Tips To Take A Good Portrait Reference Photo

Before starting to begin with your drawing, you first need to have the right photo. Here are my tips on getting the right shot.

 1. Pick the right background

 In portrait photography, the background is just as important as the subject on your photo. Usually, for portrait photography, you’ll want a neutral background that won’t distract the viewer from your portrait subject. However, you don’t have to choose a completely plain background, and you can also include an object in the environment to provide added interest or context.

2. Prepare your subject

Make sure that your subject is ready, comfortable, relaxed and at their best, do make the experience simple, fun and stress-free. One of the best preparations you can make is to be prepared yourself. Have your camera and any additional equipment set up, and take a few test shots before expecting your subject’s full attention.

3. Pose your subject like a pro

Now that your subject is ready, comfortable and relaxed, you need to keep them that way throughout the shoot. Work quickly but confidently and calmly, giving them clear instructions and constant guidance. You can get the subject to lean slightly towards the camera for a more engaging pose, or shoot slightly from above to get the same effect. Have their body and shoulders turned somewhat away from the camera for a natural feel, or have their shoulders square-on to the camera. For something a little different, shoot from an unusual perspective such as very low or very high.

4. Ensure that lighting is good

The most attractive light source for portrait photography is natural daylight, especially if you don’t have dedicated studio lighting. Although, direct sunlight isn’t usually desirable because it creates strong, hard shadows on the subject’s face. You can use natural daylight indoors too. For best results put your subject near a window, and have your subject facing slightly towards the light.

 5. Expose for the subject’s face

Exposure refers to how bright or dark your image is. Make sure that the face is correctly exposed, not too dark (under-exposed) and not too bright (overexposed). For portrait photography, it’s better to have a background that’s too dark or too bright than to have a face which is under or over lit.

6. Focus on the eyes

Portrait photos look best if the eyes are in sharp focus. This improves the sense of eye contact between the subject and viewer, creating a powerful and engaging photo. So, when shooting portraits make sure you set your focus point carefully. There is a good simple trick to really make your subject’s eyes “pop”. Simply ensure your light source is reflecting in your subject’s eyes.

Once you have your photo, you can start to prepare for the drawing process. Have you picked the right photo?

Choice of the photo is critical, the better input, the better the portrait. When pencil drawing a portrait, the most important starting point is to consider what you will base the portrait on. The best pencil portraits are the ones that capture a moment in time and faithfully reflect the character. Eyes are critically important for portrait, and unless being intentionally closed or looking away, they should be open and catching the light.

The resolution of the image is also vitally important. This is the amount of the detail it contains, and the more it shows, the better quality your portrait will be. That said, you should check the image file size (the bigger the better), is it in focus, is it lit well and is there a good contrast and good range of shades between the light and dark areas.

Now, you are ready to draw.

Drawing from life is difficult, often requiring extreme patience and practice, but with the right techniques, tools, and observational skills, you can learn to draw a masterpiece.

After you have chosen the photo, your next step is to select the tools you are going to work with. I have listed a selection of tools that I use in a separate blog, and will write about the drawing technique soon :)