Photographer Nathaniel Johnston brought us along on a portrait photoshoot! We picked up some great basic pointers while watching him work!
Give your subject direction to try different moods and expressions. Someone might feel more comfortable with one emotion than another. Keep shooting as the person changes, because often times a genuine smile will come when the person laughs at themselves for making different faces.
To get the stereotypical headshot, keep your subject at an angle. Start by positioning their feet at a diagonal to you, and the rest of the body will follow. Let them turn their face to you while their chest stays at the angle.
Let the subject interact with the environment. The background can be more than just an aesthetically pleasing blur. Let your model sit, lean, climb, jump, and get inspiration from the surroundings.
Try shooting landscape style. Most portraits are taken vertically, but explore turning your camera on its side, as well as different angles and distances from your subject.
Get a good portrait lens. The 80-105mm range is perfect, but the 70-135mm range will work as well. Smaller than 75mm puts you at risk of distorting your subject’s features, whereas longer than 135 and you risk flattening the subject. For this shoot, Nathaniel used a 85mm F/1.2 Canon lens, which enabled a beautifully blended background and helped to make Deb, our model, really pop out with full features.