DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY - Point and Shoot Cameras

Pro Tips For Amateur Photographers











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Portrait Shots
How To Shoot Closeups - Point and Shoot Cameras


Tankie with a Flower
Outdoor Shot: Aperture f.3.4, Shutter Speed 1/250 No flash,
Scene mode: Closeup, Backdrop: Bristol board, Light Source: Natural Light,
Distance From Subject: 4-5 feet



Portrait photography is about closeups. Whether it is people or animals; closeup shots, if composed properly are nice to look at. Backdrops are often used. A somewhat blurred background is also used in some photography portrait shots. Choose backdrops that compliment your subject, and or enhance the colors your shooting.

Many portrait shots are taken indoors; but outdoor portrait shots are also fun to shoot. Outdoor shots are easier for lighting because you have natural light. And, less likely you have to worry about harsh shadows on your subject because the light source is all around you.

Portrait Shots - The Basics

To properly shoot portraits indoors like professional photographers do, at the least you should have a light, a backdrop and a reflector. For your Subject Light, (the light that shines in the direction of the subject your shooting), you typically would use a SoftBox. Softboxes are available in a variety of widths and diameters, you can choose whichever you prefer. A larger diameter light will throw more light, where as a smaller one will be a more focused light. Do a search on Amazon.ca or Amazon.com, for 'photography Softbox' or 'photography studio lighting', and you can browse the various softboxes available.

This photo shows an octagon 30" softbox light. There is one light bulb in the softbox, and a removable diffuser goes over the light which makes the light softer because it is shining through the white cover diffuser.

Softbox Light, Photography Point and Shoot Camera Tips

The amount of light (wattage of light bulb) is a preference, depending on what your shooting and how much light you require. This one I bought has a 85watt daylight photography bulb which gives enough light to take portrait photos, pet photos, or food shots. You can buy bulbs at 45watt to 135watt or more. The different light bulbs are available to buy separate or included in a softbox, which is how I purchased this one. I paid about $80 Canadian for the octagon softbox, which included the stand and photography lightbulb.

To have a more focused lighting in some of my shots; I placed a felt cover over the softbox. I cut the felt cover in two places, that way i can section my lighting as I want. I can have centred lighting as shown in the photo; or just left side, or just right side lighting, and I can use 2/3 of the octagon's lighting by having just one side, left or right, covered with the felt.

To make my felt cover for the softbox, I bought the felt for $6 at the local fabric store. The material was cut larger than the 30" diameter of the softbox. I placed the material on the floor, then put the softbox facedown on it and cut around it; leaving a little overhang on the top side so the clothespins could get a good grip. I used clothespins to keep it in place on the top and sides as you can see in the photo. I bought the clothespins at the Dollarstore for a $1.

This 30" octagon softbox throws the light quite effectively over a large area of the room. Because my photography area is a rather small space, I cannot place my Softbox too far on either side of my subject. By sectioning the light source in this manner, I can place the softbox closer to my subject and have a more focused light when required.
Softbox Light Covered For Focused Lighting, Camera Tips

LEd Lights - LED Rings

You can also use LED lights in photography. They are popular for video, and gaining more popularity for photography as well. Although you may not use them exclusively, they can be ideal for certain aspects of your photo shoot, like backlighting, and highlighting. Some of their best features are that they don't get hot, many come with a built-in diffuser; and many come with a dimmable switch. All these features make them ideal for photography.

And, if you have a tripod, they can easily attach with an adapter, which many manufacturers also include with the LED light. They also come in several different price points; from just a few LEDs to 100 or more. Typical prices range from $30-40 for 30-40 LEDs; to $70-90, for 70-80 LEDs.


Backdrops are ideal for making your portrait shots look professional. You can buy them as such, or go to your local fabric store and buy some cloth material to make your own. You can also use bristol boards, table cloths; basically any material that is any color and any pattern can be a backdrop.

Professional backdrops are usually about 8 feet wide to 10 feet or more tall. They are sold in a variety of sizes. They also have pre made scene backdrops you can buy.

I decided to make my own backdrop. I bought this gray polyester material, at the local fabric store for about $20, and it is wide enough for portrait shots( headshot -standing or sitting), pet photos, and food shots. I cut it at about 6 feet wide and it is about 7 feet tall. I positioned the backdrop pole at 6.2 feet on the wall, enough room that if taking a head shot of someone(less than 6 feet tall) there would be space above their head in the shot(assuming their standing for the headshot portrait). For a full person photo shot, i would require a backdrop that goes to the floor and then rolls out some.

Backdrops, Photography Backdrops, Camera Tips


I chose a material that is less likely to wrinkle(polyester). To keep if flat and even, i use couple pieces of duck tape under the cloth on either side about halfway down the cloth. As you can see by looking at the photo, the backdrop is sitting on a thin pole with two clothespins to hold it in place. I wrapped it over the pole for about 4 inches.

Backdrop Photography, Point and Shoot Camera Tips

And, i used two shelf holders to sit the pole on, with a little ducktape wrapped around it to prevent the pole from rolling. The cloth, clothespins, pole, and shelf holders cost about $30. (I got the large clothespins at the dollarstore for a buck). I bought the pole(7feet), at the local Rona hardware store for about $4 and the shelf holders cost about $3.

