Simple Tricks For Portrait Composition | Composing Striking Location Portraits With Available Light | Paul Wilkinson | Skillshare

Simple Tricks For Portrait Composition | Composing Striking Location Portraits With Available Light

Paul Wilkinson, Portrait Photographer

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15 Lessons (18m)
    • 1. One camera, one lens, one photographer... and lots of opportunities for interesting compositions

    • 2. Frame your subject using a front door on the street

    • 3. Compose your portrait amongst the textures and angles of street walls

    • 4. Bring the eye to your subject using a curb as a leading line

    • 5. Why negative space in composition helps you make bigger sales from your portraits

    • 6. Quick lighting technique to make your subject stand out

    • 7. Using texture and shape to add visual interest

    • 8. Look out for backgrounds that convey a story or a feeling

    • 9. Combine framing devices and leading lines

    • 10. Start with the light, then look for the composition

    • 11. Include negative space around your subject

    • 12. Use background and foreground framing devices

    • 13. Create a sense of motion

    • 14. Place your subject in the light

    • 15. Try it for yourself and upload your portraits


About This Class

You don't need to go far to find great locations and beautiful light for your portraits. In short behind-the-scenes clips, join Master Photographer Paul Wilkinson on a walk around his home town as he captures stunning portraits of two teenagers using just one camera, one lens and his favourite light source of all, daylight.

You'll get inspired by how easy it is to find potential in everyday locations: a wall, a doorway, even a curb! Paul shows you the settings he uses, how his portraits look straight-out-of-camera, and how he finds and uses composition to create award-winning portraits that clients will be willing to pay you for.


