A good portrait reveals a person’s character. Choose clothing, settings, and props that help disclose your subject’s personality, occupation, or interests. Keep backgrounds simple.
For a natural expression, your subject should be comfortable, yet alert. Select a setting in which the subject can sit or lean against something-most people feel awkward standing. Relax your subject with conversation or an absorbing prop.
Ask someone with a strained expression to look down and then up; shoot just as the head returns. Or take a shot, then immediately take another while the subject’s guard is down. Have a seated subject lean forward a bit to look more alert.
A three-quarter view is best for most faces, but a head-on view makes sharp features less prominent. A profile is rarely flattering. Take full-length portraits at the subject’s waist level and closer shots at eye level. Focus on the eyes; if they are sharp, everything else seems sharp. Photograph on overcast days or on the shady side of a building to get soft indirect light that is flattering and easy to work with. Direct sunlight creates harsh, ugly shadows. Shoot in it only early or late in the day. Pose your subject so that the sun hits from the side. Reflect light into the face’s shadowed areas with a white surface: a sheet. poster board, or wall.
For portraits inside, work with either all natural light or all artificial (but not fluorescent) light. Pose a subject facing a window that receives indirect sunlight. For a more dramatic effect, try side lighting, which accentuates facial contours and textures; use a reflector to soften the shadows.
When shooting with regular household light bulbs, use compatible tungsten color film or the recommended color-correction filter. If your camera takes different lenses, try using a moderate telephoto lens (80 to 135 mm) for distortion-free head shots.