Portraits can be challenging, especially when you’re not shooting them in a studio. A good photographer is often one that can reveal the emotion and personality of the subject from reality into the photograph they capture. This rule applies to almost all forms of photography. Unless a photograph doesn’t stir up some sort of sentiment in the people looking at it, it wouldn’t capture their attention as much.
When you’re out photographing people, this emotion can be projected through the overall feel of the photograph. The twinkle in the eyes, the small crinkle on the nose when the subject smiles, or the astounded expression on their face when you capture them off-guard – small things add up to create a personality and emotion that can be depicted in your portraits.
But like I said, this is a challenge even the most experienced photographers seem to have trouble with. However, there are certain tips and tricks that can at least help you begin your journey towards capturing portraits that actually talk to their viewers opposed to ones that appear bland.
Here’s what you need to keep an eye out for:
Interact with the Subject
Since we’re talking about how you can dig beneath the surface of the façade most people hide behind, the first thing that you should do is make your subject comfortable. In the majority of cases, when you come across a total stranger on the street, in the park, or at the dinner table they don’t go beyond a casual nod or a customary smile if you look at them, greet them, or smile at them.
To be able to turn these people into powerful subjects, you need to bring out more emotion from them. Make them comfortable enough to drop the mask. Your best bet in a situation like this is to talk to them. Indulge in the casual small talk. Compliment their quirky green hair or ask them what the one thing that makes them happy is.
Most of the times, you’d be actually surprised at how small talk can make your subject open up and bring out their real emotion – and that emotion is what you need to capture.
Go for the Subjects that Fascinate You More
There will be a lot of people who don’t mind being photographed by you. Photograph all of them – it’s great for practicing. However, when you’re out on the streets, there will be certain people that fascinate you. You just glance at them and you know that this particular human being can make the perfect subject for your photograph.
It could be the cute skater girl with an ultra cool graffiti-ed skateboard sitting on the sidewalk or a worried middle-aged man standing at the hot dog kiosk. If they excite you, make sure you click them – it will translate into the photograph too.
It’s All In the Eyes
A person’s eyes are probably the best reflection of their emotions and a window to their souls. Focus on them and you can instantly know whether the person is sad, clueless, bored, surprised, cheerful, or simply intrigued. Often the facial expressions fail to give away a person’s general vibe as well as the eyes do. This is where you can really score if you’re out to capture portraits that boast a powerful display of personality and emotion.
Another thing you need to take care of is the background. Sometimes, your subject doesn’t talk through in a photograph, but the background does. If the subject appears too “bland” adjust your frame to include an element that ties the whole image together – like a relatively expressionless, but perspiring face of a tall, lanky teenager with a basketball hoop in the background.
That’s how you go about it. I know this isn’t a complete guide to capturing interesting portraits, but it’s a great place to start. In fact I believe this is the most important place to begin, the rest is easy, just camera settings that can be learned fast and easy. Just keep practicing and you’ll definitely get better at it!
Do you have any tips or tricks you want to add to the list? Leave them on the comments below!