Caution! You are about to embark on a dangerous mission. In your unceasing efforts to show your love and appreciation for your wife, you have decided to photograph her. As a guy, you know this is a risky move. There are things you aren’t as sensitive about, things you don’t notice unless they’re pointed out to you. This goes beyond the classic catch all question: “does this dress make me look fat?” If you really want to photograph your wife and live to tell the tale, I have some suggestions.
[Men, don't worry, your turn is next!]
Does this camera angle work?
The easiest way to kill your chances of success is to choose a camera angle that highlights your wife’s problem areas (if she has any). To avoid doing this, there are a few things to learn about lenses, distortion, and portrait photography.
- Avoid wide angle lenses. These are generally a bad idea in portrait photography. They distort the viewer’s perspective of the scene, often making some parts of a photo appear bigger than they actually are. That’s code for: it will shrink her head while rounding out her bottom.
- Avoid closeup and overhead perspective. No lens is perfect, and the closer you get to your subject (not by zooming but walking), the more apparent the tiny distortions become. Do your wife a favor and take a few steps back. Shooting from above can also do damage. It can make people look small and insignificant. Best is to have your camera at eye level.
- Use a telephoto zoom lens. The ideal lens for portraits is somewhere in the 70mm to 100mm range. At that focal length, distortions tend to be minimized while features that stick out get somewhat flattened. It’s a more flattering way to shoot your wife, or anyone else for that matter.
Does this lighting bring out wrinkles or fine lines?
We all have them. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. But once again, men tend to care less about this sort of stuff. If you want to produce a flattering photo of your wife, it’s a good idea to make sure the light isn’t making her look older than she actually is.
- Avoid direct flash. It tends to whiten faces, making them seem pale and ghastly. You can get a more natural light by bouncing your flash off of walls or simply using ambient light.
- Avoid direct lighting from the sides. Wrinkles only appear because of the shadows caused by light hitting your face from the side. If you angle the light towards the front of your wife’s face, you will minimize the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines. Imagine, all of this with no cosmetics! How do you think they shoot the commercials?
- Use diffuse light. Overcast days are fantastic for photographing your wife. The clouds break up the light and it literally makes her look younger. If you don’t have an overcast day, place big white diffusers in front of your light sources.
Do all these distractions make her look small?
Is your wife the primary focus of the photo? Is she taking up the spotlight? She should be, otherwise the photo will come off a little insulting. It’s important to pick a scene where your wife can really be in her element. The middle of a messy house or a busy dinner table is no such place. Get out of the house and go somewhere extraordinary.
- Go some place where your wife is comfortable. If it’s too public, she’ll be distracted and perhaps a little self-conscious. Go to places where she can open up and show her true self.
- Avoid other people. This isn’t about the dog or the kids. This is about your wife. Make it special by keeping everyone else out of the photo.
- Avoid faraway perspective. Use your telephoto lens to zoom in on your wife, even though you’re actually standing a fair distance from her. The closer you zoom, the more your wife takes the center stage.
If you do it right, photographing your wife can be a lot of fun. Just relax, keep these tips in mind, and show the world the woman you fell in love with.
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