Any photographer will tell you, photographing people can be quite a challenge. Whether it's a child who had a rough morning or a couple who are tense and uncomfortable in front of the camera, you as the photographer are still responsible for capturing some great shots. Not to mention you have to consider what to focus on, lighting, and composition. Before you throw in the towel, here are a few tips to help you capture professional photos of people in an authentic way.
#1 Warm Up Your Subjects
Before you even start shooting, it's a good idea to take some time to talk with your subjects. It can be an uneasy experience to be in front of a camera so getting a conversation going will help everyone relax. Communicating the entire way through the session, letting the subject know how the shoot is going, giving positive feedback, making jokes, and remembering to keep things light and relaxed can be key to getting your subject to let go of any fear they may have. It can even be nice to show the subject some of the photos as you go along to give them an idea of what they look like. This can be exciting and help boost their confidence.
#2 Take Candid Shots
Candid shots are always a favourite. There are a couple ways you as a photographer can capture these. By stepping back and just allowing the subject to interact with their environment or other subjects, and also by prompting the subjects and getting a conversation going. Letting the subjects have some space creates a natural environment for emotions to come forward and then be ready to capture the moment.
#3 Give Directions on How to Pose
As a photographer, one of the first things you'll realise when photographing people is that most of them have no idea how to model. This is where you get to be the expert. People will look to you for guidance, so don't be afraid to give directions or provide examples of what kind of pose you are looking for. Keep in mind the mood you are setting for the photos and make sure that when your subjects pose, they understand the mood as well. It will help them figure out how to interact and pose with each other.
Lighting can be very tricky when photographing people, especially when you are outdoors. Most subjects will want to have natural light behind them either to shield their eyes or perhaps because there's a beautiful sunset. At times, this can be ok, but for most photos it's important to keep the source of light off to one side and behind you as the photographer. This will help keep people from squinting and also illuminate their faces as you can see in the image below. The best time to shoot outdoors is in the "œgolden hour", just before dusk, or just after dawn, when the light isn't harsh. Or pick a day that is overcast.
#5 Aperture Considerations
When taking portraits or close-ups of people, consider where your f-stop is (or how large your aperture is). The lower the f-stop, the larger the aperture opening and the more shallow the depth of field.
Having a low f stop allows for you to focus on a specific object in the picture while the background blurs, whereas the high f stop is better for focusing evenly on multiple objects which keeps everything in focus. Keeping faces in focus is usually the ideal as in the example above, however, you may want to focus on other areas in a creative way.
#6 Long Lens
Using a longer lens can also help with the above mentioned aperture considerations because the longer a lens, the greater the blur for things not in focus, such as the background. This will help to further isolate the people in the photo as the focus.
Photographing people can be difficult at times. Above all, remember to have fun. Try not to put too much pressure on yourself or the subject and see where the camera takes you.