How to Photograph Faces
Michael • updated December 24, 2022 • 10 min read
Michael • updated December 24, 2022 • 10 min read
People say that portraits by many well-known photographers show more than just a face. You capture the soul of the person in your photos, which makes people feel something.
Our tips and ideas for the best face photography should help you follow in the footsteps of the masters and show not just a face but also the personality of the person in the photo.
Portrait photography is mostly about taking pictures of people’s faces. But a portrait can also go up to one or more people’s shoulders. Or it might just cover part of the face.
At the same time, a good face portrait shouldn’t just show what a person looks like; it should also show what that person is like.
So, besides having the right camera settings, it’s also important to have the right idea when taking pictures. if there is enough time to prepare, consider the overall style of the model and read more about best hairstyles to look good in photos.
The best settings for your DSLR camera or mirrorless camera when shooting portraits will depend on a variety of factors, including the lighting conditions, the lens you’re using, and the look you want to achieve.
If you have no camera jet, make sure you read our article about DSLR or system camera. Get some general tips to help you get started:
You can switch your camera to portrait mode, of course. Just move the mode dial to the head icon. If you’d rather make all the settings yourself, go to manual mode and turn the settings dial to M.
The following settings are what we recommend for portrait photography:
“Open aperture” is the magic phrase here. The lens should have a very open aperture. Basically, the smaller the number, the wider the aperture and the more blurred the background. The word for this is “bokeh.”
If the aperture is less than f/2.2, only the focus point will be sharp and the rest of the face will be blurry. This could be used to add style.
ISO 100 or 200 is a good rule of thumb for shooting outside. Inside, ISO 400 is a good choice. Noise and grainy images can happen when you go higher.
Change this based on how bright it is. Our guide “Setting the exposure time correctly: the guide to perfect photos” shows you how to do this. A little bit of underexposure isn’t a big deal; it’s easy to fix in post-processing.
If you overexpose, you lose information about the image that can’t be brought back with computer editing.
In the manual for your camera, you can find out how to change the settings. Most DSLR cameras have buttons on the body and a menu item you can choose from on the screen.
Do you want to take stunning portraits with your iPhone? The iPhone is a powerful tool for portrait photography, but taking incredible iPhone portraits can be challenging. Here are some tips for taking good portrait photos with an iPhone:
In portrait photography, there is no one clear rule for how an image should be put together. Depending on what you want to show and where you put the person, this has different effects:
The photo looks more personal the closer you are to the model with the camera. This way, every little line and expression on the person’s face is shown, which makes them look more vulnerable. Continue reading here, on how start out with portrait photography!
Use a lens with a focal length of at least 50 millimeters. If you don’t, you’ll have to hold the camera too close to the face, which makes many people uncomfortable and tense up.
If you want to show something about the person’s life in the picture next to them, you can focus on their personality and even tell a short story.
For better better photo composition read:
It’s also interesting to let the person look at something outside the photo. This makes things seem strange.
You can’t take a beautiful portrait by sitting up straight, looking into the camera, and smiling nicely. Good portraits look like they were taken in real life. It’s not hard to capture this naturalness.
What poses are always good? When two or more people pose for a picture together, leaning against each other or putting an arm around the other.
The following tips and ideas will help you and your model relax and look more natural in photos:
All of us have taken portrait shots of people whose faces appear odd or whose facial expressions don’t appear as expected. So let’s get started with some of the best advice for improving your face’s photogenic qualities.
Practice your posing
Practice different poses in front of a mirror or with a friend to get a feel for the types of poses that look best on you.
“The light should always be behind the photographer.” Almost everyone has heard this rule before, but you should forget it right away if you want to take good portraits.
This is because: If the sun is too low, the person getting their picture taken will be blinded and have to squint. You also miss out on some great ideas for portrait photography, since the backlight alone creates a soft mood and makes for beautiful pictures. Our guide on how to outdoor portrait photography gives you a great inside!
Here are a few things to remember about light:
When taking portraits, the camera is usually held about eye level. So, most pictures are taken from about the same point of view. Read more about portraits with common light sources. and learn about how to take photos of people wearing glasses.
But if you want to take interesting portraits, you should try a different angle. For example, if you look at the picture below from above:
But there are many more effects that can be had if we look at things from different angles:
When a picture of a face is taken from the front, at eye level, it looks very clear and honest. This is not a good way to hide flaws. If the head is facing the photographer but the upper body is turned, the picture is more interesting.
The face is turned slightly away from the camera. This hides any small differences between the two sides of the face, like if one eye is smaller than the other.
The smaller eye should then be on the side that faces the camera. Since it is closer to the camera, it will look bigger.
If the face is turned away from the camera even more, the unevenness is hidden even more. Be careful: the nose shouldn’t go past the edges of the face, because that would throw off the proportions.
It can be very interesting to show only one side of a person. But this draws attention to prominent facial features, which isn’t always a good thing.
These are merely launching pads to get you started. Use them nonetheless, but test, experiment, and improve them each time you conduct a photo session or relocate.
The best lighting for face photography will depend on the look you want to achieve. Soft, natural light can give your photo a soft, flattering look, while dramatic lighting can give your photo depth and interest. Experiment with different lighting setups to see what works best for you.
To pose for a face photograph, try to relax your facial muscles and smile naturally. Make eye contact with the camera and try to look confident and comfortable.
You can also try tilting your head slightly or changing your expression to add variety to your photos.
To take a good self-portrait, start by finding a location with good lighting and a pleasing background. Set your camera on a tripod or use the self-timer to avoid a camera shake.
Experiment with different poses and expressions to find a look you like. Use the editing tools on your camera or phone to adjust the exposure, color balance, and other settings to create the look you want.
The best lens for face photography will depend on the look you want to achieve and the type of camera you’re using. A lens with a wide aperture (low f-stop number) will create a shallow depth of field, which can help draw attention to your subject and create a sense of intimacy.
On the other hand, a longer focal length lens can make the background more blurry and create a portrait-like look. Experiment with different lenses to see which one works best for you.
To take a good face photo of someone who is camera-shy, start by making them feel comfortable and relaxed. Engage with them and start a conversation to help put them at ease.
Try to create a warm and welcoming atmosphere. Use a lens with a longer focal length to create a more intimate, less intimidating look. Consider using a prop or activity to help them feel more comfortable and give them something to do with their hands.
One rule of photography that isn’t written down is that the most beautiful pictures are made by people who love what they’re shooting. Now, this is another nice idea for portrait photography, but it might not always work.
But it is possible to take pictures of faces by focusing on what makes each person unique. This could be a unique eye color, strong cheekbones, or a laugh that makes people want to be around them. If you think about how beautiful you are, nothing can go wrong.
If you post frequently portrait photos on social media, give our portrait photography quotes for Instagram a try.
More reads about face photography
A Photo a Week Challenge: That Face
Double exposure tutorial for the Canon 5D Mark III
Keep reading: Good Portraits with common Light Sources »
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