Entertainment, Style

Beginners Guide to DSLR Portraits

August 1, 2017

Are you still using your DSLR in auto-mode?  Are you struggling to take beautiful portraits with that fancy camera of yours?  Maybe you’re a mom wanting to take pictures of the kids, or maybe you’re a blogger wanting to up the caliber of your posts.  One thing I’m sure you all have in common:  Your time is precious, so I’m going to cut to the chase!

This will be the QUICKEST and EASIEST beginners guide to DSLR portraits you’ve ever read.

Use this beginners guide to DSLR portraits to take amazing pictures.

Buy a 50mm f/1.8 prime lens

Why a 50mm f/1.8 prime lens?  It’s the best lens you can get for the least amount of money.  It will only set you back about $200-$250.  It’s a “fast” lens, which allows for maximum bokeh (background/foreground blur).  This is by far the best lens for someone just getting started with DSLR photography.

Set your ISO depending on the amount of ambient light

Are you shooting outside in bright sunlight?  You want a low ISO, like 100.  Shooting outside on a cloudy day?  Try an ISO of 400.  Shooting indoors in low light?  Crank your ISO up to 1600.  The brighter the space, the lower you want to set your ISO.  The darker the space, the higher you need to set your ISO.

Shoot in Aperture Priority Mode

This is the easiest mode for beginners and the first step in getting out of auto-mode.  With aperture priority mode, you control the aperture (f-stop) and ISO, and the camera controls the shutter speed accordingly to ensure properly exposed photos.

Set your aperture depending on how much bokeh you want

Do you want maximum bokeh?  This is why you bought that DSLR in the first place, right?  Go ahead and open your lens up all the way to f/1.8.  This gives a super shallow depth-of-field.  This won’t be appropriate though if you have multiple people in the shot (only one person will end up being in focus).

Put your focus point on your subject’s eye

When you’re shooting a shallow depth of field, it’s important to have your focus point spot on.  I always move my focus point onto my subject’s eye.  If my subject isn’t facing me straight on, I put the focus point on the eye closest to my camera.

Shoot your subject with their back to the sun

Always, always put your subject’s back to the sun.  This minimizes squinting and minimizes harsh shadows on their face.  Plus, it adds a nice back-light.  Try to shoot outdoors when the sun is low in the sky.  This will be either two hours after sunrise or two hours before sunset.

Reflect light back onto your subject’s face

Putting your subject’s back to the sun might mean that their face will be under-exposed.  The easiest and cheapest way to compensate for this is with a simple light reflector.  Have a friend stand next to your camera, catch the sun’s rays, and bounce them into your subject’s face.

Use backlight in this beginners guide to DSLR portraits.

I hope this beginners guide to DSLR portraits works out for you!  Once you get comfortable with those basics, there’s much more to learn and the sky’s the limit with beautiful photography!  Photos in this post belong to my business, Eastport Photography, in La Jolla, CA.

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