Whilst soft light, a sharp lens and some time to set up an interesting pose can help create good people photos, nothing will beats a great expression.
The expression on a personâ€™s face will either make or break a photo. It can make an image interesting to look at, a picture that you wile want to look at again and again. Whether itâ€™s a smile, a sad face, a wink, or even a look straight down the lens with a bit of attitude, the expressions and stances of your subjects complete the story of your photograph. It lets you know how your subject was feeling when the picture was taken and itâ€™s these glimpses of personality that we all relate to when looking through our photos.
Sometimes I capture these images when people are completely unaware that I am. While these types of candid pictures can be good, they are usually very few and far between.
Most of the time Iâ€™ll compose the photograph and position the subject, all the time being aware of the light and making sure the face isnâ€™t hidden in shadow. While creating this environment I try to keep my subject relaxed in conversation – maybe even getting them to help me move a chair or piece of furniture.
Getting them to talk about themselves or what theyâ€™ve been up to is the beginning of creating a relationship with the subject, a process which translates to more natural expressions later when I start taking photos. If the subject is a child, spend some time down on their level talking and playing with them before taking any pictures. We want to help them feel comfortable and relaxed before picking up the camera to take any shots.
Once Iâ€™ve limbered them up a bit, Iâ€™ll take a couple of test shots to make sure my camera settings are correct. If my subjects are still a little contrived or uncomfortable, I may give them a task which helps them to stop thinking about being photographed and makes them concentrate on what theyâ€™ve been asked to do. This could be anything from asking them to
lean as far as they can away from me, without falling over, and then lunging back towards me. Doing this a couple of times nearly always guarantees to produce a natural looking smile and occasionally even some full blown laughter. While they repeat the movements, I shoot as much as possible; selecting the best expressions later after the shoot is finished.
If the subject is a child, I might ask Mum, Dad or one of the siblings to stand beside or behind me and interact with the child, maybe pulling faces or doing whatever it takes to get a reaction while I concentrate on capturing the moment when it happens. This can be fun as everyone present is able to get involved in the photography process. When nearing the end
of a shoot with children, I sometimes get them
to poke their tongues out or pull the ugliest
face they can which is always worth a photo.
The interchanging of expressions doesnâ€™t always have to be between the camera and the subject. Most of the time 2 or 3 people together, will interact naturally with a bit of encouragement. In these cases I behave more like an observer with a camera and try to capture whatâ€™s going on between them. With most couples, you only have to put them together and theyâ€™ll usually interact well.
For my part, if Iâ€™m relaxed and having fun with it, generally this attitude rubs off on my subjects. Try various angles and if somethingâ€™s not working or doesnâ€™t feel right – move onto your next idea. Donâ€™t get discouraged. Not every pose or activity will be a winner. But then, you only need one winner, donâ€™t you?
Greg Beyer is a Melbourne based professional photographer. He can be contacted via his website at www.beyerphotography.com.au