Ten tips on photographing people this holiday season

Ten tips on photographing people this holiday season

I am often asked what my favorite photography subject is, but like many other photographers it changes with whatever I’m currently excited about.

So, when asked, I stop and think about how much I like to do photography, and how much fun I have photographing just about everything; but in truth I’d have to answer that I enjoy photographing people the most.

That is certainly not the direction I had originally planned. I remember that most of my photo assignments in school usually consisted of subjects like cars, motorcycles, and buildings.

I’ve been employed doing many types of photography since I began earning my living as a photographer in the 1970’s. I have done different kinds of photographic work for people and all types of organizations; however, I have found myself photographing people much of that time.

I think most photography is really about people.  We take pictures of our family, friends, and people at celebrations and other events.  But when most amateur photographers are asked what their favorite subjects are they rarely respond with “people”.

With the festive season rolling up fast and with the constant photography of friends and family most will be doing, I have put together 10 suggestions to help readers be successful when photographing people.

1. When you take pictures of people look at them and pay attention to their appearance so you ensure they look their best for the photograph.  Don’t just rapidly snap away and realize later that you should have had your subject adjust something, e.g., a necklace, glasses, or especially that tie.

2. Do three-quarter poses of single subjects. By that I mean that the person turns their body so that they view the camera from over their shoulder.  Choose interesting and flattering angles or points of view. Avoid straight-on head shots.

3. Focus on the subject’s eyes. When we talk to people we make eye contact. There is a greater chance of your subject liking the photo if their eyes are sharp and not closed or looking away. Ensure that subjects smile.  In my experience when subjects say they want a serious photo without a smile they appear sour or unhappy in the final photo. Do one of each as a compromise.

4. Use a lens with no shorter focal length than 85mm. My favorite is 105mm.  Longer focal length lenses create a flattering perspective; however, you can use wide angle lenses for environmental portraiture like when including the Christmas tree.

5. For photographing one or two people an aperture of f/4 or wider will soften the background and make your subject stand out, but for group photos use an aperture of at least f/8 or smaller to increase the zone of focus (depth of field).

6. Pay attention to the background behind your subject especially when doing outdoor portraitures.  You don’t want the photo to appear to have something growing out of your subject’s head or have objects in your photograph that are distracting.

7. Pay attention to uncomplimentary shadows created by the sun, your flash, or other light sources.

8. Get things ready first. Contemplate the poses before you photograph your subject. The best way to bore your subject and loose the moment is to make them wait.

9. Tighten up the shot. Again, get rid of unwanted elements in the photograph that do nothing for it. If there is more than one person make them get close together.

10. Talk to your subjects. The most successful portrait photographers are those who talk to and relate to their subjects.  We are dealing with people and we communicate by talking. Don’t hide behind the camera.

And as always, be positive about the photograph you are about to make. Get excited. Your excitement will be contagious and affect those around you.

These are my thoughts this week. Contact me at www.enmanscamera.com or emcam@telus.net. Stop by Enman’s Camera at 423 Tranquille Road in Kamloops. And if you want an experienced photographer please call me at 250-371-3069. I also sell an interesting selection of used photographic equipment.