Taking good portraits requires planning and fore-thought from the photographer as well as the model or the subject. There are many points that you as a photographer should keep in mind, before you can embark on the journey as professional or hobbyist portrait photographer.
Location: Where the photography is going to take place? Is it indoors or outdoors? If it is indoors, is it a residential setup or a corporate office? How much light is available and what types of lights are these, tungsten, fluorescent or combination of both?
Also, keep in mind that when you are required to travel outside city, carrying additional equipment will be cumbersome and you may have to incur additional costs in transporting it.
Outdoor location photo-shoots are more challenging as the local weather conditions may throw some new surprise elements. What time of the day you will shoot depends on the subject or model’s comfort level, attire and your own expertise in handling the situations. Most of the professional photographs, shoot on locations that are popular like beaches and in front of famous monuments like Taj Mahal, Leaning Tower of Pisa etc. In order, to avoid excessive glare of the sun, many professionals shoot in the ‘golden hours’. The hour after sunrise and before sunset are considered good, as there are no hard shadows and the temperature also more soothing.
During noon time, with the sun blazing overhead, you can experiment with large diffusers available commercially or you can get them custom made as per your requirements and specifications.
Light: Photography is all about light. Whether you are shooting indoors or outdoors, the light will play a crucial role in the final results. There is a limitation to the amount of post production manipulation that you can undertake in editing software like Adobe Photo Shop. One of the best sources is the natural light: Sun. The best of the portrait photographs can be taken in natural light with couple of reflectors and maybe diffusers. How the reflectors and the diffusers are used, depends entirely on your creativity and the results expected from the photo-shoot.
Artificial lights can be tungsten or fluorescent. You will have to transport the lights and may require assistance from your friend or hired helping hands.
Another, manner in which portraits are shot is using a dedicated external flash unit, either mounted on the hot-shoe of the camera or off the camera using a trigger. The direction of the light will make lot of impact on the final result. In most of the cases, you can bounce the light from the white ceiling or in some cases, from a white sheet of plastic or board.
Subject: A lot depends on the subject who will be photographed. Are you clicking formal photographs or informal ones? Are you shooting a man, woman or a child? What mood are you trying to capture? There are many points and issues that have to addressed, before you can embark on portrait photography.
Capturing the mood is the key to good portrait photography. One of the key points is to communicate openly with the model or person who is going to be photographed. There are entire books written on this subject and investing in some of them will be a good move.
Portrait photography is rewarding monetarily as well as creatively. You can explore, the various styles of other renowned photographers and develop your own unique style to create visually arresting images, that are cherished by your subjects as well as you feel proud to add to your portfolio.