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It is possible to take really high quality photographs for your business on your smartphone and getting staff, customers and clients to pose for you is going to be much easier if you know how to make them look good!

Understanding light is key to creating flattering images that your volunteer ‘model’ will be happy for you to share. So here are 3 quick fixes for the common mistakes beginners tend to make.

Backlit subject

If you stand your subject with their back to the main light source and leave your camera on auto, the chances are their face will be cast in shadow.

In the photo on the left, the camera automatically takes the exposure (light) reading but it doesn’t know what’s most important: the face or the trees. So it settles on an average. That’s why, in the picture below, the tree in the garden is perfectly clear while the face is in shadow.

You can probably guess how to correct this.

That’s right, just turn the person towards the light. 

Placing the subject with their back to the window casts them in shadow. Turn your subject to face the window but at a slight angle in order to ‘sculpt’ the face with some shadow on one side.

Ideally position them at an angle to the light source (30 degrees is the optimum angle but no need get the protractor out!). The angled light casts shadow on one side of the face which gives it shape and depth. If the light hits the face straight on the lack of shadow makes for a flat, lifeless photo.

Using on-camera flash

By default the flash on your phone will be on auto which means it will sense when the room’s too dark and trigger the flash.

I’d advise turning the flash off for most situations.  Direct flash hitting a face head on creates hard shadows, washed out skin tones, and often leads to red eye.

The direct flash can make the face look flat due to lack of shadows.

If you’re in a darker room you have two choices: move the subject nearer a light source e.g. lamp or window or take control of the exposure and adjust it yourself. You can do this in your existing camera app (see below).

Touch and hold on the screen to lock the focus and exposure.
Drag the sunshine icon up to increase the exposure and down to decrease it.

Direct sunlight

Direct sunlight is a bit like the flash: it creates hard shadows and lines across the face. It can also make life difficult for your subject as they squint into the sun. This is not a recipe for a flattering pose.

On a sunny day finding open shade is the answer.  The ‘shade’ part is obvious; the ‘open’ part is describing that you still need to have some light filtering through to the subject.

Direct sunlight casts hard lined shadows on people’ face and it makes them squint. Find the open shade of a tree or building to give you a softer light for your portrait.

So in an urban area look for a tall building beside a wide road rather than a narrow alleyway with buildings on either side.  In a rural area a light covering of trees is what you want, rather than a dense forest! These two settings will create a soft even light that is much more flattering.

Follow these simple rules to take better portrait shots and capture images that show your business in the best light!

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