Photo School // Class 005 - How to Take Better Photos of People

Photo School // Class 005 - How to Take Better Photos of People

Last month,

we covered the basics of photography, everything from equipment to how to edit. This month, we’re going to be building on those skills and diving into more of the specifics on how to take better photos of people, places and things/food.

First up is how to take better photos of people. And when I say people, I don’t mean your family for the annual Christmas card. I mean, friends, family, strangers, living life, laughing, loving, crying, working. People being people.

People tell a story, be it the story of a family, a place, a recipe, a job. They take a moment and bring it to life. They give it history, they give it context, they make it real, and sometimes even raw. Being able to capture that is being able to capture a moment in time.

One of my favorite things to do whenever we are at my Grandma’s house is to look through old family photos. I love being able to see a snippet of my family history and learn the stories of these relatives, some of whom I never met. Of course, there are some more posed-style photos, which I love, but the ones I’m really drawn to are the ones where there is movement or laughter or my relatives going about their day. It helps me paint a picture of a world that existed before me, and allows me to feel a connection to family members I otherwise would have never known.

So, when I say better photos of people, don’t think about your child’s yearbook photo, or capturing some sort of head shot image. Think instead of a story you want to tell, details you’ll want remembered, emotions you want to come through. Take your photos as if one day someone will be looking at them, and instead of just seeing a picture of people, they’ll be seeing into a window, looking at a moment in time, understanding a story and seeing humans that feel familiar, even if they’re actually just perfect strangers.

fall in Maine-40.jpg

CLASS 005 // HOW TO Take Better Photos of People

fall in Maine-27.jpg

Look for the Light //

Make sure your (the photographer’s) back is to the lighting, so that the light is shining onto your subject(s). Otherwise, they’ll end up as an outline instead of an image of a person.

Shoot Down //

Angle your camera so that you are shooting your subject from a downward angle. This will give an appearance that looks proportionate, but more flattering and slimming. Shooting up at a person will make their lower half of their body appear larger and their upper body and head appear disproportionate and smaller.

Picture Perfect Posing //

While I think the best photos of people are the ones that are real, natural, unplanned and far from being “perfect”, I’ve also been in front of the camera enough to know that there are a few things that make one look less than favorable, and then there are things that help one look a little more like themselves and are a little more flattering. Things such as: lifting your chin slightly up and out, keeping your back straight and your shoulders pulled back (imagine as if you’re squeezing an invisible orange between your shoulder blades), determining which side is your best side, never having your arms up against your sides, and, in group shots, making sure the camera is straight on so that everyone is even (aka there are no disproportionate arms or heads, etc).

In Their Element //

My favorite photos of people are the ones where they’re just going about their lives, doing the things they love, performing their daily tasks, and you’re just in the background, capturing it, to paint a picture, of a moment, of a glimpse into someone’s life. No posing, no overly thought out styling, just real, raw, movement of life.

Examples of this include: my Grandma cooking in her kitchen, my brother taking care of his chickens (when he was younger), an artisan working on their craft. For you this might mean your kids playing outside or your family in the middle of a summer bbq or asking your Aunt to make her famous apple pie or a friend to paint a picture. Don’t be afraid to ask people to just doing a hobby or something they love just so you can capture them most naturally.

Make Moves //

Movement is a good thing. We are not trees, rooted into the ground. We are humans and we move, we dance, we run, we play, we draw, we write, we climb. Capture that. Because it tells a story and makes a photo come to life.

Pro Tip: For motion shots, turn up the shutter speed and ISO. This will keep the person in motion in focus while blurring more of the background.

Tell A Joke //

You want people to look natural, not fake, so never ask people to directly smile. Instead, tell a joke. You’ll end up with the most natural smiles and photos full of laughs.

oyster day in Maine-129.jpg
Tandem Coffee with Jen-1.jpg

Key Takeaways: Stay calm, be relaxed, keep things natural, movement is good, tell a story, don’t be afraid to show the real and the raw, and don’t forget to have fun and laugh!