Brazil-born American photographer Pedro Oliveira is world-famous for his portrait shots of homeless people in the US, Europe, and South America. The project named “Careful: Soul Inside,” first gained attention in 2016, and has since been featured all over the world.
Among other names, Pedro had his work featured in names such as Der Spiegel, Vanity Fair, National Geographic, etc.
Pedro argues that portrait photography means capturing the inherent character of the person in front of your lens and that to have an outstanding portrait a photographer does not need to have a top model but rather find a solid connection with their subject.
Pedro spoke with TGdaily, and we were able to gather a few (but essential) tips from the photographer to make your images amazing!
1. Focus on your subject
Portrait photography is all about your subject. Of course, the background matters, but your subject should get all the attention. Pedro, in his Careful: Soul Inside series, focuses on the expressions of the person. That’s the essence you should capture from your subjects as well. Pedro also talks to his subjects before taking their photos:
“Talking to the subject makes you create a stronger bond between photographer and person. It is very important for you to create this connection; It is important to understand who you are photographing. Only this way you can deliver an honest image,” says Pedro.
2. Pick the right background
The background is the second most important factor after your subject. Your subject may hit the right poses, but with a dull background, the photos may not look as good as you imagine. For portrait photography, it is always best to choose a calm and composed background. Busy backgrounds might take attention away from your subject. It doesn’t always have to be a neutral background with solid colors. Just make sure the background isn’t cluttered.
3. Capture emotions
Pedro is a genius at capturing emotions. He talks to his subjects way before taking their photos. This helps him to create a friendly atmosphere so that he can capture their true emotions. Whether it’s a confident expression, a faint smile, or a sparkle in the eye, you need to know your subjects better to find the defining moment of their portrait. According to Pedro, the secret to capturing emotions is to talk to them and understand what’s going on in their head.
4. Select the right lens
Blurring the background is essential when it comes to taking portrait shots. Thus, Pedro rightly points out that a medium-range lens such as the 35mm or a 50mm, are his favorites for this type of photography. You can also go for an 85 mm or 100 mm prime lens as they too deliver very sharp images. Remember, the lower the f-stop, the blurrier the background. 70-200 mm telephoto lens with f/2.8 is also a good choice if you want to reduce the background and focus only on your subject’s face.
5. Take candid shots
Sometimes posing to the camera looks too choreographed. Pedro advises that you should capture your subject off guard. And this is possible only when you take candid shots. Not everyone is a professional model. They may not know how to pose. If you ask them to stand or sit in a specific posture, their expressions would tell that they are forced to pose in that way. Instead, take candid shots when your subject is not looking at the camera.
Portrait photography may seem easy, but it’s far from that. It requires a lot of training and passion. These tips by Pedro should serve as your guide as you try to hone your skill in this particular type of photography.