Taking fantastic photographs doesn’t have to be an expensive pastime. Although certain photography niches require highly specialised equipment, general photography can be done on a modest budget. All you need is a little know-how and creativity. Generally, aside from your camera, the most expensive peripherals will be lenses. These are usually worth their weight, but again, they don’t have to break the bank. A 50mm f/1.8 prime lens can be picked up reasonably cheaply. Below, we’ve highlighted some techniques you can incorporate to take professional-looking portraits without spending a fortune.
Use Framing to Your Advantage
There are all sorts of methods you can use to frame your shot. Whether it’s a natural frame, such as a clearing in the trees, or between two landscape features, or a manmade one such as a doorway or window, they can be used to your advantages. If you’re using a 50mm fixed lens, you’ll need to work your angle manually, physically moving to get the best shot possible. You can also use elements such as a reflector to balance the light if it’s not favourable.
The benefit of using a 50mm lens, particularly if it’s an f/1.8, is twofold. Not only is it affordable for most, but it also gives a shallow depth of field to create an excellent bokeh effect. This soft background blur is perfect for making your subject stand out.
Another top tip for shooting portrait photographs is to try and colour match elements of your subject and their surroundings. If your model is wearing a particular colour or has a distinctive hair or eye colour, you can accentuate those hues by adding in similar colours to the background. You can even use props of the same tone to give your photos a unique or interesting twist. These splashes of brightness can be as discreet or obvious as you choose but play around with different angles and exposures until you find something that works.
On a similar theme of colour, you could try shooting your portraits on a plain background. The exact type of background you use depends on what’s available. However, even a wall at home painted in a solid colour can suffice. Again, your aim is to use that background to bring out features in your model. This accentuation can be done by matching similar colours or contrasting ones. It can be a particularly effective method for getting a headshot of your model, as it can produce a vivid background that makes them stand out.
All of these techniques can be used with an affordable DSLR and 50mm lens. You’ll be surprised what you can utilise at home to assist you with these shots. Props can take many forms, and so long as their colour brings out some personality in the model, they can be used. If you’re a newcomer to prime lenses, you’ll want to be as mobile as you can to see how different angles and distances impact your shot. Try with a variety of apertures until you find something that suits the lighting.