Photographing people is a wonderful genre of photography. It can often lead to fantastic photos that connect the viewer to a world that they may not ever get to see. But like any form of photography, it is important to ensure that your images of people have variety. Not only will this keep you more interested rather than repeating the same things over and over again, but also ensure that your portfolio is not repetitive. If you are struggling to think of different ways of photographing people, here are 6 ideas to help you get started.
Head and shoulder portraits
These are the standard people photos that most photographers think about when you talk about people photography. They can range from functional corporate type of headshots to dramatic lighting and interesting faces. The key with any head and shoulder portraits are the eyes. They need to be 100% sharp and in focus. If the eyes are not sharp the whole photo will look soft and won’t work.
For portraits such as these, you will need a shallow depth of field as ideally, you should try to isolate your subject against the background. So by using a shallow depth of field, you can blur the background so that your subject stands out. This should mean that your shutter speed should be fast enough so that you don’t have to worry about camera shake. If you do find that your shutter speed is too slow, raise your ISO slightly.
The next step from the traditional head and shoulder portraits is environmental portraits. For these types of photos, you need to try and capture some of the surrounding areas around your subject. This will give the photo more context about what the person is doing which in turn will give it more context.
Environmental portraits can be a little more tricky at times because you are potentially having to extend your depth of field. In addition to this, you may also sometimes be faced with low light conditions (i.e. if you are photographing a market for example). This might mean that your shutter speed will begin to be too slow for handheld photography. The only way to get around this issue is to raise your ISO so that you can take the picture at the desired depth of field and shutter speed. The key to good environmental photos is the composition. So rather than rushing in, spend a bit of time thinking about it and the story that you want to tell.
Festivals or religious gatherings
Nothing conveys the spirit of humanity more so than festivals, religious events or gatherings. Some of these gatherings can be the most spectacular and colourful scenarios to photograph. People just lose themselves in the moment and that makes it a wonderful scenario to photograph. But capturing these events can be difficult. Not only is each one different with its own unique set of challenges, but often they are all incredibly busy and full of other photographers. The key is to do your research so that you know exactly where to be and when because you may only get one chance to capture the photo you want.
A point of interest
It’s easy to always think that the person in your photo has to be central, but sometimes they can simply be a point of interest. For example, if you are capturing a landscape shot, a person can help give a sense of scale or even tell more of a story about a scene. You will, of course, need to compose your shot so that the person works as part of the whole image and doesn’t look like they are placed there deliberately.
The great thing about these sort of scenarios is that as you are photographing outdoors, you shouldn’t have too many issues with your settings. Even when using a greater depth of field you will usually find that you can handhold the camera (unless photographing in low light conditions). But if you find that you need to use slower shutter speeds, than make sure you use a tripod.
Movement or action
Another great way to capture photographs of people is when they are in action. Anything from sport to dance or even just people going about their everyday life will look fantastic and give variety to your portfolio. But capturing people in action is probably the hardest of all people photography to master. Not only will you have to ensure that you are focusing on a moving subject, but you will also have to ensure that you use a fast enough shutter speed to freeze the action (if that is what you want to achieve). These two combinations are often something that amateur photographers struggle with. Really the only way to improve and be able to “nail that shot” is through practice.
Using continuous focus will help you be able to focus easier as the camera can track your subject and keep focusing (as long as you are holding down your focus button). But in terms of shutter speed, it will really come down to how fast the movement of what you are photographing is. For example, someone running will require a faster shutter speed than someone walking. Keep practising and you will get better at photographing movement.
One of the great things about photography is that a photo can capture a moment that might otherwise be lost. These unique moments can be incredibly photogenic. It might be someone just looking deep in thought. Or enjoying an amazing view in front of them. It might be someone laughing, crying, being scared or even talking. Sometimes these will be fleeting moments that will disappear and at other times you will have more time. The key to capturing these moments is to be ready but more importantly to keep your eyes open. Because you never know, around every corner might be one of these unique moments.
Capturing great pictures of people can offer some of the most stunning and unique photographs. Whether it is in a studio, or in far away land photographing the locals, people can bring to life a destination or stories that cannot be told otherwise. For most amateur photographers, once they overcome their fear of shyness, they will end up with a set of images that they can be proud of. The only danger is that your images will look repetitive, but use these 6 ideas and you’ll end up with a diverse collection of people photos.
Photo credits: Kav Dadfar – All rights reserved. No usage without permission.