1. One camera, one lens, one photographer... and lots of opportunities for interesting compositions: So what do you do when you have one camera, one lens, one photographer, one model, one opportunity? Well, of course, you take beautiful pictures. I'm Paul Wilkinson. From mastering portrait photography dot com on in this video, we're gonna be talking about how to make the best of the opportunity you have on in this particular instance. We're gonna be talking mostly about composition, how to create interesting angles, interesting ways of laying out an image on General. Having a really good time creates a really cool stuff. 2. Frame your subject using a front door on the street: So when opposing teenagers don't get too involved for a 1,000,000 reasons. Probably smell mostly because if you try and over pose teenagers, it feels really stuffy and stagnant. It doesn't work so well. It's much nicer if you can to use their natural body language and get them to sit or stand and then see how you get on. So in this shot, I've placed Jake on some simple stairs, and behind him is a bright yellow door. The door is gonna act as a nice framing device within the picture, and then I'm gonna photograph around him so you get a sense of space. But he will still be neatly framed inside that door. Look the other way at the street. That's good things. Never miss the opportunity of taking a close up. So think about shooting like this is because I wish shoot in manual exposure even though I went from taking a full frame of the whole area and then walked into photograph Jake, I haven't had to change my exposure because the meeting has already set onto what it is I need out of that image. 3. Compose your portrait amongst the textures and angles of street walls: We're just on our front doorstep here, so I haven't gone very far to create the pictures. I haven't gone looking for anything. I'm just looking at the light I have, which is a mix of sunlight and shadows and then the locations of just bits of war shapes. Kate steps, whatever's here, and I'm just gonna create as many interesting images as I can have it. So one of the joys of an angled war like this, where there's a 90 degree angle in it is almost always 1/2 of that angle will be a different lightness to the other half. And I'm gonna use that as my framing device. So if I draw your attention to obviously Alex, good looking chap, this half of the world is lighter than this offer will. And it makes for an interesting competition for a first shot. I've opted to step back and zoom in. That gives me a very flat perspective so that all of the verticals are pretty much vertical . I'm not going to get an awful lot of perspective out of it, but that works quite well for this kind of set up where I've trying to break it into two complete frames to complete segments of the image. And it worked quite nicely from here and now I can Dave. He's in exactly the same bit of wall same model, and it's such a simple thing to do because I'm shooting Emmanuel have not to change. My exposure will have done is change my angle to create a very different looking image. If I'm shooting poor traits on location, I would shoot like this. So I've got my nice big scenic. But then I walk in and I get a tight crop was well, and I gave myself a couple of very quick poor traits in portrait mode and I got a couple of wides. Simple as you like. Nice, easy, cool portrait. 4. Bring the eye to your subject using a curb as a leading line: so kerb stones brake lines. All of these could be used to lead the eyes into a subject. This is how you create leading lines. Well, you're actually doing is using the effects of a diminishing perspective from the fact your subject is further away and all of the lines appear to converge towards them. I've got a couple of options on this. I can pull away and come round, and then the bricks will sit more behind Alex or can come in really tight to the curb and she all the way along it and see if I can get the perspective toe drawer straight into him , and we'll do both. So my coming here, obviously, if you if you're working on a road, try not to get run over. Thing is, be careful to make sure there's nothing retreating into Alex's head. It's one shot come into hip, the look of it mate. Take a three shots out of one location 5. Why negative space in composition helps you make bigger sales from your portraits: I've placed Jake against the wall, and all I'm going to do is use this space of the wall on the shadow on the wall from the sunshine to maybe create something that's just a little bit different. That's lovely. Hope that takes you, don't move and then look that way. Chicks, That's it. I've taken very quickly, just a couple of shots. So I've used the shadow along the wall just cause it's a nice, interesting angle. And then I framed it nice and big so that it gives a sense of just space. I suppose the negative space is huge compared to the portrait, but this is the kind of porter. If you want your clients to buy big pictures quite often, you'll find more success with having the person is subject to the much smaller and having a big amount of space around them. So if you're looking for a composition, it was so well onto a big wall. Have a look at creating the pick, the person small on the expansive space, big because they look fantastic when they're blown up large. Just so you know, sometimes you just see stuff. I think you might be interested 6. Quick lighting technique to make your subject stand out: so, strictly speaking, this isn't about composition. However, if you look at this wall for sun just comes back out from home. That cloud, what you might see is just on the lumps in the plaster. The sun is lighting it. That means the sun. The line of the sun is running right along the wall. So if you put someone against it because they're obviously that sticking out from the wall , they're gonna be lit. Where's the wall? Is just in the shade. So you have a very interesting opportunity. Only happens once a day on each wall. Somewhat our talk. But this will once a day waving. Just see that line of light. Look that way, Alex. It's just something different. How to use light, how to observe light on the low. This isn't strictly about composition. It's a very interesting way to report 7. Using texture and shape to add visual interest: As I said to the beginning of this video, When you're using one lens, you have to use what you have. I've got Mr Zoom Land, so it's fairly versatile. I don't have a wide angle on here, So my preferred shooting distances usually around about this. But what I'm trying to do here is use the scene as it is to somehow focus in on my subject , which is Jake and where his positions. But in this scene, I've also got Kabul's. I've got an old rustic wall, which means if I want to, I can use that as some of the messaging in the image, just to give it a bit romance, really a little bit a texture. When I'm shooting, I shoot quite low. If I shoot low here, I'm getting a little bit too much of the buildings in the background, some having to hold my height a bit to ensure the composition stays as much as possible. Just the walls in the cobbled floor, and it makes for a really interesting image. So if I shoot that slavery offer minute, Jake, see okay, it's really nice shape and texture to the image. Look that way Jixi. Further, further. Further for that's it. Very simple. Shut it. This time I've used the wall to mask off the background, so I've got a very elegant, simple, almost a studio show. The reason why I'm asking Jake and rest Alexa's well to move their face position around is because if you look at where Jake is at the moment, the sunshine is that way. So I want his face to be properly lit. And if I have him looking that way, the sun's scraping around his face is not letting my little If I have him, look away, then the sun lights his face properly and the shot is going to be all the better for it. 8. Look out for backgrounds that convey a story or a feeling: right there, Alex. Just working it. She doing this a shot? Jake, you don't for a second. Sometimes you just look around and there's a shop one of things but had them as we have all of these old buildings on line, most walls. And he's really interesting roof tiles that almost look Mediterranean. So I've turned round. Alex was just sitting there, minding his own business. It's not quite nice light, and there's a little bit every shot there. It's not perfect, but sometimes it's just It's just a nice shot. And if I include the roofs in it, doesn't that look like a saying in Tuscany? 