capture the moment: how to take the perfect portrait

A good portrait is the one in which you are able to “capture the moment“. It is that fraction of a second in which your subject has that sparkle in her eyes, in which the world seems suspended. To capture the moment, to take one of those breathtaking images of a woman, there are few things you need to focus on, and none of them is technical. You don’t need to own the most expensive gear to capture the moment, nor you have to understand complex rules of photography; it is all about your subject and how you can get that incredible gaze.
Do you want to learn how to capture the moment for a beautiful portrait?

How to capture the moment

I have four simple steps to capture the moment for a beautiful portrait. They are simple, yet you will need some time to master them. As promised, none of them involves expensive gear, deep technical knowledge or anything else. If you doubt about it (and you know about photography) please keep in mind that to capture the moment in the past few years I have used a x100s with a 35mm relative f/2.0. I haven’t been shooting with an 85mm f/1.2 on a full frame; I have used a camera many consider a toy, and with that I have built a business.
So, to learn how to capture the moment put away your camera and your photographer’s hat; it is time to be a psychologist!

1. Be present for your subject

The first thing to do if you was to capture the moment for the perfect portrait is to be present with your subject. This means no phone, no distractions, no technical mumbo jumbo in your head, just your subject. You have to devote your complete attention to her, talk to her, get to know her, be in the moment. I like to spend some time meditating before the shoot and invest some of the time my subjects spend under makeup to bond with them.
One of the constant feedback we have from our clients is that we are approachable, friendly and that we make easy to relax. This is not out of luck, it is because we truly care about the women we photograph.

2. Solicit a reaction

The second step in understanding how to capture the moment is to remember that being in front of a camera is not something comfortable. Many people feel intimidated, and they stop behaving normally. In time I have discovered that to capture the moment you have to solicit it. With your voice, both in words and tone, you can make your subject feel in a certain way. Spoke softly about a positive memory, and you will get a gentle look. Pump up the music and speak loudly, and you will see how different the look you will get is going to be.
My secret to use this reaction is simple: I ask for my subject to lower her gaze while I speak, then I count to three. I tell them that when I reach three, they should raise their gaze at me.
Here you go, by using your words and tone of voice while they are not looking at you, you make them go in another place, where they will feel what you are telling them. Then it is just a matter of asking them to look at you!

3. To capture the moment you have to anticipate it

Once your subjects trust you and are in the right mood, it is your time to shine. I divide the action of raising the gaze and looking at you in three stages:

  1. Seeking for your lens When your subject will raise her gaze, for an instant they will be disorientated and they will try to find the lens. It is a short moment in which their attention is fully focussed on finding you.
  2. Feeling the emotion while looking at the lens Once they find your lens, they will be in a moment of perfect stasis for a second. They will still feel the emotions you solicited and they will show it through their eyes.
  3. Realising there is a camera and losing the pathos After a second, they will realise there is a camera in front of them, that they are not in the place you told them to be, and the moment will be gone

You have to realise that you have just a second to capture the moment, but in order to give your camera the time to capture it, you have to click before that second starts. You have to anticipate the second stage, giving your finger and your camera enough time to capture the moment before it is gone.
Capture the moment by anticipating it is the true challenging part.

4. Practice makes perfect

To get to a stage where you will be able to create amazing portraits that capture the moment, you need to practice. Not only you need to try to solicit the right emotions in the best ways, but you need to train yourself to trigger the camera just before your subject loses her unique gaze. To capture the moment you need to focus, be present and take risks. Sometimes you will trigger too early, some others too late. It is just through practice, by trying to capture the moments hundreds of times that you will develop a sort of sixth sense that will tell you: “click now!

Here you go, my secrets to capture the moment and take great portraits! Are you going to try them?
If you have other ways to capture the moment, we would be incredibly happy to hear them!

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  • […] A good portrait is the one in which you are able to “capture the moment“. It is that fraction of a second in which your subject has that sparkle in her eyes, in which the world seems suspended. To capture the moment, to take one of those breathtaking images of a woman, there are few things you need to focus on, and none of them is technical. You don’t need to own the most expensive gear to capture the moment, nor you have to understand complex rules of photography; it is all about your subject and how you can get that incredible gaze. Do you want to learn how to capture the moment for a beautiful portrait?How to capture the moment…….  […]

  • […] to a manageable size. What I would love to make you feel is exactly about the process of capturing the moment. How do you feel in doing it, is something that makes you feel alive? To me, photographing people […]

  • […] this for as long as I have photographed: focus on your subject. With this I mean that you should give all your attention to who you have in front of your eyes. Who that person is, what does she stands for, what is she […]

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