Category Archives: Gear

Key Tips On Taking The Best Basic Portrait Shots While Holidaying

You’ve browsed through your Facebook profile and stumbled upon your album from your last trip to Hawaii. There were a lot of pictures, but while you were navigating through all of these, you’ve noticed three things. One, most of them are selfies which means that you never got the chance to highlight the majestic tourist spots; two, your pictures are a blur; and three, you don’t have any pictures of the locals living there. You don’t even know why you’ve uploaded all of these in the first place - they aren’t good enough! And now that you have an upcoming holiday trip next month, you want to make sure that your portrait shots will turn out better. You promise yourself that your pictures this time will be worth bragging about.

You don’t have to worry because even if you have the most basic camera (or even a smartphone) and some basic photography skills, you can still take the best portrait shots. Here’s how:

Plan ahead: Since you know where you’re going, it follows that you should know what to prepare for. Research the most famous tourist spots (and not so famous) in your destination. If you’re planning to visit any establishments like museums or churches, call them ahead of time and inquire if tourists are allowed to bring their cameras inside and if they’re open during your preferred time and date. Create a schedule of when are you planning to visit these locations and stick to it. You want to capture the best portraits while travelling without stressing-out, and this is the way to do it.

Employ a local guide: If you want new ways to travel, employing a local guide can help you. These people basically know every area in your destination like the back of their hands so you won’t have any problems on your trip with them by your side. They can also introduce you to new locations which are not too “touristy” and shots taken here can be an excellent addition to your gallery! You’ll be the envy of your friends once you show them pictures like these!

Always ask permission: You want to take portraits of the locals in your new travel destination, right? Before you do, make sure that you ask permission. You don’t want the locals to be distracted by your camera’s flash. You also wouldn’t want to ruin cultures or observances that they have. Before taking their pictures, tell them your intentions and try to build a connection with them. Make them feel at ease with you as this will be obvious in your photos. You’ll not only have fantastic portrait shots, but you’ll also gain friends.

Book a hotel room with a view: Aside from taking pictures of the locals, you would also want to bask in the new scenery you’re facing. Sure, it might have the same tall buildings like in your hometown, but the entire view will be different, and you want to capture a portrait of that. Booking a hotel room with a view will also allow you to take the city’s breathtaking sunsets and sunrises. You’ll be able to capture scenery in a different angle. Every cent is worth it once you end up in a hotel room like this.

Highlight the background: There are always tourist spots wherever you go. It may be an old church, a huge statue, or a beautiful lake. But whatever it might be, take the time to visit some of these (much better if you can visit all!) and use these locations as your background. Make sure that your photographer stays away a few feet from you to ensure that the background becomes the highlight and you as the subject, is just an accessory. When there are buildings that are too high, tell your photographer to try out new angles to capture them. You’ll never know when you’ll be coming back here so go out there and enjoy every side trip.

Don’t bring too much gear: You don’t need to bring all the equipment like you’re going to a photoshoot whenever you take portrait photos while travelling. Aside from being too heavy to carry, it’ll take you too much time to set-up everything. As much as possible, you want to be ready to capture candid moments and bringing all of this equipment just won’t do the trick. Instead, use something that’s lightweight and produces good quality photos. Look for devices which can be water-proof too, to ensure that you can still take those portrait shots anywhere, even at the beach.

There are a lot of ways on how you can shoot that best portrait photos while travelling. Even the best Chicago portrait photographer knows that it’ll take some time for you to get the hang of this, but it will be worth it later on. For sure, you’ll have photos that can earn hundreds of likes on your Facebook account and they’ll be raved about by your friends for days. Your photos will be so good that they’ll make them wish they were with you during your trip!

Michael Schacht is a portrait photographer and photography educator based in Chicago Illinois. As owner/operator of 312 Elements Headshot Photography located in Chicago's West Loop neighborhood, Michael overseas the day to day operations and has had the opportunity to photograph thousands of corporate professionals over the last decade. Through his direction, attention to detail, and people skills, he's helped these clients to craft a narrative around their personal brand. It's his belief that the headshot is the modern dad business card and that a better headshot is essential for a better career.   Michael, his wife Meghan and his two daughters reside in Tinley Park Illinois where he is a community leader and active participant in the local business sector. Michael studied business at Ball State university and photography with world renown headshot photographer, Peter Hurley. It was Hurley that trained Michael in the art of human expression. Michael is now a Headshot Crew certified Mentor and active member of the Headshot Crew community where he was named one of the top 20 headshot photographers in the world.

Lens choices

As mentioned in the lessons - making a choice of lens can create very different looks in your photos. One of the biggest drawbacks with smartphone photography is the choice of only one lens type (wide angle.)

The basic approach to choosing the right lens length is that: if you want to isolate and feature a person, object or texture, you want a longer lens; if you want to keep proportions of a person's face when doing a fairly close portrait, you want a medium to long lens; and if you want to include the environment around your subject or distort your subject you want a wide lens.

But for a more in-depth look at lenses, Cathryn and her daughter - who are readers of this Best Photo Lessons -  sent me this link to a buying guide by Best Buy - we're not affiliated in any way with the retailer, but thought this was good enough to suggest you review what they suggest.

bestbuy.com/site/buying-guides/lens-buying-guide

Buying a new camera

A lot of people wonder - "What camera should I buy?"

The answer is complicated, which is why they ask the advice - however there's a lot of factors that go into the best recommendation. What do you want to photograph? Are you thinking of turning professional or want to be a hobbyist (I'd rather see people do it as a hobby rather than try to go professional and burn out on photography - which happens a lot, being in business is not easy.)

If you're a first time dSLR (digital Single Lens Reflex) buyer - my recommendation is:

First - set your budget, it can be anywhere from $500 to $5000 (U.S. or Canadian dollars, your local currency may differ), so what you're comfortable spending is how much you should spend. And yes, you'll likely spend far more down the road, but what you're comfortable with now is what's important.

Second - go to a camera store and try out several in your price range. You want to see which ones are easiest to do some specific things: setting exposure manually, formatting the memory card, able to hold the camera comfortably.

Yes, buying online is cheaper in theory - but if its the wrong camera you wont use it, and a camera you never use is a lot more expensive than a camera you use all the time.

You'll want to do manual exposure to learn to control the camera - not let it make decisions for you. The easier to set those controls the better you will learn.

Menus on various cameras are easier for some people to use and harder for others - so make sure it is easy for you to understand and formatting cards is something you'll do a lot of.

Notice I'm not talking about all the features cameras come with these days - ignore them. If you want to learn to do photography at the highest level, you need to really understand what makes the right exposure for your vision of the finished image - and the only way to learn that effectively is to do it manually.

Honestly, if all you want is a glorified snapshot, get a really good quality point-and-shoot, you'll be much happier in the end.

Notice also that I don't recommend any one brand - each brand works better or worse for different people, so choose the right one for you. I've used Nikon, Canon, Fuji, Sony, Leica, Hasselblad, Pentax, etc. They are all good brands, and I'd happily shoot with any of them again - as long as I can easily make my own choices for exposure.

You might also want to look at a "mirrorless" camera - which look a lot like the old rangefinder cameras. They're kind of like an advanced point-and-shoot, except they use the same sensor as dSLRs and have controls for easily doing manual exposure. I bought one and have gotten many great shots. No its not quite as good as my professional camera, but at 1/3 the price its probably 85 per cent the quality, which is a very good buy to me and is a lot easier to take with me.