10 Tips for Better People Pictures

  1. The Right Perspective – Taking your people pictures from either too high or too low an angle can introduce an element of discomfort in your portraits. If too low, the person can appear domineering; too high and the person appears humiliated or subordinate. The latter is especially common in photographs of babies and children. Adults should be careful not to photograph them at an angle of view that demeans them.
  2. The Right Pose – Don’t force an uncomfortable pose with an inexperienced subject. Try to be natural and relaxed in your approach and don’t force poses and smiles.
  3. The Right Light – Light is the key to all successful photographs and this is especially true when people are the subject. Without doubt, the worst light to employ when taking portraits is direct flash. If you must use it, try to find a softer way of using your flash, such as bouncing or reflecting its light to emulate something more natural. Late afternoon and early morning light is perfect for adding dimension and warmth to your portraits.
  4. The Right Composition – The worst place you can put someone’s face is smack-bang in the centre of the frame. Place your subject’s face in the top third of the frame and if the picture is intended as a portrait, ensure that you’ve filled the frame with your subject.
  5. The Right Approach – If you’re nervous, uptight or display a lack of confidence, it can make your subject feel the same way and the photographs will reveal that tension. Often it can take a little while for both photographer and subject to feel at ease. When the ice is broken, more natural and pleasing portraits will result.
  6. The Right Moment – Capturing people in their most candid moments often makes for the most captivating portraits. Stopping people in the middle of their activities is not always necessary – after all, it may have been their activity that inspired you to take the photo in the first place.
  7. The Right Context – People are often at their most interesting when found in the context of their work, their circumstances or their interests. Environmental portraits – as these photographs are known – reveal much about the subject and can be effectively achieved by including the subject’s surroundings in the photograph.
  8. The Right Facial Expression – Forced smiles or contrived expressions rarely appear natural and are thus seldom complimentary. If you have a good relationship with the subject, a natural smile shouldn’t be too hard to encourage. However, smiles need not be the default expression in your portraits. Pleasant, natural facial expressions reveal more about your subject than forced smiles.
  9. The Right Lens – Lens choice is important for two reasons. Firstly, longer lenses remove you from the subject, making candid photos more easily achievable and formal portraits more comfortable for the subject. Secondly, longer lenses don’t distort facial features – unlike short lenses when used at close proximity’s.
  10. The Right Depth of Field – Portraits are usually photographed with less depth of field than many other kinds of photos, unless of course the person is not the entire reason for the picture. Minimal depth of field, achieved by using wide apertures, removes the distraction of the background and highlights the subject effectively.

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