Humans are the most favorite subject of any artist for ages. Portrait photography is a way to present the beauty of a person through your perspective. Humans as a subject can express a story much more effectively than a photograph without any human touch in it, viewers relate to such photographs on a different level. No matter how good your story and your perspective is, you will have to look after your technical knowledge when it comes to photography.
The following are a few points for camera settings and equipment that will help you achieve the most powerful and appealing portraits.
Lens: Which lens to use is always the biggest question when you go for a shoot. While capturing the portraits, the main subject is the face in most cases. Choose a lens that focuses directly on your subject, something like 85-100mm works great for portraits. In case you are using a full-frame camera, you can go with a 135-150mm lens. A telephoto lens helps you give the utmost focus to your subject by blurring off the background. It gives more depth to the image, enhances your subject without distorting the face. Wide-angle lenses are usually not preferred for portraits as they distort the subject and make the face look oddly proportionate.
Tripod: Initially, you might think using a tripod is slowing you down. Turn it into your advantage, take time to process things and all the things you might want to experiment with. Take your time to check the camera settings and light, play with them to get the best result. You can also try out different angles, it will definitely bring better results. It’s not about how many shots you are capturing, it's about how many are worth for the world. Focus on the quality of your shots. Taking time will give you good results. Make a tripod your muse to get good results.
Trigger: Using a trigger or remote will help you cancel out the probability of distortion by avoiding any shake on the camera while you press the button. Since you are using a tripod, slower the shutter speed it will cancel out extra noise. The trigger will help you avoid any jerks.
Manual: What camera mode to shoot in is your next big decision to make.
Shooting in manual mode will allow you to keep the settings of your wish. It will give a stable exposure to all the pictures you click and gives you all the freedom to change it as per your need.
ISO: You always want the highest quality results for your portraits. So set your ISO as low as you can, it will cancel out excess noise from the photo.
Keep dancing between the exposure triangle (ISO, aperture, and shutter speed) to get a balance. If you change any one of them, you have to change the others too. Balance is always important. Keep doing the test shot until you achieve that perfect balance between the three.
Focus: When you click portraits, always use single point focus. Always avoid multiple focus points, it will divert the viewer's attention from the subject. Focus on the eye of the subject, if one eye is closer to the camera, focus on the nearer eye. If I talk about the focus settings, choose Single Shot (AF-S) and not continuous (Servo or AFC).
Use single point focus here (not zone or multiple points), do not let the camera choose what to focus on for you. You want the autofocus to lock onto the subject, you do not want tracking focus for the reasons stated before.
Raw: RAW increases the possibility for you to play with the image as much as you want to. You will have a free hand to adjust the exposure and white balance if necessary. If you keep your settings right during the shoot, you will have much less work on the computer. It will give you more time to shoot.
People see portraits as a reflection of both the subject and the photographer. So, you need to make it technically strong as well. Make your photograph a treat to the eyes of the viewer and compose it in such a way that the viewers give their time to understand the silent poetry reflecting through the photograph.