Tutorial: Portrait Photography

Black and White Portraits

Many great portraits of the past were shot in black-and-white before the advent of colour photography.

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Self-portrait, You Connect member Zacarias Abad Torres, Canon EOS 550D

You can recreate the effect using the black-and-white setting, often found in the My Colours mode. However, this commits you to a monochrome image. Some photographers prefer to shoot in colour and then convert selected images on their computer.

Stripping out the colour can emphasise facial expressions. It often works best where there are strong areas of light and shade in the image, often the result of using lighting from the side of the subject.

Camera Settings
Canon cameras offer various settings to help you improve your portrait photography.

On most models the Portrait Mode activates the autoflash mode.  Here, the camera will automatically fire the flash when the light drops below a certain level, or if the camera detects a backlit subject.

On some models the Portrait Mode also switches the camera to continuous drive mode. Here, the shutter will keep firing for as long as you keep the shutter button depressed. It is worth taking at least two pictures in quick succession. Your subject will hear the shutter fire the first time and will relax. A second image shot within a second or so will show a less tense expression.

These point-and-shoot modes can be useful if you are just starting to shoot portraits, but for creative control you should try Aperture-Priority (AE) mode, if available. Here, you can select the aperture you want for the exposure. You can also decide whether or not the built-in flash should fire, rather than leaving this to the camera.

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