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08-12-2015, 06:57 PM   #1
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My worst subject to photograph is people.

My worst subject to photograph is people. (Single, couples, and even groups). What can I do to better improve my ability to shoot people? Thanks.

08-12-2015, 07:13 PM - 2 Likes   #2
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Develop a real rapport with your subjects, Dave, before getting the camera out, keep the rapport going until the shots have been taken.

Try to pay no attention to your camera and flashes - it's all about them (this will require you to be completely familiar with your gear and settings).

Their eyes will reveal their thoughts when the shutter button is pressed, so you have to replace their tentativeness or irritation with other emotions that come from your conversation.

It's easier to shoot a flower, right? :-D
08-12-2015, 07:14 PM   #3

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QuoteOriginally posted by LeDave Quote
My worst subject to photograph is people. (Single, couples, and even groups). What can I do to better improve my ability to shoot people? Thanks.
Tell us more about what kind of scenario you are shooting or wanting to shoot in.

Are you talking about candid shots? Are you talking about models? Are you talking about people on the street? Family members? Give us more details.
08-12-2015, 07:15 PM   #4
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If you are not shooting candids, even with friends and family, most people probably need to become comfortable posing in front of the camera, especially those who are not used to posing. I usually use first 30 min to an hour to break the ice, let them adjust to me behind camera, rather than camera. Compliments work great, throw few jokes to get them loosen up. Then they are more likely be more natural, and reactive toward your directions and suggestions. Make sure you are communicating all throughout the shoot, not documenting.

08-12-2015, 07:29 PM   #5

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For me, while I am nowhere near an expert in the area I would say there are two main things. First off is lighting. Do something, anything, to be able to experiment with how lighting works on faces. Use something inanimate if need be to learn how light falls on a person's face. Light straight over head from the sun would leave shadows one way and light from another direction would leave them in another place...also harsh light is one thing, soft light, early morning light, evening light.. try all kinds of things. Then when you are walking around not even taking photos try to pay attention to how the light falls on people's faces. Quite literally it's about the power of observation.

Next thing I am also in the school of building rapport. If you pretend to have a little fun odds are you might actually have some

It might help to find a single willing participant that you get along well with. It might be a girlfriend or a sister or brother or coworker... someone that YOU can really loosen up around. Don't take pictures of people making goofy faces per se, but rather use those people so that you can learn how interactions happen. When you learn how to interact with different people you can see how to get reactions from them.

As an experiment try this... get your willing participant (someone you know pretty well) and have them pose or whatever... try to get the light right, stop down to like f5.6... and then crack a joke or say something funny that will get them to try and laugh and sort of break character. The goal will be to try and capture a genuine smile or a laugh. Another key thing with people is eyes. If you can capture their eyes then the picture will connect with others.
08-12-2015, 08:49 PM   #6
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Thanks guys. I never thought I'd get this much replies in such short time. I'm not near my laptop so I am unable to read all fully. I just skimmed through. I'm on my phone right now and will read all when I'm on my laptop.

I don't know how to pose a model or a woman. I also do t know how to pose a couple. I would say posing is a major factor if my problem.
08-12-2015, 08:58 PM   #7
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Unless they're a model used to posing themselves with very little direction, get your subjects doing something - sitting on the edge of a chair, leaning on the back of one or against a wall, walking towards you. Get their hands right - in pockets, folded across the arms, propped against the wall, or holding a cup or their glasses or whatever, and then use every trick in your smalltalk book to get good expressions (natural, theatrical, whatever your style) from them.

If you watch a shoot by Jason Lanier on Youtube, and I don't like the way he talks to the models, but ... he's always talking, always giving feedback.

Oh, downloading a posing app for your phone will mean your subjects can point to one they'd like to have a go at. Very useful for couples.

Last edited by clackers; 08-12-2015 at 09:34 PM.
08-12-2015, 09:09 PM   #8
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Learn & Practice

I am no means the most experience photographer on the forum. The 2 biggest things that have helped me with portrait photography is reading and learning all I can about posing and photography and practicing with my gear and as many people as possible. This not only helps the technical aspects of your photography it also makes you more comfortable and able to direct your subjects. That has been the most helpful for me.