9. Combine framing devices and leading lines: you can't hold Alex. So we'll have seen here is an interesting opportunity to use leading lines and a little bit of framing at the end to draw your eye in. Just simple, beautiful picture. Not perfect. But like I said, one camera, one lens, one subject. What you gonna do? I do like that. I just don't want separate sky in it. I seem to get rid of the sky. 10. Start with the light, then look for the composition: So all I'm trying to do, as always, is find a nice patch of light. Start with the light, always start the light. And then I work the scene around a nice battle. If the lights rubbish, unless there's something truly newsworthy or frankly, unmissable about your moment, it's not gonna be a great shot. But if you've got beautiful light on the whole, you're gonna have a beautiful shot. So I've just had Alex to stand there. I've done a quick light test to make sure I've got nothing. Right. So I'm gonna pose both legs together. We okay, so well done. Check my exposure. Nice. Like Jake. See if you're photographing a couple of people more than one. By definition, unless there's a meaning for having separation between them, generally you want them quite close either touching or overlapping. So that in the picture at least in my opinion, it feels like one consolidated part of the image, not to separate spikes. Now, that's not always how you do it, but for normally for repairing or a trio. I'll try and make that in the shape. So the reason I'm 18 of the war, it's just trying to find a position where the two of them are totally enclosed with this wall. So I don't have any of this background that you're seeing down there, you know, simple is that needs a little bit of cleanup, but we're getting there. My starting point, Jake. Only to look that way, Straits that warrants it. So you get a very simple, very fashion. A teenager. Easy. Is it like 11. Include negative space around your subject: That's it. Look that way. As you just did go on further. So I've got a nice bit of wall using negative space, the in this particular instance, the cropping or staging a framing device I'm using. There's a lot of space, etc. 12. Use background and foreground framing devices: always. I say you're walking along, you see the show. It's a great idea. And I do this. I say this different groups a lot. If you ever worried about creating a whole series of images and you have to go and do a shoot 50 when you're beginning, one of the greatest things you could do is just go for a walk with your client. You'd be surprised how many scenes you see, how the little moments. And this is one of those things. Just as we're walking back, I've noticed that the lime wash on the wall is really bright and lovely. And there's a window in it which my act is an interesting framing device. All I've done Alex against it. I've come across a little bit shut number one and then also because there's all of this yellow. Now I'm guessing. No, I'm not gonna try and guess what that is. Jasmine. I bet it's Jasmine, one of your botanists out there. I'm really sorry. I know nothing about plants, but is bright yellow. And if you use it as a framing device, you could get some quite interesting pictures. Look, how pretty is that? Just In case you're curious, the fact that Alex's face looked like it was beautiful. It is because the sun is striking that white wall there. So you get a big white reflector, and that's actually Alex is being lit by essentially perfect white light from a wall on the other side of the alleyway. Easy. 13. Create a sense of motion: Okay, so walk towards me. Keep one behind the other. It's It's like thank you. If everyone to create movement in an image and you're worried about doing it, you just get someone to walk towards the camera. So I've set it toe continuous focus. I've actually said it on the motor wind on the shutter, which I don't really need to do, but I like it that way as they walked towards me. I've just taken some shots and where they might be perfect, they'll have movement and character about them. That's harder to do when you just have someone stood or sat in front of you, just another way of doing it. 14. Place your subject in the light: I've said the boys back to go and change into something a little more suitable. Ha ha. Forgive the pun and we're not gonna take a few pictures where we're gonna have a much more classic look to it, Man in the suit of Teenager in the suit, in this case, on See what we can get. Although this video is abstentia ble about composition, of course, composition has a purpose, although we think about it in terms of grids or spirals or leading lines or whatever it might be, the job of the composition is twofold. The first is for the image to be pleasing balance. Somehow the image feels like it's what you intended. Now that might be that you deliberately placed the subject way off on an edge, so they had to tensions image. Other times it might be have placed it traditionally on the thirds maybe a bullseye composition in the middle, so the image has a balance and it just feels aesthetically relaxing. The second roll of composition and this is more important in some ways is for you to lead the viewer to what it was you wanted them to see now in the case of a portrait that's almost always a face. And so in these images, I'm actually using light on a on out of focus background to do precisely that job. So what we're trying to do here is I've placed Alex into a patch of sunlight. Now, to get this, I noticed the sunlight on the floor, which is a big pool of light that's coming through the trees. So if I put Alex in there, in theory, the background is gonna be significantly darker. So let's take a shot and have a look. Just check. You blinked. We just checked. The history is really important if you're working with someone in direct sunlight that you check your history Graham frequently because you'll find as the sun levels gotten down with clouds. Your spike out of the top and you'll have blown highlights, particularly. Some was wearing a white shirt. Check your history. That's it. Perfect shot, right, Jake Stephen, Meanness as well. So, Alex, as you know, you find this quite low. Headroom there, Jake, Come stand here. Look further that way. Jixi. That's it was good. Thank you. There you go. It's a simple Is that 15. Try it for yourself and upload your portraits: So in this video, I've done what I love to do. Possibly more than anything else on the planet taking a single camera, a single lens location. It's all within a few 100 yards of our own studio on just taking some pictures that I really love in this instance, illustrating primarily composition. How do you shape and form and light to draw your attention or the view's attention to the bit of the energy want? If you've enjoyed this, why don't you grab a camera, go and do the same kind of thing. Don't travel far just 100 yards 200 yards from your home or your studio and see what you can create. All you need is some light someone to photograph on just a little bit of imagination. I'm Paul Wilkinson from mastering portrait photography dot com. If you've enjoyed this video, and I really hope you have, why didn't hop across to our website and subscribe? And who knows, maybe you'll become part of our ever growing community until they take care. Look, now we've got bloody helicopter that I'm gonna update what I said about the thing about working with teenagers. I'm gonna update that toe don't work with teenagers. One on the left. That's where the light is. You left. We're facing the same way.