What I learned in my Digital Photography Class, Part 5
Our instructor started us right out with portraits. He said that for some reason, when people take photos of people, they seem to want to get everything in the world into the shot, leading to lots of extraneous details and background busyness, with a tiny little figure somewhere in the middle. Just like this one, which (in my defense) was actually shot to give an idea of the immensity of the desert:
He told us that when we are taking a photo of someone, we should move in, then move in some more. It felt odd at first, and my first portrait shots taken in class reflected my unease.
The next tip he offered was to focus on the eyes. Frame your shot, zero in on the eyes, then press the shutter halfway down to focus properly.
The next step was an interesting one. Keeping your shutter depressed halfway in order to keep the correct focus, shift the camera so that the subject is off center for a more interesting composition. Then take your shot.
You can also use a bit of fill flash to take out shadows on a person's face (see the previous post, On the Subject of Light). On the other hand, you might want the light coming from one side, leaving the other side of the subject's face in relative darkness.
Here is a later portrait shot I took, when I had some time to digest all the new information coming at me in class. I'll have you know that I set up this shot manually, setting the ISO, the aperture, and the shutter speed myself. No more automatic stuff for me!