08-13-2015, 07:05 AM   #9
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When I first started getting into photography, I took an excellent online course taught by Scott Stulberg through Bryan Peterson School of Photography. It's a 4-week course, where you download a lesson (and he provides massive photo-filled PDFs with ideas and tips), an assignment and then get feedback from him (and get to see his critiques of other students). You get about 9 days to complete each assignment and he's very responsive and constructive.

Eye to Eye: Capturing the Face - face photography classes

Bobbi Lane teaches a 4-week course focused on posing and directing through the same school:

Posing and Directing Photography Online Course

I haven't taken this specific course, but I have taken a live course with Bobbi and she's an excellent teacher. She also teaches a portraiture course online (called portraits unplugged - using natural light). If you find that you learn best when you get a lesson and then an assignment to practice, these courses are great options. If you prefer to just watch a tutorial, Bobbi also offers an online videos for sale and has some shorter clips for free on Youtube.

With portraiture, I found that it worked best for me to learn about the following topics in this sequence. I think that if you pay too much attention to the light at first (especially if you're focused on flash and strobe), you'll miss out on the more fundamental elements of connecting with people and learning how to produce an attractive image

- Establishing a rapport with your subject (Scott)
- Composition, paying attention to which angles and lenses produce the most flattering images (Scott)
- Shooting in natural light, and natural light with modifiers like reflectors (Scott)
- Using flash and/or strobes (mainly Bobbi, although Scott also covers this in his last lesson)
- Environmental portraits (a live course I took with Neal Slavin)
- Posing and directing (Bobbi)
- More advanced lighting techniques (various sources)
08-13-2015, 07:06 AM   #10
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Like many amateurs, I am far from being an expert on how to photograph people but I have gotten a lot of practice. I photograph my kids a lot when we're out and about. They don't even notice me most of the time so I end up with many daily life candids. "That's just Papa and one of his cameras", they must be thinking. But it highlights the fact that I practiced a lot. Repetition, repetition, repetition.

I also practice shooting action figures, statues, and stuffed animals. The nice thing about those is that they are stationary and very patient. I can play with lighting, composition, and focusing. If you need to practice a couple then get two action figures, statues, or stuffed animals. It sounds corny but it works.
08-13-2015, 07:34 AM   #11

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I think people can be one of the hardest photographic subjects and a person gifted with creativity has an advantage. Landscapers think their technical work ( money and a learned skill) is the apex of photography but people can be a real challenge too.
08-13-2015, 08:40 AM   #12
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Totally agree with the title of this thread.
08-13-2015, 09:10 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by LeDave Quote
My worst subject to photograph is people. (Single, couples, and even groups). What can I do to better improve my ability to shoot people? Thanks.
People - it's all about emotions! You need to recognize emotions (on people's faces) and you have to be able to create them. Sorry my English is not so good that I could fully express about this topic, but I would add a couple of videos.

But Joe Buisink is master in that! I hope that you will find something from these videos.
08-13-2015, 10:18 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by dcshooter Quote
It's funny, since IMO landscape is pretty much the easiest photographic skillset to develop, since the principles and techniques are well understood, the subjects tend to be static, and you can usually take as much time to set up the shot as you need.
I would agree that shooting people is one of the most difficult photographic challenges. If I had to shoot portraiture, weddings, etc., I would never pick up another camera as I have zero interest in shooting people other than occasional family gatherings. Indeed, landscape shooting is fairly easy from a technical standpoint but in terms of the physical challenge, it's among the most difficult if you really want to be successful with it. It demands planning well in advance of a trip, research, close checking of weather and lighting conditions, and if you're goal is to capture images that reproduce well in large sizes for resale rather than viewing on a screen, it requires carrying some weight on your back, sleeping in tents, and hiking often for many miles. Landscape photography is more than driving from point to point, hoping out of your car, grabbing a shot and moving on.
08-13-2015, 11:50 PM   #15
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I have spent my whole photographic career photographing people, and it's not hard once you get some basic things under your belt.

Here are two drop box links to two now very old bookS full of posing info that if you read you will find, even today, work 100% for images.

These books where written by masters of the craft when family portraits were still good business, unlike , unfortunately , today.

"photography should be about taking images as you like the world to look rather than how it looks"
Monte Zucker


Enjoy, and learn, learn to give direction if you can't do that your scr***d
Alistair Barclay

Last edited by adwb; 08-14-2015 at 04:08 AM. Reason: added links

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