A couple of months ago, Carolyn and I gave some suggestions on how to get a great author picture. For this short series, we’ll provide pointers in case you’re able to recruit one of your friends to take them for you. Friends tend to do a better job at making you relax compared to a professional photographer, especially if the photographer is pretty much a stranger to you.
These tips won’t turn your friend into an award winning portraitist, but they’ll help you get photos you’ll be happy with.
When people look at a photo, they should be immediately drawn to the subject. This is achieved through a number of ways:
Frame Your Subject
Use body parts, doorways, trees, windows, landscape, anything that brings attention to the individual.
The frame can either be in focus or blurred. It can take up most of the picture, or it can exist in the periphery. The goal is to emphasize your friend, not the framing device, so make sure it doesn’t overwhelm her.
Rule of Thirds
Many amateur photographers tend to take photos with their subject smack bang in the middle of the picture. Ho hum! To avoid this, divide your frame into thirds—as in the above picture—and try to place your subject on one of the imaginary lines.
In this photo, the teen’s eyes are the focal point of the picture and are approximately a third of the way down. Also, notice her face is in the upper right quadrant, exactly where two of the lines would have intercepted had I drawn them in.
By using a shallow depth-of-field (aperture), the background is blurred and the subject is obvious. The smaller the number, the fuzzier the background. If your camera lets you select the AV (found on SLR cameras and many point & shoot ones), you can easily do this, and it makes a huge difference in your portraits.
If too much is going on in the photo, it’ll be difficult for the viewer to figure out what your subject is. Again, depth of field can play a role here.
Also, check the view finder before taking the picture to make sure there’s nothing growing out of the individual’s head, like a tree in the distance. It looks unprofessional and can be very distracting.
Lighting for Emphasis
The contrast between light and dark is another way to emphasize your subject.
In this photo, the first thing you notice is the boy’s face. The distance of the window from the floor threw the dim north light predominantly on his face. Use this trick if you live in the northern hemisphere. If you live in the southern hemisphere, then use a south facing window. The lightening won’t be as hash.
Tomorrow, we’ll have some more suggestions to help your friend take a great author picture for your blog, website, book cover.