Human beings are without doubt the most interesting creatures on this planet! We are all the same, and yet not one of us is exactly alike! Our form and appearance, expression and behaviour all differ.
The human race contains so much variety and we are all unique. Thatâ€™s why I am so passionate about photographing people. Every person I capture is different and is a universe unto themselves. It is this diversity that keeps the art of people photography very interesting and challenging to me. It can be the same for you. However, many photographers â€“ both professional and enthusiast alike â€“ find people photography very difficult. But some of the problems we encounter can be overcome with a little understanding.
Most of us, when asked to pose for a photo, face the camera straight on, pull a fake smile and generally lose all natural expression. True, not all of us can be models. Weâ€™re not all conscious of our best angles or able to supply our most complimentary expressions at the right time. So when photographing people ourselves we need to understand this and get past this awkward stage with our subjects. This may take some time. But as the photographer you have control over this situation by helping your subject to feel comfortable and helping them to relax. How do you do that.
First of all, hold a conversation as you prepare. Have the person interact with you and watch their personal dynamics as they do. If theyâ€™re not comfortable standing, try a seated pose. Be flexible with how you arrange or pose your subjects. Not all positions will be flattering so use your discretion as to which ones compliment the person and which ones they are more comfortable with. What works with one person does not necessarily work with another. Each person has his or her own dynamics in terms of movement, facial expression and posing.
While taking pictures, try a couple of different angles and perspectives for each pose. Always look for an interesting way to frame their pose through your viewfinder. Convince them that youâ€™re trying to get the best picture of them possible. There are no hard and fast rules here. Some people will be more comfortable in front of a camera, and others will require more effort. Persistence on your part is a must!
Once youâ€™ve taken a few frames and your subject is getting used to the idea of being the centre of attention, you may want to assign a simple task such as blowing a kiss, or turning away from the camera and – with a count in – turning back to face the camera. This takes the subjectâ€™s mind off consciously trying to be natural and their expression usually improves, giving a much more true to life capture of their nature. Because the subject is now moving, you may need to get them to perform the task a few times while you fire away. This method is very much a â€˜trial and errorâ€™ thing and if youâ€™re shooting digitally it will be an advantage as you can review your shots straight away. If a certain task or movement is not working, try another one. Your imagination is the limit. Remember that youâ€™re capturing a still photo and the idea of the task you assign is to capture an image that does not appear in any way contrivedâ€¦even though it is.
Donâ€™t get too caught up in trying to make one particular angle work. If a pose doesnâ€™t feel right or you think itâ€™s not working, move on. Donâ€™t force it. Keep the mood and atmosphere light. If you can make your subject laugh you will acquire a more honest, spontaneous expression.
Finally, remember the light. Light is very important and can be the â€˜make or breakâ€™ of the photograph. I was taught one major rule in wedding photography and that was to â€˜find the lightâ€™. Be conscious of the nature of the light in which you place your subject and how the light affects their shape and form. Light evokes emotion, translates character and appearance and can change everything about your image – positively and negatively. But, thatâ€™s another subject, for another issueâ€¦so stay tuned!
Greg Beyer is a Melbourne based photographer and can be contacted through email at email@example.com