My girl friends around me often complain about their boyfriends not being able to take good photos of them, and they either look too fat or short in the photos. Guess what, with some little tricks and without spending money on equipment, you can take awesome photos WOW your partner.
Tip #1 SHOOT HIGH
When you are shooting at a slightly higher angle than your subject, you literally flatter his/her jawline and make his/her face look slimmer.
However, you don't want to shoot too high because that will make your subject look short in the photos. Ideally, shooting slightly above your subject's eye level yields the best result.
Tip #2 FOCUS ON THE EYES
Select your focus point exactly on the subject's eye. It doesn't matter which eye you focus as long as your subject is square to the camera. But if he/she is standing slightly sideways, focus on the eye that is closest to the camera. Note that you can manually select the camera's focus point by changing the Focus Mode to Single AF-S or One Shot AF. If your Focus Area is set to be auto instead of single or dynamic, your camera will decide where to focus and chances is that it doesn't focus on your subject's eye.
Tip #3 ZOOM IN + GET CLOSE
Wide aperture lenses, such as 85mm F1.2 or 50mm F1.2, give you a fuzzy and blurry background while the subject remains sharp and in focus. These lenses are expensive but good news is, you don't have to have one of them to begin taking awesome portraits.
Let's use a typical camera kit lens as an example, the 18-55mm F3.5-5.6. Now, here's the trick: Zoom in (to 55mm), dial to the lowest F number (widest possible aperture, F5.6) and then get close to your subject. The reason is, by doing so you are able to a) fill the frame and b) get shallow depth of field:
Zooming in to 55mm is equivalent to having focal lengths of 88mm in Canon (1.6 x 55mm) and 82.5mm in Nikon (1.5 x 55mm) systems when you are using APSC camera models. Longer focal lengths (85mm, 105mm, 200mm) make the subject's face and body more in proportionate and remove any lens distortions. Most importantly, the increased focal length as you zoom-in the lenses result shallower depth of field (blurrier background), and hence separating your subject from the background. And finally, by zooming-in your perspective changes so you can easily fill the frame with the subject, or a simple and uncluttered background.
And, you're using a kit lens to perform the magic!
Tip #4 LIGHTING
Lighting is the key to success to any kinds of photography! We are looking for soft light that can illuminate the subject evenly. Take advantage of overcast days and take your camera out to shoot! In cloudy days we get softer natural light, whereas in sunny days (especially in California), we need to avoid having the subject directly face the sun. Instead, find an open shade and turn your subject away from the sun. This means the sun is behind the subject and you're shooting into the sun. The direct, harsh sun light will be used to your advantage and it becomes your "hair light" that highlights the rims of the hair of your subject.
Tip #5 CATCHLIGHTS
Catchlights are the light sources that got reflected as those tiny white little dots on the pupils of your subjects. Catchlights add personality and energy to your portraits, without them your subject will look dull and empty.
How do you create catchlights? Catchlights appear in your subject's pupils when there is a contrast in the lighting. For example, if your subject is in an indoor situation, have his/her look at the window and you'll see catchlight(s) in the eyes as the environment outside is brighter than the room (contrast in the lighting).
There are more ways to create catchlights. You can also use a reflector to bounce off the light and remove any deep shadows on your subject's face. At the same time, you'll be able to see catchlights when you use a reflector.
Learn to observe light, ask yourself where is the light source, is it soft or hard, and why. Understanding the science of light is the key to shooting awesome portraits!