The other consideration for backdrops is the space you have available. The professional backdrop holder is a rather large stand, which requires at least 3 to 4 feet of floor space for its width and 8 feet at least for its length.
If your limited on space, hanging your backdrop on a wall is a good idea.

The professional stand with a backdrop cost a tad more than doing it yourself. The cheapest one I could find on Amazon was about $60 for the backdrop stand, and about $30 for the backdrop itself.

Your Light Source

Once you have your light, and backdrop, you can position your subject for the shoot.

Virginia Model , Point and Shoot Camera Tips
Indoor Shot: Aperture f5.5, Shutter Speed 1/60
Scene mode: Portrait, Backdrop: Gray Polyester Material
Light Source: Octagon Softbox 85w Daylight Photography Bulb
Distance From Subject: 4-5 feet


Then, take a test shot of your subject to see how the portrait looks. If your camera has one, and many point and shoot models have them, you can use your Exposure Graph, to see that the shot is probably composed. Read about using your camera's Exposure Graph here

You can also use a Light Meter to test the lighting for your shot. This is done before you take your photo. A Light Meter measures Ambient light. Your camera has a built in light meter also, but it measures Reflective light which is a tad different than ambient light. The hand held light meter measures ambient light and this is considered to be the most accurate way of making sure your subject is properly lit.

To use a hand held light meter, just stand next to your photo subject, then point the dome on the light meter towards your camera sitting on your tripod. The Light Meter will give you the correct readings to use for Aperture and Shutter speed so you can dial them into your camera.

How Ambient Light is Different from Reflective Light

How it differs from reflective light is in the dark and light color contrasts. Colors that are very dark, or very light, like black and white, are more difficult for the cameras reflective meter to read, especially if your scene has a great degree of contrast. Because of this, the reflective light meter may not take the reading accurately, which can throw off the light's measure, which can make your photo over or under exposed. The Light Meter for ambient light reads light differently and supposedly is a more accurate form of light measurement in photography. Most pro photographers use a Light Meter for Ambient Light.

Buying A Light Meter - Getting One For Free

Light Meters are available at a local camera store, and Amazon sells them. The cheapest ones are about $40, and the more expensive ones with more features can cost $100 or more.

Whether you buy one from your local camera store, online at websites like Amazon or use a free one from Google Play store; they all basically work the same way. You just stand where you Photo Subject is going to stand (or sit ) for the shot; then point the light meter towards your tripod and your camera; then Click the Measure Light button on the Light Meter. After a couple of seconds it gives you readings like aperture, shutter speed and ISO. Use these on your camera and you will have the proper amount of light for your shot.

If you have an android cell phone, with a sensor, (most newer models do) then you can download and use a Light Meter from Google Play Store, many are available for free.
And, if your cell phone has a front facing camera, (not pointing at you if your holding the phone, but away from the phone), you can also use the Reflective light meter. Some apps have Ambient Light, some have Reflective, and some have both; make sure to read the app writeup; you want to download an Ambient Lighting app. Each app is a tad different in design and features, but many do the same thing using the same method for measuring the light.

I downloaded the Free one from Google Play David Quiles Light Meter App(usually in first row of apps that display - type ;'light meter photography' for your search words). It is quite easy to use. You can choose Ambient Light, also known as incident lighting, or the Reflective lighting mode. Just choose incident light, top right hand corner of app interface, choose I(incident) and it goes to Ambient(incident)Light mode. Next, choose the ISO 100.

Then place the cell phone next to your subject's head (eye level) (or where you know the subject will be sitting or standing, make sure you have your softbox light on, then, point the cell phone towards your tripod where your camera is, then hit the Measure button on the app display. The numbers will rotate and stop when it has measured the light, usually second or two. The numbers that show for aperture, ISO, are the settings to use on your camera that will give your photo proper exposure.

With this app, and while in the I - incident mode, you can move the cell phone around and the dial will automatically adjust, you don't have to hit measure each time you re position the phone. Now, if your using the Reflective mode, you do need to hit measure button each time you re position the cell phone (light source changes) For this app,(David Quiles app), there is some advertisements. For a couple bucks, you can download the advertisement free version.

Reflectors

Reflectors are used in photography to reflect light. A good example of its use is when taking a portrait shot of someone. You have your softbox placed on either side of the subject but you do not have a second light source. Because of this your subject may have some shadows or not well lit areas on the side that doesn't have the softbox light. You can use the reflector to reflect light onto the subject thus eliminating any harsh shadows or areas not properly lit for the portrait. Having said that, there are portraits you may take where you want some shadows or contrast in light on your subject because that is your intent.

Depending on how much light you need, you can use taller reflectors that sit on stands,(usually for full body shots), or hand held reflectors that many times are simply held by your subject to cast light onto areas around the neck, chin, where you want the light to appear more even. For this purpose, the reflector is usually held at about chest level and about 9 or so inches away from the body. It won't be in the photo, because the photographer shoots above the reflector for your portrait shot.

