Photographing people is an art form in and of itself. It takes a lot of practice, humor, and flexibility on the part of the photographer. So I'm breaking up my tips into a series of posts for the rest of the month. Get ready to shoot your friends, family, and kids in a whole new way this summer!
1) Have a running shot list in your mind, even if it's rudimentary. Think close up, medium and more of an environmental portrait. Looking away at camera, towards camera. shooting the person inside and outside- the more variety you have, the better selection.
2) Getting the subject to be themselves, that's the million dollar question. As a photographer it's your job to be engaged, social, interesting and interested. This is a lifetime effort and it's a huge part of this work; I'd argue the most wonderful aspect of being a photographer is all the colorful characters one meets along the way, so enjoy! The more comfortable you are the more comfortable your subject will be.
3) Women can be more difficult to photograph than men (not always!). Shoot them from slightly above and never while they're eating - that's been a real dead end for me. People look funny mid chew!
4) Giving directions is a learned/practiced skill. Watch how other photographers do it if you can, listen to how they direct — I was in Italy with a fashion photographer who commanded his subjects, "Look at me, slowly, now look at me again. Look at me." it worked for him. I try to be as clear as I can in my mind before I start photographing someone of what I'm going to say to them to help me get the shot.
5) When in doubt, try to get a little goofy. This is my fallback approach, getting someone to laugh then photographing them. The photographs look natural, the person isn't 'posing' and it appears effortless. Think of your stupidest joke, tell it to them and get ready to trigger that shutter when they erupt into giggles!
Do you have any techniques you think about when photographing people? If so please share! And I'll be back next week with more tips and tricks on this same subject.
Leela the Photo Magician
(Images: Leela Cyd Ross; kennymatic)