5 Camera Setting Tips for Shooting Great Portraits

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Intermediate Portraits are one of the most common photo ops out there. As a photographer, you’ll likely be asked at one point or another by family or friends to take their photo. Some photographers are naturals at capturing people while others freeze when the person is in front of the camera. They’re not sure how to pose them, how to find flattering light, or how to make the subject comfortable. After all, why should the subject be relaxed if your brow is sweating?

Take a deep breath, relax, and read these 5 tips for shooting great portraits before you agree to the challenge of a portrait shoot.

1. Picking the Right Lens

I like to start with lens choice because that will determine the flexibility to carry out some of the other tips that speak to focal length and aperture settings.

There are a few lens options you can reach for, and it may depend on your setting and the number of people in the shoot.

If it’s a large group, such as a few generations of a family, your wide-angle lens (around 18mm) will help you capture a wider angle of view, allowing more people to fit in the shot.

A 50mm portrait lens will give you less diversity than a telephoto or zoom lens, but often give you sharper images and lower f-stop ranges. You will also need to move around more to fill your frame the way you want since you won’t have zoom capability. It’s up to you to determine if the low f-stop for a shallow depth of field is worth the trade-off. For many photographers, it is.

A telephoto (i.e. a 70-210mm) lens restricts your angle of view, but works for some angles. For example if your subject is down on a dock, you can be on a hillside shooting them from above with a telephoto to get close. You will also have to deal with f-stops that are a little higher. See the tip on Apertures for more information.

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