Tips & photographs by Francisco Guerrero
1. Don’t be shy—get to know your subjects.
As photographers, we find ourselves holding back from asking strangers if we can shoot them. But by approaching a potential subject with a smile and a warm “hello” you will often find that people are very accommodating about having their picture taken. Always ask permission first, and if they say no (which is rare) just say thank you and let them get on with their day. Remember that most of the work will be talking to your subjects and finding out what their story is. Taking the actual picture is the easy part.
2. Work with the light.
The most challenging aspect of creating a portrait is finding nice light. While out traveling you will often find yourself in harsh lighting conditions that won’t flatter anyone. So here are some tricks to make the light work for you.
Open shade: This is a lighting condition that you can create by simply placing your subject under some shade. Either beneath a tree (our personal favorite) or under a roof. Avoid any direct sunlight hitting your subject. This makes for some soft, even lighting that is flattering on almost all subjects.
Backlight: Face the sun and position your subject in front of you. Keep the sun directly behind your subject or slightly to one side. Make sure to expose for your subject’s face and let the background go bright. Even in the harshest lighting conditions your subject’s face should have soft light with very little shadows.
Window light: If you find yourself indoors, position your subject beside a window so you have soft light coming in from one side. This results in dramatic lighting that can add strength to your portrait. Remember to expose for the brightest side of your subject’s face.
3. Don’t hide behind your camera.
The worst thing you can do is go from looking through the viewfinder to your screen without engaging your subject. Remember that you have a person in front of you; taking quick breaks to chat will help put them at ease. If you must look at your screen, share the shot with your subject; it usually makes for a good laugh and helps make them part of the process.
4. Sometimes, you need to back away.
Always consider the location you are in. Sometimes going for a wider shot that includes background elements adds information and can give your portrait more depth.