1) Adjust minor details. When shooting a person or family, be aware of the little details, such as how their shirt collar lies. If there's a big pole in the background of your subject you might ask them to move a little. You can even ask someone to cross their legs the opposite direction to get a better vantage point. We fuss with food to no end when photographing food, so don't hesitate to ask a person to change slightly to get a better picture of them — they are always happy to oblige. Take your time, digest what's going on, look out for the small things, and change up accordingly.
2) Interacting with an object. To get folks comfortable and natural for a photograph, having them DO something in the image is a good strategy. This could be pouring tea from a favorite tea pot, reading a book, petting a dog — anything really! By focusing away from the camera and on an activity, the image can be of more interest, and the subject can look more themselves.
3) Talk up your subject. I try to have a running dialogue in my head of questions to ask my subject and ways to keep the conversation going. By photographing and talking at the same time, you're likely to catch them in an off moment of casual grace, not 'posed' time. Anything to get a person to laugh!
4) Capture the relationship between two people. Photographing a couple, a parent and child, a teacher and student, office mates, two people in general can be very juicy content. Focus on the space between the two, instead of each individual. If you all have chemistry, well, watch out for a great photograph to occur. Better yet, make it happen! Get the two going, get them laughing, get them playing, interacting and communicating with each other, and fire away.
5) When in doubt, photograph your subject near a window. Soft, natural light is very flattering. As we know, photography is all about light, so if there's a pretty, real light source nearby, by putting a person near that versus under an overhead light in a windowless room, your odds for creating a beautiful image go up tenfold.
Do you have any techniques you think about when photographing people? If so, please share! I'll be back next week with the final installment of tips and tricks on this same subject.
Leela the Photo Magician