Content of the material
1. Pick a Tree — Don’t Photograph the Entire Forest
It’s human nature. We’re surrounded by an incredible landscape, and we want to capture all of it in one image. Yet, some of my most underwhelming photography has come from the most beautiful places. These incredible places make it all the harder to acknowledge that what looks good in person doesn’t look good in a photo.
In most cases, the difficulty lies in subtraction. There’s some sense that we wouldn’t be conveying the full beauty of the moment if we can’t fit it all into one photograph. But we don’t look at photographs like we look out onto a countryside sunset. As a photographer, you need to make decisions about what is important to focus on. We need to pick a tree in the forest, and tell the story of forest from that tree. Taking a photo requires deliberate subtraction.
The two images below illustrate the difference between photographing the forest and picking a tree. In person, it’s often the 360° immersion which provides the beauty of a scene — yet we can’t pass along this perspective through photos. We have to acknowledge that we can only take a tiny portion of our surroundings with us. For me, I am much more effective when I dedicate that tiny portion to fully capturing a smaller scene, rather than being all-inclusive.
6. Photographing Couples
Romantic couples are easier to pose since they are usually holding hands, hugging, or touching in some way. Have about 5-10 poses that work for all couples. These are going to be your base poses. You can build, change, and move around from these. For example, start with the base pose of one person leaning on the other’s shoulder facing the camera. From there you can build the following poses:
- The couple looking at the camera;
- One person looking at the other while one looks at the camera;
- The couple looks at each other;
- The couple kisses;
- You photograph the same pose from behind the couple as they look at each other;
- From behind the couple, have one person look at the camera and the other person looking down or up at the person who is looking at the camera.
From one base pose, you can get anywhere from 5 to 10 poses. All you have to do is change where the couple is looking and your own camera angle. You can also change focal lengths and this will expand the variety in poses and photos. With at least 10 base poses, you can easily get anywhere from 150 -200 photos. This will give the couple enough variety for an engagement album or slideshow and for professionally printed photos. Allow for moments to develop organically or take candid photos as well. If the couple starts to laugh or joke, capture it as it unfolds naturally. Giving the couple space to just walk or be together can also help them loosen up.
9. Best Aperture for Portraits
As with any portrait, be aware of your aperture and make sure that you are choosing one that best suits the individual and the concept of the photo shoot. Photographing an individual at f/2.8 is a great aperture, especially for an up-close portrait or headshot. If you’re going for something more commercial and also want to get the items or wardrobe in focus, close the aperture to at least f/11 to make sure the focus is ample enough. Photographing a couple can be a little tricky at any aperture wider than f/3.5. You want to make sure that you have both people in focus and can clearly see their faces. Try to avoid photographing at wide apertures like f/1.8 unless you’ve had lots of practice nailing down the focus for both subjects. It can be really distracting to see a photo of a couple facing the camera and only one eye of one person is in sharp focus. Stick with f/3.5 or higher to keep everyone in focus and see more detail. For groups, you will want to have everyone in focus from the center out to the edges of the frame. If you stick to an aperture for groups larger than 5 people at f/8 or higher, it can help you to get everyone in the portrait in focus without losing some of the blurred backgrounds. For large groups, like bridal parties or multiple family portraits, use an aperture of f/11-f/20 to have everyone in focus. Using smaller apertures will also cause your shutter speed to slow down. Bring a tripod or extra lighting to make sure that you have everyone lit evenly and can create a solid portrait of the entire group.
And if you’re looking for more detailed and technical guides, these two books have been invaluable for me:
Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson: The best all-around introduction to photography for any camera. Intuitive descriptions of aperture, shutter speed, ISO, and focal length, and how to make them work for you. This is a great starting place.
Picture Perfect Practice by Roberto Valenzuela: This is the best advice I’ve found on creating photographs which capture people’s attention. Roberto is a wedding photographer, but his techniques apply to all types photography.