How to Photograph Hands; a Guideline for Photographers

How to Photograph Hands - a Guideline for Photographers

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You have seen many an advertisement which features beautifully manicured hands or the hands of a working person, baby hands and just plain old hands.

There are models whose sole claim to fame and how they earn a living is by having hands which are worth photographing.

Many product manufacturers benefit from having their products grace a beautiful hand. These hand models, as they are sometimes known, charge a good fee for having their hands featured in product advertisement and some, have had them insured.

This should come as no surprise when some celebrities have had some body parts insured simply because that's why they are known for, so having that part of your body, like your hands, which is your money maker insured is not that unusual.

As far as photographing them, unless you have a specific product in mind such as a ring, a watch or some specific nail polish, then your efforts should be directed at showcasing various samples and textures.

Your models should have hands that are neatly manicured and free from any spots or blemishes. Fingernails should be well cropped too.

Present them singly or as a pair. Your shots should be close enough that they show texture, including fine lines and ridges. If using nail polish, it should "jump out" at you and appear to still be wet.

The other side of the spectrum should feature the hands of a working person, rough and blemished, grease stained and with dirt lined ridges and dirty fingernails. This is unequivocally a working hand.

You can do comparisons such as a photographic dichotomy; the young and the old, male and female, manicured and not.

You should also include some hands which are holding props such as a delicate flower being held by a very rough hand, a large hand cupping a smaller one, a delicate hand grasping a rougher one or vice verse, even holding their tools of their trade.

The possibilities are quite abundant but your images should always be crisply focused and the lighting should be just right; not too much or too little. They should be photographed with diffused light to avoid creating harsh light or overpowering any details.

Backgrounds are usually one out of two shades; either light/white or dark/black. Depending on your model's skin texture and complexion, is what will determine the background color.

There are also many creative ways of photographing hands, like having them dipped in paint and capturing the image while the paint is still dripping.

Hands that are shown gripping an item such as a tool are used to signify a specific job field which will seem more realistic depending on which set of hands you feature, like male hands for heavy tools and female for lighter things so this is worth paying close attention too; match the hands to the job.

Hands can be used to make designs such as a "heart" shape, a "peace sign", an "I'm OK sign", maybe even a "one finger salute".

For more risque shots, consider showing hands that carefully clasp or cover someone else intimate body parts or their own. Hands can also represent a great study of line, shape, texture and form and these images often find their way into art galleries.

If you want to make it more of a commercialized project, then try adding commercial props such as rings, watches, jewelry, nail polish or any product which is made specifically for hands such as hand moisturizing cream.

Once you have a good number of technically sound images then you can start to submit samples to photo stock houses, photo agents and to the product manufactures also.

Above all, hands have been featured in commercial and regular photography applications for quite some time and their images are nothing new, so you must be creative and infuse them with your "touch", this will distinguish your photographs from the work of others.

Good tips to follow are to use softening filters which tend to hide smaller imperfections, using colored filters to cast a color shade, a fresh manicure and an application of moisturizer just before a shoot are just some good tricks of the trade that are worth considering and implementing.


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Before you start on this project you should have a rough detailed plan of your intended shoot and its purpose.

You should also have any props ready as well as to carefully plan your lighting layout. Have a stand or table or surface where your models' hand will rest or a pre-selected backdrop available.

If using grease, make up, or moisturizer have them ready as well as something to wipe clean after application. All of these little steps ensure that your hand model shooting session goes smoothly and without fail.

Consider also shooting both in color and in black and white. Black and white is especially well suited for showing texture and color for capturing an audience's attention.

Use this theme also to broaden your technique and to expose yourself to the many photographic genres which are currently practiced. Even if your images are not profitable, you gain from the practice and exposure.

Did you know that some models make a living by having their hands photographed?

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© 2011 Luis E Gonzalez

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Comments 10 comments

Stone Gifts profile image

Stone Gifts 5 years ago from London

Wow, I'm impressed!

Never thought that hands can be the subject of making pictures.

Very interesting hub, thanks.

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LuisEGonzalez 5 years ago from Miami, Florida Author

Stone Gifts: There is hardly a subject that has not been photographed in some way or another. The key remains to do it differently.

Thanks for your comment

Cardisa profile image

Cardisa 5 years ago from Jamaica

I knew there was the hand model, but had no idea it was so detailed. The lighting and background being just right, never though of that. Photography seems so exciting. I thought it was all point and shoot. I thought it was the camera that made the difference. How wrong I've been. Thank you for the ongoing lessons.

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LuisEGonzalez 5 years ago from Miami, Florida Author

Cardisa: Thank you my dear. The camera does help by expanding your capabilities but the photographer is the force behind the image.

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Lynn S. Murphy 5 years ago

Love this hub Luis. I have a pix of my gram's hands holding my son. Precious.

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LuisEGonzalez 5 years ago from Miami, Florida Author

Thank you Lynn, happy to see that you liked them. Aren't these types of photos fun?

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heart4theword 5 years ago from hub

You are very thorough in what your writing about. Not afraid to share your knowledge, covering every perspective:)

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LuisEGonzalez 5 years ago from Miami, Florida Author

heart4theword: Thank you, I try

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Dedmoroz 5 years ago

While reading your hub, I just sat in my chair and literally stared at my hands, longer than I ever have before.

I'll have to try this when the christmas holidays start for me.

Great hub, Luis - although I would have realy liked to see some pictures and a video or 2.

LuisEGonzalez profile image

LuisEGonzalez 5 years ago from Miami, Florida Author

Dedmoroz: Thank you. Photos are there, as far as videos, I'm not that technically savvy, but working on it.

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