How to take better photos of people
Portrait photography can be easy and fun!
One of my hobbies is taking photos of people. The challenge of capturing the personality and emotional complexity of a person in an image is endlessly fascinating, and one I never tire of. Especially as it combines so well with that other passion of mine: travel!
My favourite aspect of photography is meeting the people - the world is full of the most fascinating individuals! I believe the trick to taking great photos of people is to capture not just their image but something of their story. This means getting them to open up to you and reveal something of their vulnerability and emotion.
In this article Iâll give you my top tips for taking better photos of people including how to improve your photographic composition, master lighting and choose a setting that adds depth to your image. I'll also give you some tips for bringing out the best in you subject. Portrait photography is easy when you know how!
All photos featured in this lens belong to the author.
Composition is all about arranging the elements in an image so that they fit together harmoniously. This can be difficult when taking photos of people, as they are not static but constantly moving, talking, laughing and fidgeting. This is especially true of children! A few simple tips will help a lot:
* Be aware of your background - if necessary adjust the angle from which you are shooting to avoid any clutter that might draw the viewer's attention away from your subject
* Zoom in so that the subject is the central focus of the image, rather than a small part of it. This gives us a very intimate view of the subject which can be very moving
* Try to include in your composition objects that tells the viewer something about your subject and their personality
* Use the background to create balance such as in the photo here
Harmonious photographic compositionClick thumbnail to view full-size
Best settings for portrait photography
I like to photograph people in their natural environment. They tend to be more relaxed and the photo will tell more of the story of their life, such this photo of a man in Southern Brazil enjoying mate tea outside his house as he watches the world go by.
To avoid the problem of people looking stiff, posed and anxious try to capture people when they are busy doing something they enjoy. This can produce wonderfully candid images however be aware that some people may find this rude, especially if they don't know you!
The most difficult settings to work with tend to be cluttered environments such as busy city streets, crowds or untidy rooms. Taking note of your setting is an important aspect of taking better photos of people because it can either distract the viewer with irrelevant detail or, if carefully chosen, help them to understand the subject better.
I'm a self-taught photographer - And I learned everything I know from books!
A beautiful and inspiring book by photographer Bill Hurter
Detailed and comprehensive this book contains everything you need to know to take amazing portrait photographs
Lighting makes or breaks a photo and can be difficult to master. This book shows you how
This book is by photographer Steve McCurry, famous for this image of a young Afghan girl featured on the cover of National Geographic
Getting the lighting right for portrait photography
Lighting is crucial for taking good photographs of people. Professional photographers will tell you that the best time for taking photos is the early morning or evening when the light is soft and there is less chance of glare or shadowing. At the very least, try to follow these tips:
* Avoid taking photos in a setting with a big contrast between shaded and brightly lit areas. Move the subject to a place with more uniformly lighting
* Flash photography is almost always horrible! Avoid if at all possible
* Have the subject face the sun (or other light source) to avoid shadowing of the face however be aware that this may cause them to squint if the light is too bright!
* Indoor photography can be great when you have natural lighting from a window or open door
Lighting makes all the difference when photographing peopleClick thumbnail to view full-size
Making a good photograph great
There are a few things that can really improve your photography results.
* Take out your camera when everyone is in a good mood, happy and relaxed.
* When traveling always ask first before taking a photo. In some cultures people are very sensitive about having their photo taken.
* Take a few shots rather than just one – the first and second shots may be ok while the third is a true masterpiece!
* Let go of trying to capture the perfect shot and enjoy yourself – the creative process is more important than the product.
* Keep your camera with you – opportunities for great portrait photography can come upon you at any moment!
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