Photographer Meredith Clark has put together a great article over at Digital Photography School.
She is explaining some of the best techniques to achieve a great, professional look in portraits, using your kit lens. I know many of us photographers suffer from G.A.S. (gear acquisition syndrome) but it really is a wise decision to practice using the gear you have, first, before searching for a new lens.
1. Use Depth of Field to your advantage
Another key aspect in creating a blurry background is the distance from the subject to the background. The further the subject is from the background, the blurrier the background will be in the photograph. So, to create the blurry background when using your kit lens, one of the easiest things to do is to position your subject as far away from the background as possible.
Typically, when I use a 50mm lens to photograph my kids in the backyard, I have them sit on the grass about two or three feet away from our back fence. When using a kit lens, I have them sit about 30 feet away from the fence, as you can see in the image above. Then, I zoom-in to somewhere between 35-55mm, and shoot at the widest aperture the lens will allow for that focal length, in order to produce the most blur in the background possible.
2. Change your perspective
If you can’t place your subject far away from the background and/or the background isn’t something you’d like to incorporate into your photograph, another option to consider is to change your perspective. Stand up, and have your subject sit on the ground, photographing them from above. Grass, cement, asphalt, and sand all photograph well from above, and can often be more visually pleasing in a portrait than a background that cannot be blurred as much as you’d like.
Bonus Tip: When shooting from above, try converting to black and white! When converted to black and white, grass reads as a dark background that can be a nice contrast for lighter skin tones. Likewise, concrete often reads as a light background that can be a nice contrast for darker skin tones. Converting to black and white when shooting from above can be a great way to work around the inability to blur a background as much as you’d like in portraits.
3. Try candid or semi-posed portraits
Try photographing kids running toward you or siblings mid-hug. Have your subject twirl or jump. Ask mom or dad to tickle their child. Though these images may be slightly different than the head-and-shoulders images that the word “portrait” often brings to mind, they often invoke emotion and movement in a way that is really compelling and valuable in photographs.
Source: Digital Photography School