle photography for the advertising and editorial sectors. His style reflects his vision whereby his ideas are translated into masterpieces.

Ali Sharaf’s words of advice

Balance the light

Light is a photographer’s most valuable tool, as without it, there wouldn’t be a photograph. Always light your subject with two or more light sources to balance the exposure and get a flattering effect.

Strengthen your composition

Always remember to compose your photograph so that the reason for making it is obvious to the viewer. Try to arrange elements along the diagonal of the image as this complex composition can help strengthen the visual space.

Guide your model

Having said that, many portraits are successful because they are conceptual, particularly if they indicate an emotion, mood or expression in the eyes. Be a good director of content in order to provide guidance and direction to your subject.

Get creative

Don’t be afraid to shoot your way. Push the boundaries until you decide a clear path with regards to your shooting style. Be creative with your setup and always remember to have patience.

Fill in with flash

It’s always a privilege to be there, doing what you love – right? Have fun. It can take a few accessories and a bit of time to create some truly stunning images. You should always use a second light to fill in shadows and gels to inject drama into a shot.

Portraiture pointers

Focus on the eyes

Ensure your model’s eyes are sharp and in focus, even if there is no direct eye contact in the image. Your viewer will naturally be drawn to the subject’s eye first.

Description: Ali Sharaf Photography

Ali Sharaf Photography

Use a prime lens

If you’re serious about portraiture, invest in a good-quality prime lens. An 85mm lens is ideal for headshots as it won’t create distortions and should offer you wider aperture settings for more artistic effects.

Bring out character

Maximise the personality in your portraits by matching your shoot style to your subject and bring out their character. For example, if you are photographing children, think about using bright and bold colours that highlight their youth and playful nature.

Find flattering angles

Avoid shooting a portrait from unflattering low angles unless you are taking a full body shot. Always angle your camera slightly down onto the face to shoot, this way you will accentuate the model’s eyes.

Adjust light intensity

Adjust light intensity

If you can’t control the output strength of your light source, move your subject closer or further away from the source in order to get varied results.

Avoid lens flare

If you’re shooting outside on a bright sunlit day, use your lens hood. This will decrease flare and prevent you from getting hazy shots that will need more editing work in Photoshop.

Putting it into practice

1.    Settings

Description: Settings


When working in the studio, set your camera up to shoot in manual mode. You will need to adjust your shutter speed to 1/125sec if you’re working with the flash, you can then adjust your aperture to control depth of field. Don’t forget to keep your ISO low.

2.    Setup

Description: Setup


Light your model in the studio with one main light that is angled above their face. A softbox will create a nice catch light in their eye. You can use another light or reflector to the side to fill in shadow areas of your shot.

3.    The results

Description: The results

The results

There is a great catchlight in the model’s eye, which is lit using two lights in the studio. By using the correct focus settings, the model’s eyes are nice and sharp.

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