I read once that Ansel Adams could probably take better photos with a camera phone than most of us could with an expensive camera.
You may think because the only camera you can afford is a point-and-shoot that you can never take professional-looking portraits. Wrong! With a little knowledge & practice you can make your camera perform. Here are a few tips.
#1: Turn Off Your Flash!
Instead of relying on your flash to provide adequate light, move closer to a window. The lighting is much more natural and soft. Most point-and-shoot cameras should have an option to turn the flash completely off.
Probably the best thing you can do to improve your photography is to ensure that you have great lighting. Even with a very expensive camera, it can be quite hard to get a good shot in horrible lighting. Experiment with different light sources. Natural light from a window is usually the most flattering, as is the light outside just after sunrise and just before sunset.
#2: Be Aware of Your Focal Length
Did you know your focal length changes the appearance of your photos? At the wide end (zoomed all the way out) your photos are distorted; zoomed in, they’re compressed.
Say you want to take a closely cropped portrait. Instead of just moving in close, back off a ways and zoom in. Notice how distorted John’s face is in the first photo. His nose is disproportionately large. This is fine if you’re going for the wide-angle look, but it’s not the most flattering composition. Now notice how much more even the second photo is and how the background is blurred. All I had to do was back up and zoom in. That simple.
#3: Shoot at Eye Level or Slightly Above
This is the most flattering position, especially for models that are overweight. Also, have your model tilt their chin up slightly. This will ensure that you get no double chins!
#4: Shoot at an Angle
Instead of just shooting your model strait on (the mug shot), angle yourself so that the face and body are 3/4 in view. This is much more flattering.
#5: Decide Whether to Crop Close or Tell a Story
There is no right or wrong here. Just make sure that you decide whether or not to tell the story or crop close.
#6: Edit Your Photos
Most photos can be improved with a bit of editing. Adding contrast, fixing color casts, and softening facial imperfections can really boost your photo. Brighten the eyes a bit (if needed) and sharpen. There are many good free photo editing tutorials online, and even some free photo editing software.
Then again, you don’t want to go overboard on the post processing. Heavily altered images just look unrealistic.
And there you have – my six tips for improving your portrait photography with a point-and-shoot.
All photos were taken with a Sony DSC-H3 and edited in Paint Shop Pro Photo.
Do you have any tips for point-and-shoot users?
P.S. Yes, a good camera can really make taking good photos easier, but don’t let your cheap camera stop you from practicing!