Reflectors are available in different colors, and each gives a tad different light result. Typically, silver is common for many shots, and gold and white are also used. You can buy them at your local camera store and online Amazon sells them for various prices depending on selection. Prices start at $4 - 6 for small reflectors.

Fill Light

Although Reflectors do a good job of eliminating unwanted shadow areas in your shot, there are times when you may want to use a Fill Light instead. A fill light is a secondary light source that is placed on the opposite side of your Subject Light Source. This way, you have a light on either side of your subject. Typically, a fill light uses a lesser bulb than that of your Subject light, and it is usually placed lower than your Subject light source. The angle of each is usually the same.

In photography they use the term light ratio to compare the Subject Light and and Fill Light. Usually a 2 to 1 ratio is common, meaning your Subject Light is the more lit light, while the fill light is the less of a light. The ratio can be anything you choose, from 2 to 1 to 3 to 1, to 4 to 1, it depends on what your trying to create for your shot - the contrast in light. A fill light, although not necessary, can be used for your own creativity in shots.

How To Compose Your Shots

Leave some distance between the backdrop and the subject: usually at least 2-5 feet, for outdoor shots leave more 4-6 feet, and leave distance between you and the subject at least (3 -5 feet) (or more, depends on your zoom capability), then zoom in on the subject. Typically, your aperture should be in the f4-f.5.5 range.

You would think for people portraits the closer you are to your subject the better the shot; but not so, pro photographers almost always zoom in from a distance for their portrait shots; Why? By zooming in somewhat, you create a more flattering photo composition; especially for people head shots.

If you zoom in close on your subject from a distance ; and your using a shutter speed that is like 1/250, 1/300, 1/500, you should get some background blur.

There are instances when pro photographers shoot closer than they do for people portraits; for example if shooting food portraits. And, although they shoot closer than they would for people portraits, they still allow for some distance and zoom in a tad.

Having said that, you can shoot within centimeters of your subject; and get a good photo; however, for people portraits adding some zoom distance is recommended.

Here is a photo closeup of a tree branch taken without using zoom; with an aperture of f3.4, and shutter speed of 1/250, on a somewhat cloudy day.
It is a nicely focused closeup shot(at center); and the background is blurred. I shot it with the camera being within a few inches of the branch.
Closeup of a tree branch, no zoom, aperture f.3.4, shutter speed 1/250


Shooting Mode

Most point and shoot cameras have a portrait mode; this mode is ideal for shooting portraits, although not necessarily the only SCENE mode you can use for this type of shot. Portrait mode typically gives a softer look to your subject and background. So, it would depend on what your shooting. For example shooting a person, you may want to use the portrait mode for the softer skin look; but for your pet portrait, you could use Sports mode, CloseUp mode, or Pet mode.

Take shots close and take shots further away from the subject and zoom in somewhat.
Do test shots in each mode to see which one gives you the better result for shutter speed, composition, and to get some blur in the background.

Ideally, for closeup shot within centimeter shots; small aperture with slower shutter speed is good, like f3.4 with shutter speeds of 1/30 1/60 1/80 of a second. Because you are so close to the subject, you can get some background blur.

For closeup shot by zooming in some; moderate fast shutter speed is good, with aperture range of f4.0 - f5.5, and shutter speeds of 1/200, 1/250, 1/300 of a second. Because you are zooming in to get close; and using a faster shutter speed; you can get a good sharp portrait with some background blur.

Pro photography equipment for indoor portrait shooting can easily cost hundreds to thousands of dollars and probably not something most amateur photograhers want to spend money on.

Outdoor Portraits

Outdoor portraits are easier to establish; since you don't have to make a lighting scenario; and you don't have to buy backdrops(unless you wanted to). Because you have natural daylight as your light source, you need only tweak your shot for its composition. And, you can use whatever you like as your backdrop; trees, hilly grass, lakes, buildings, architecture. If your composing to create a portrait with a blur background; a background of trees, for example; will likely look like a green background once they become blurred in your shot. Do test shots to get different types of blur; because you may like less blur or perhaps more blur depending on the photo subject and the mood you want to create for your shot.




POINT and SHOOT CAMERAS

Tips For Taking Portrait and Closeup Shots - People and Animals

Use Portrait mode; zoom in some on your subject;(typical aperture f4.5 - f5.4)this will create a more flattering photo.

Portrait shots: try to shoot the person's closet eye on a intersection as per the rule of thirds grid. This makes for better photo.

Portrait shots: indoor shot: if test shot shows a harsh shadow around subjects head, neck, chin; recompose your shot; this time bounce light off ceiling or wall; or use reflector; this creates a softer light, no shadows.

Outdoor portraits(people or animals), rather than shooting at a wide angle, zoom in to your subject; this will blur your background somewhat; creating more appealing photo. Keep some distance from background to subject; and some distance from subject to photographer. Usually 2 - 5 feet.

Outdoor closeup(person), if shade on face(and you can't recompose your shot because the background is how you want it), try using Flash with your photo shot; and increase EV Exposure compensation by 1+ stop. This will create an effective light on the face and eyes.