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10 steps to better portraits: a review of “Forget Mugshots”

Don't miss the awesome photographic resources found at Craft and Vision.

Over the last couple of years David Duchemin and the crew at Craft and Vision have put out some amazing resources for aspiring and professional photographers. The latest eBook by David Duchemin titled “Forget Mugshots: 10 steps to better portraits” is an example of this and will surely benefit even the most seasoned professionals!

There are number of great things I could say about this eBook, but if I had to choose just one thing I would say what makes this resource so great is that it not only talks about making great portraits, it challenges you to go out and do it. Like Malcolm Gladwell says in his book “Outliers: The story of Success”, those who become great in something do so primarily because they put in at least 10,000 hours of practice!

Like the other Craft & Vision ebooks, the regular price on this book is only $5, however, I have some discount codes available for my readers; these discount codes are valid through Saturday March 17th. Buy Forget Mugshots using this link and the discount code MUGSHOTS4 to get the book for only $4. If you want to buy a few of the other Craft & Vision ebooks, buy them using this link and use the code MUGSHOTS20 to save 20% off your entire order of five or more PDF ebooks.

In closing is an overview of the David’s 10 steps, with images I created employing these helpful hints.

RELATE: A key to make great portraits is to slow down and take the time to relate to your subjects. When you do you will find that people let their guard down and your portraits will become more authentic.

WAIT FOR THE MOMENT: This Indian boy was running around in this field with his friends. I was hoping he would stop and even get down so he would be surrounded by the grass...and eventually he did! the flower was just a fun addition.

USE THE RIGHT LENS: I came upon this guy in the middle-of-nowhere Rajastan! When I took this image I wanted to capture his whole bike as well as the road that he had used to get to the middle of nowhere. To do this I needed my Canon L series 16-35mm 2.8.

USE MORE THAN ONE FRAME: The more I kept shooting, the more this woman's smile grew! Some times one frame is all you need and other times it is not enough!

UNDERSTAND THE SMILE: Not all smiles are equal. When you are shooting try to get people to move past the fake smiles we all put on and really open up in some good-old belly laughing!

WATCH THE EYES: Where your subject is looking can dramatically change the feel of image. Try having them look in different directions and see how it changes the portrait.

PLAY WITH THE LIGHT: For this portrait of a Rajasthani shepherd I played around the light and decided I liked the image best with back-lighting.

CONTROL YOUR BACKGROUND: Unless there is a reason for something to be in the background, keep all unnecessary items out. For this portrait I wanted to include the chalkboard because I was doing portraits of schoolchildren in rural Rajastan.

GET LEVEL: Whenever I am doing images of kids, I love to get down on their level. For this image, I got down on my knees because I loved the angle she was looking and the catch-light in her eyes. Point of view can make a big difference in the feel of our images.

POSE CAREFULLY: I worked with this woman to get her positioned just how I wanted her to capture her anticipation of school children coming by soon on India's Independence day.

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Getting high, down and dirty and everything in between!

They say those who can't do teach, but I had fun doing and teaching on this trip.

There were many enjoyable things about this last assignment to India. However, one the most enjoyable elements of the trip for me was getting the opportunity to train some of the staff of the organization I was working for to be better visual communicators and storytellers.

While everyone owned Digital SLR’s and had experimented a little with photography, none of them had ever given much thought to crafting images. Instead, like most people, they just walked around pointing their camera at things that caught their attention and taking pictures.

So over the two weeks we talked about a few core things over and over again that would help them create stronger images and visual stories. One of the things I encouraged them to do at almostĀ  every one our nightly image reviews was to experiment with different points of view. As I did this I would highlight a series of images of one subject that I shot from a variety of points of view. Like most concepts that we talked about, intellectually they got it right away, but it took a few days of reminders from me for them to actually start varying the way they shot images.

For this image I had to literally get down and dirty. The Indian villagers watching us thought it was hilarious that an American would actually lay down in the dirt!

Even for me when I am in the heat of the moment I have to remind myself to not settle for shooting a scene from just one point of view. As much as I can I will experiment with getting up above my subject, getting down low (even lying in the dirt if necessary sometimes!) and everything in between. Then at the end of the day I can look through the images I created from the variety of points of view and choose which one I feel best expresses how I was feeling and experiencing the moment and what I was trying to communicate about my subject.

I created a number of images from different points of view of this particular scene. I liked this one shot from above because I was able to get their waving hands of the kids in front and still all of the kids in the frame.

So don’t be afraid to get high, down and dirty and anything and everything in between. I am confident if you take the time and initiative to mix up the point of views from which you are shooting images, you are going to have a lot more fun and create much stronger images.

Whenever I am creating portraits of children, I like to experiment with getting down on their level.