Good portrait photography is an art form.

The single most important skill for good portraits is understanding lighting. If you're like me and don't own a studio with lighting then getting to grips with natural lighting is a must.

Some simple rules to follow to dramatically increase the quality of your shots:

* Never shoot in the mid day sun. It casts ugly shadows on the faces of your subjects.
* Never position your subject looking into the sun and squinting unless they are wearing sunglasses.
* Overcast days are often better for lighing as the light is diffused and softer.
* Always use strong side lighting found early morning or late afternoon for black and white pictures.
* Always have your cam on rapid fire mode and shoot heaps of pictures. Often you will capture subtle nuances in your subjects face.
* Often the best viewpoint is to have the cam at upper chest height of your subject.
* Often the best distance to your subject is found by zooming to 100mm on the lens and walking backwards until they fill the frame nicely.
* Talk to your subject. Compose the first shot, let them know you've taken it but keep the button pressed shooting many more candid shots afterwards.

In the following shot I used the wide angle end of my zoom lens, had the cam close to the table and used some foreground interest. I was joking around with the girls and shooting many pictures the whole time. This one was the standout.

A very bright backgound sky was the inspiration for this next portrait. I set the focus mode to spot (a small area right in the center of the screen) and then focused on a dark area of my subject by pushing the shutter button down halfway. The beep from the cam told me the focus was locked and so was the apeture setting. While still holding the button down halfway, I framed up the subject by slightly moving the cam and pushed the button all the way down to capture the shot.

Locking the focus and apeture on a dark area of the subject caused an already bright sky to bleach out to white. Perfect for a cool black and white shot.

If you do find yourself having to shoot in the mid day sun for any reason then move your subject into the shade. This will preserve smooth skin tones and get rid of any nasty shadows on their face.

Lighting, lighting, lighting (and viewpoint). Go for something out of the box, especially where kids are concerned. Look for colorful places and candid moments to capture kids having a great time. Often they are far more likely to pose for a crazy picture than adults are.

The next picture was taken at a video arcade. Lots of neon lighting, wide angle lens setting and a different viewpoint all contribute to this shot.

Break the rules. Think outside the square. Portraits don't have to be boring and they don't have to always be people.

* Remember * ... Lighting, Lighting, Lighting, Camera at chest height and Camera on rapid fire (continous shooting mode).

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