QueryTracker Blog

Helping Authors Find Literary Agents

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Taking Portraits That Say Wow!—Part Two

Here are some more tips to help your friend take a great author photo of you.

Leave the cheese for the pizza

                                                 ©Carolyn Kaufman

We’ve all been there. The photographer tells you to say “cheese,” and you end up looking phony in the picture. Your mouth might be smiling, but your eyes are saying, “Hey, get on with this would you!” Yep, you remember the photo, don’t you? A few of you are even cringing at the memory of it.

I find just talking to the individual helps him relax and he’ll probably smile at whatever you’re saying, especially if you’re joking around or telling him an amusing story. Having a shutter release button is helpful here. Then the individual will be interacting with you and not with the camera. Plus, they won’t know when you’re actually taking the photos.

Posing 101

                                                     ©Stina Lindenblatt

The best trick for posing is to find pictures that appeal to you in magazines. This way the person has a visual of what you want, and they don’t have to try to figure out what the heck you’re telling them to do.

The most unflattering pose is the head-on one. You know, the one referred to as the mug shot. Okay, let’s just save that one for passport and driver’s license photos. There’s a reason most people don’t look good in them.

The best pose is where the shoulders are at an angle to the camera. It doesn’t have to be by a huge degree. Even a slight turn of the shoulder toward the camera is pleasing. The next step is to have your friend look in a slightly different direction to the line of the shoulders. For example, if your friend’s shoulders are turned to the right, then have her turn her head to the left. Even if your friend’s shoulders are square to the camera, this technique will help prevent the dreaded passport photo look.

Using The Sunlight To Your Advantage

                                        ©Stina Lindenblatt

When shooting portraits outside, you need to consider the lighting. If the sunlight is too bright, it can cause shadows on your friend’s face, and the picture will look awful (especially if they fall under the individual’s eyes).

By scheduling your photos either early or late in the day, or by placing your friend under a tree or beside a building, you can reduce the risk of this happening. But what happens if you don’t have that option. In the above photo, it was cloudy when we started, but then the sun came out, casting shadows where I didn’t want them, including on my model’s face.

The solution? By redirecting the sunlight into the shadowy areas of the face with the reflector, I was able to soften the contrast between the areas touched directly by the sunlight verses those in the shadow. Definitely more flattering. This technique is used often in fashion photography. Of course, you’ll need an assistant to help you.

The reflector doesn’t have to be anything fancy. A white poster board will work. All your assistant needs to do is move it around until it catches the light and bounces it where you want it on your model. It’s really easy.

Of course, there are times when the direct contrast works really well. But that depends on the look you’re striving for, the angle and placement of the sun, and how your friend is posed.

Add Some Sparkle

                                                    ©Stina Lindenblatt

Look at the teen’s eyes. Do you see the sparkle there? The picture was taken in the shadow of the building. What you’re seeing is the sun bouncing off the parking lot in front of her. If you don’t see this sparkle, then add it with your flash. Or better yet, use a reflector as explained above.


                                                       ©Carolyn Kaufman

                                                       ©Stina Lindenblatt

I find the simpler the background the better.  If that’s not possible, then go for a shallow depth of field. Also, contrasts between the subject and the background can produce a great picture (for example: weathered/new; rough/smooth; dark/light). This is known as juxtaposition and is a popular technique in photography. It involves placing objects close together for a contrasting effect. It can also been used to emphasize the subject, as I’ve done in this picture.

Hopefully these suggestions will help your friend take a great author picture for your website, blog, book. Any questions?


Stephsco said...

Great photos! I love that first one of the boy playing in the water. It can be tricky sometimes with a friend shooting for free, so your suggestion of finding examples of poses from magazines is helpful. It also might show the type of photo you want - like black & white and moody, or sunny and smiling. Probably anything beats the self-taken photo from the cell phone using the reflection of the bathroom mirror!

Janet Johnson said...

Your pictures are always amazing! I love the one with the sparkle eyes. Great shot!

CricketB said...

A proper "ee" sound isn't even made with that smile. It's all in the tongue, with boring, open lips. (This from a professional opera singer, as opposed to grade-school choir teacher.)

For poses, check out Yousef Karsh, especially this one: http://iconicphotos.wordpress.com/2009/07/31/winston-churchill-by-yousef-karsh/

When Karsh started, he had to manually prepare each plate. He had to create and use the right moment.

I like shots where they aren't even looking at the camera.