Friday, July 18, 2008

Portrait Photography

I've run through my first experiments with portrait photography. And I have a lot to learn. I was working with the Canon 50mm F1.4, and the Canon Speedlite 580 EX II. I didn't have much control over the environment in which I took photographs. Generally I took them wherever the subject happened to be sitting. Here's what I've learned:

  • Small rooms with light walls work best for bouncing the flash.
  • If you have a glossy wall in the back, watch out for reflections massively affecting the flash metering.
  • I need a diffuser.
  • Don't point the flash at the subject. Bouncing it off walls works suprisingly well for getting an even exposure. Consider pointing the flash away from the subject.
  • Ideally, avoid having a wall behind.
  • Even wide open, the background can be distracting.
  • Fill the frame. Not entirely, but do fill it.
  • 50mm, even with a crop sensor, is not enough as a good portrait lens. I think I need at least 100mm.
  • BUT, if there's a possibility that you might need to accommodate multiple subjects, a shorter lens is quite helpful.
  • Overexpose. But don't underexpose. A lot of my photographs were underexposed.
  • By focusing on the eyes you really do get an image that, even though the face is fuzzy at many other spots, turns out to be quite pleasing.

I didn't really have much time, or many opportunities, to get the shot right for many of the portraits. I'm also unclear on how to set up an on-camera flash and have it work with the camera in portrait mode. Every portrait was taken in landscape mode. Though not bad, it does potentially waste a lot of screen real estate. Well, I need to practice, practice, practice...