2 days ago, I had started this 2 part series on “HOW TO TAKE BETTER PEOPLE PHOTOS”. Today we continue with the rest of the 6 steps. Hope you enjoy:
4. Watch the sun
It’s great when the sun comes out. All the colors are brighter and people find it much easier to smile. However, bright sunlight produces hard dark shadows which can have a very unflattering effect on someone’s face if they are at the wrong angle. It is much easier to take pictures of people on a cloudy day because, no matter which direction they face, the lighting won’t change too much.
Of course, we can’t control the weather, so probably the best thing to do on a sunny day is to find a shady spot to take your photograph. In order for this to work best, the background, the subject, and the camera should all be shaded from direct sunlight.
When there is no shade to be found, consider the angle of the sun relative to your subject’s face. There are two positions that minimize the effect of shadows cast by the sun. If your subject stands almost directly facing the sun then the shadows on their face will be at their smallest. Don’t have them absolutely directly facing the sun or you might get your own shadow into the shot.
Another option is to have the sun behind them so their entire face is in shadow. Again, don’t have the sun directly behind them or you could end up with some flare in your picture. You may have to adjust the exposure for this type of shot but it’s the best set up if you can also use fill in flash on your camera.
5. Get on the eyeline
Having sorted out the background and the lighting, the next thing to consider is your subject and the position of your camera relative to them. Eyeline can mean different things depending on the context but here I’m just referring to your subjects eye level. This is ideally where your camera should be, at the same height as their eyes or very slightly below.
In professional portraiture, the height of the camera relative to the subject’s eyes plays an extremely important part in determining how they will look in the final image. Even slight changes of this aspect can make a profound difference. The most neutral place to be is at the same level and, unless you’re making a portrait as opposed to just taking a picture, this is the best place to be.
When dealing with a subject who is much taller than you then you should think of asking them to sit down so you can get on their eye level. If that’s not possible, try standing farther away and zooming in. This will reduce the angle at which you are pointing up and minimize the effect.
In most cases the problem arises when you’re photographing someone sitting down or a child or even a pet. It is almost always going to be a better picture if it is taken from the eye level of your subject. You don’t need to take my word for it, try it for yourself the next time you are in this situation.
Extra Tip: Don’t be square
If you follow all of the above, you should be able to take a decent photo of anyone but that is still some way away from making a portrait, which is an attempt to show your subject’s character and personality as well as being a good picture of them. Once you have mastered all the tips, you might be inspired into taking this one stage further and stepping into the realms of portraiture.
For this you need to think about your subject’s pose and probably the simplest way to start is to avoid having them squarely facing the camera. Ask your subject to face about 45 degrees away from the camera or have them stand still and you move round about 45 degrees. Then ask them to turn their head to face the camera for the shot. This usually looks much better than just being square on and, if nothing else, will have a slimming effect on most people, which is often appreciated.
Which direction they turn usually doesn’t matter but a few people have a “good” side. The best thing to do is to try a shot from either side and decide what is best later on.
For better people pictures you should: turn the camera around for portrait format, fill the frame with your subject and always shoot from their eye level. Oh, and if it’s a sunny day, get into the shade.
About the Author
Colin Aiken is a professional photographer based in the United Kingdom. You can view some of his photographs at: http://www.lovethepictures.co.uk.
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