Tips for photographing people

Today I’ll be talking about photographing people and give you my best tips on how to get the most out of your photoshoot!

Get to know your subject.

One of the most important things for me personally is getting to know the model before the shoot (or during!). That way you find out how much (or little) experience they have, their likes and dislikes, what fits their personality. Remember they are people after all, we’re not shooting still life here, they have needs and feelings and the more comfortable you can make them feel, the better your photos will turn out. Also the more you get to know each other, the more they will trust you and have no reticence or inhibitions.

Talk to them.

Don’t forget that the people in front of the camera cannot see what you’re seeing through your lens and also, they can’t see you either! All they can see is a big round glass pointed at them and while for professional models, this is normal, unexperienced subjects may feel a bit uneasy. So it helps a lot to let them know when they are doing something right. Reassure them by simply saying “That’s great! Beautiful!” or “You’re doing great!” just ever once in a while, try not to be repetitive though. If you need to correct them, however, it helps if you stop and show them what exactly they were doing wrong on the camera, don’t forget they don’t know what they look like. It might also help to have a mirror right next to you for them to see what they are doing.

Shoot shallow depth of field and focus on the eyes.

The eyes will be the first thing people look at in a portrait so be sure they are as crisp as possible, and a soft background will make your subject stand out that much more! A backlit background also helps and the more contrast you can have between your subject and the background the better. For example, shooting someone with blonde hair and white clothes might not work very well on a white background, try something darker!

Try different angles.

After you’ve mastered the classic portrait, experiment a bit! Get lower, higher, to one side, try different lighting set ups, different times of day (if you’re shooting outside), see what you like and what works for your subject! Some say that getting your model to look to the left will help, or getting them to press their tongue on the roof of their mouth will help their mouth relax. You won’t know until you try!

The golden hour.

Remember that beautiful light in the morning and in the afternoon? That’s flattering to pretty much anyone, so if you’re a bit of a beginner try taking your subjects out in the afternoon and take advantage of nature’s lighting set up. But be quick! It’s only usable for about an hour or so, there are even apps now to help you figure out when it will start wherever you are on the globe.

Have props!

This is especially useful if you’re shooting in a studio. Besides adding a little bit of extra flair to your photograph, props can also help your model relax, as they will have something else to interact with and focus on.

Recommended equipment:

Ultimately this will be down to personal preference and your particular project, however I will recommend my all-time favourites for portraits.

50mm lenses – these lovely little prime lenses don’t have zoom however they compensate with beautiful clarity, soft bokeh and wide apertures. They go down to 1.8F, 1.4F and 1.2F and the 1.8F is possibly the best value for money one there is. You can get it for around £80, even less if you get it second hand and it’s worth every penny.

85mm 1.2 and 1.4F – These are the next step up from the 50mm primes, with unrivalled image quality. However these will set you back a good few hundred pounds but they are worth their weight in gold. And that says a lot, they’re pretty heavy!

105mm Sigma Macro – This is another one of my favourite lenses for portraits. After I stopped shooting plants and insects I discovered that this little lens does wonders for portraits as well! The clarity is beautiful and if you decide to shoot makeup or beauty, this will come in handy.

Lomography Petzval 85mm Lens – This is an art lens with completely manual focus and aperture so I wouldn’t recommend this if you’re not yet confident with the manual modes, but if you’re happy to experiment, this will give you a bokeh like no other. As opposed to other art lenses like the Lensbaby (very nice effects but very soft overall), this is incredibly sharp and will keep your subject crisp whilst giving a dreamlike background.

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