Portrait Tip – Shoot from above

I am going to start posting some quick portrait tips for all of you out there that are just getting started with portrait photography. Today i’ll talk about the advantage of shooting from above. This can be a good way to create a unique perspective, it’s a different point of view from what we are used to and a good way to capture your readers attention. Another reason for shooting from above is it’s usually one of the most flattering points of view for people. Most people not matter how thin they are have a little bit of a double chin. When you photograph them from below that double chin that look much larger than it is in real life. It is a good practice to pay attention to what is closest to the camera. The body part that is closest to the camera will be what appears to be largest in the image so you really don’t want their chin as what people focus on. This same thing applies to other parts of the body like arms, elbows, etc… It’s always a good idea to take a quick step back and see what the closest thing to the camera is and then ask yourself do you really want to highlight that in the portrait? Shooting from above can create a slimming effect to the face which most of your clients will really appreciate.

A few other tips from shooting from above:

Have your subject tilt their chin slightly down, nick a little bit out and and look up at the camera just with their eyes. It might feel a little strange for them at first but if you keep the mood right and keep them relaxed this is a very flattering angle for most people.

Also shooting with a small f/stop helps to draw attention to where your focus point is. I love to shoot these types of portraits at f/2.8 or even lower. Shooting with a very fast lens like a 1.4 lens allows you to shoot with a narrow depth of field. This again will really show off the part of the image that is in focus. Doing this you and focusing on their eyes will really make the eyes stand out.

You do want to watch how high up you are shooting from. If you have an angle that is too high you are going to bring too much attention to the subjects forehead or top of their head. Normally with portraits I will stay away from extreme angles. Although those might look cool for one or two shots, a image at an extreme angle can also distract from the subject and be more about the angle than the person. Remember when shooting portraits you are trying to capture the essence of someone so certain types of effects or lenses like a fisheye can sometimes get in the way of the portrait.

This portrait is a very quick and easy type of portrait that I love to get during a portrait session or a wedding. Having your subject sitting down will usually give you enough height and using one of my trusty lenses, the simple but great 50mm 1.4, gives me a very shallow depth of field to be able to just focus on her eyes and let the rest go out of focus. These types of shots are also great because of the shallow depth of field you can shoot them anywhere, you don’t need a beautiful background since only the eyes will be in focus and everything else gets nice and soft.


Now time to get out and shoot and have some fun.

Tech Specs for the shot above
Camera:  Canon 5D
ISO: 200
Exposure Program: Manual
Shutter Speed:  1/200th sec
F-Stop: f/2.8
lens:  28-70mm

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Author: Mark

Mark is a fine art wedding and portrait photographer from Northern California. He has been passionate about photography since childhood and started his studio 12 years ago to bring a fresh style of photography to the wedding and portrait world.

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