Take these five steps to instantly improve your portraits

Although I generally believe in “instant improvement” as much as I believe in fairytales, there are situations in which you actually can instantly improve your photos. You just need to pay more attention to what you’re doing and take a few steps to make your images a whole lot better. In this video, Matt Granger gives you five steps you can take to shoot significantly better portraits.

Matt guides you through these five steps on his own example, which I find to be a great approach. He is taking some photos in a room with an interesting background, but pretty awful lighting. As he goes along, he adjusts the lighting and uses different lenses to show you how much you can affect your final shot even when it seems that you can’t. Here are the steps you can take:

1. Choose the right background – if the background is too cluttered, try to simplify it. Pay attention to background details and if you can’t avoid them, incorporate them into the shot so that they’re not a distraction but rather a part of a composition.

2. Use the right focal length – speaking of background, using a longer lens will help you compress it and make it simpler. Additionally, it’s more flattering to the subject’s face as it doesn’t create a distortion. If you have enough room, use a 50mm lens or longer for the best result.

3. Use the right aperture – think about how much of the background you want to include in your shot. If it’s still a bit too busy, you can blur it out by opening your aperture. If you want more of the background to show, use then stop down your lens.

4. Use the right light – if you don’t use artificial lighting, you’ll have to work with what you’ve got. Artificial ambient light can often look dreadful, as it does in Matt’s video. But don’t give up. Look around you, move your subject around, use reflectors and diffusion. Matt made great use of bathroom light diffused through glass panels and created fantastic, soft light.

5. Refine hair and pose – finally, once you have your lens, aperture, and light all set, refine the model’s hair and pose. Get rid of distractions like stray hairs, so you’ll spend less time fixing them in post.

I think that the key thing that connects all these steps is: don’t rush. Be intentional about your photos. Once you arrive at the shoot, take a look around, plan your shots, and think about how you can make the best out of the location you’re at. Have these five things in mind at your next shoot, apply them, and I’m sure you’ll be really happy with the results.

[5 Simple Steps to Improve Your Portraits! | Matt Granger]

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