I often get asked, “How do I take the perfect photograph?” and while the answer seems justified with a few shared tips and tricks of the trade, the truth is perhaps simpler to me: photography is an artistic expression infused deeply in passion. Or at least that’s what it means to me. The ‘perfect’ photograph, then, is an artistic expression—that comes naturally once you trust your creative instincts.
I became a photographer because I enjoyed telling a story. There is nothing more intriguing to me than painting a picture with words, without a single utterance. What I do is embedded within me—photography is what drives me on the daily. I draw inspiration from the most unusual places and that shines through in my work.
My portraits are usually done on-location which opens a world of options for me; I find that I draw inspiration from all the existing elements, vibe, mood, and architecture to really capture the mood of the shoot. This also allows for my photos to have an extra layer of authenticity, and the opportunity for me to exercise my full creative freedom.
While I do shoot in studios, the experience is quite different where one starts out with a blank canvas with pre-set props. And while this allows for a controlled location for both the model and photographer, from lighting and colors to wardrobe and temperature, it can at times be very generic. My advice for starting out photographers is to constantly test shoot, whether in a studio or outdoors until you learn your preferences. I think that’s always been key—go out and shoot and keep at it and trust the process.
Sam’s top tips for shooting portraits
Get focus perfect
If you have a modern camera, always keep your eye auto-focus on. I use the Sony A1 (opens in new tab) and I rely heavily on the auto-focus system to capture that perfect shallow depth of field.
Composition is king
Don’t rush the portrait. Focus on what you are trying to capture and really understand the story you want to tell with your model by making the model the focus of your art. Leave plenty of room behind and in-front of the model to capture that shallow depth.
Think about the location you’re shooting in. Shoot wide-open and with the largest aperture you have to really keep your image shallow and to pull the focus on the model.
Make sure your model is well-lit whether you are using continuous or natural lighting. Avoid harsh lines on the face and try to achieve a nice catch-light in the eye.
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