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Portrait and Candid Photography


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    Sample Chapter

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  • Before you dive headlong into your pursuit ofphotographing people, it is helpful to know somebasics about how to best approach your subject,compose the photo, recognize the lighting, anduse the equipment you have at your disposal. Thischapter outlines these basics to get you startedright as you begin to photograph people whether a candid shot or a posed portrait.

    OBSERVE AND CONNECTWITH PEOPLEA persons appearance, personality, and relation-ships are interesting and unique, but how do youcapture any of this in a photograph? Take thetime to notice a persons special qualities, observehow they react, and make an effort to authenti-cally connect. People want to feel respected,appreciated, and comfortable, and if you show aninterest in them, they will respond to you andyour camera. When you are photographing peo-ple, you are in a relationship, whether it lasts fora few minutes, a few hours, or a lifetime.

    WHO ARE YOU PHOTOGRAPHING?Decide what interests you about the person.Maybe the person has bright red hair and freck-les, piercing green eyes, or a furrowed brow-of-experience. In addition to noting the uniquephysical attributes of your subject, ask yourselfthe following questions:

    What is the relationship you have with thisperson?

    What is the relationship between the peopleyou are photographing?


    What message are you trying to convey? What is the intent of this image?These are all questions to think about when youplan to take pictures of people. Everyone interpretsthe world a little differently; show the world whatyou see in this person. For example, in 1-1, youdnever have known that Dylan was shy at first andquite serious. After a few funny stories, welaughed, and he felt comfortable enough to let meget up close and photograph his great freckles.

    CAPTURE A SPECIAL MOMENTA moment in time that is what a photographcaptures. But what is a special moment? How doyou find it, and how do you encourage it?

    One of my favorite photographers, Henri Cartier-Bresson, defines the decisive moment in a photo-graph as the simultaneous recognition, in afraction of a second, of the significance of anevent as well as the precise organization of formswhich gives that event its proper expression.Whew! My translation in a nanosecond, youmust identify a special moment, have an intuitivesense of composition, and express what you see bycapturing it with a camera.

    You as the photographer need to decide whenthat moment occurs, whether its a glance, anemotion, or a gesture that you think is important.You find that moment by observing what is goingon around you and capturing it with technicalconfidence.

    DIRECTING PEOPLEThere are two directing extremes when photo-graphing people. One is to observe and bestealth-like in your approach; however, your

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    subjects may never know you are photographingthem and have no connection to you or the cam-era. The other extreme is to pose people anddemand a certain look, which may result in anunnatural-looking photograph with no depth ofcharacter or personality. I think there are manyshades of gray between these two extremes, andchoosing the best approach depends on what youintend to capture. Throughout this book I sharesome ideas, stories, and techniques that I haveused to connect with people and encourage thatspecial moment.

    The following is a story about how I directed andconnected with a four-year-old named Sophia,

    who initially was not too happy about having herphotograph taken, as shown in 1-2.

    When I arrived at Sophias house to photographher family, she was intimidated by the activity,the photo equipment, and the presence of twopeople she didnt know: my assistant and me. Sheran from us as we walked in the door. I had mycamera, lenses, a tripod, diffuser, and reflectorsalong with some props: bubbles, a mirror, andlong swaths of fabric netting. My goal was to cre-ate special family photographs depicting relation-ships and capturing special moments.

    PORTRAIT AND CANDID PHOTOGRAPHY / What You Must Know aboutPhotographing People


    ABOUT THIS PHOTO An authentic personality is easy to catch if you and your subject share a laugh.Taken at ISO 400, f/3.5, 1/60 sec. with a Canon Macro EF 50mm f/2.5 lens.

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  • I began the shoot by talking with everyone andgathering them all together for various shots wherethey were casually positioned, both standing andsitting. We laughed and conversed between theshots. When I was shooting the pictures, I kepttalking and gave them feedback about how theylooked and direction on what to do.

    I moved the family to the backyard, turned onsome music, and helped Sophia blow bubbles inan effort to gain her confidence. I gave her somefabric netting to play with, and still defiant, shegave a sourpuss look off-camera. It took a while


    to build the trust, but eventually I was able tocapture some great action shots of Sophia run-ning around in the backyard, oblivious to beingphotographed, as shown in 1-3 and 1-4, capturingthe kind of special moments Id hoped for.


    ABOUT THIS PHOTO At first, Sophia felt I was an intruder. I like this picture, because she has areal expression on her face. Taken at ISO 200, f/4.0, 1/350 sec. with a Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L lens.

    When youre having your picturetaken, you cant see how you look,

    which makes some people very self-conscious. Peopleneed feedback from their photographer. Encouragingcomments and direction really help your subjectsloosen up in front of the lens.


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    PORTRAIT AND CANDID PHOTOGRAPHY / What You Must Know aboutPhotographing People

    ABOUT THESEPHOTOS Kids love actionand movement. It takes theirmind off being photographedand possibly having to say theword cheese. Taken at ISO200, f/4.0, 1/250 sec. with aCanon EF 70-200mm f/2.8Llens.



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  • The poignant, decisive moment occurred afterall the activity waned and the photo shoot wasofficially over. I told Sophia I wanted to rollaround in the grass, and asked if she would showme how. The beautiful resulting shot is 1-5.


    COMPOSE YOUR PICTUREWhat is a well-composed photograph? There arerules to follow and rules to break, but thoughtfullycomposing your photograph makes the differencebetween a mediocre image and an amazing image.

    ABOUT THIS PHOTOHere is the magical momentthat was captured. Taken at ISO400, f/5.6, 1/180 sec. with aCanon macro EF 50mm f/2.5 lens.


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    To compose your shot is to look through theviewfinder and interpret what you see. Keepingsome basic rules in mind and recognizing certaindesign elements prior to pressing the shutter but-ton enables you to create an image as opposed tojust taking one.

    LEARN CREATIVE TECHNIQUES TOCOMPOSE YOUR PICTUREWhen youre beginning to learn the basics aboutcomposing your image, remembering everythingwhile youre looking through your viewfindercan be difficult. Start with one technique persituation, and, with practice, composing yourphotograph will become second nature.

    The following are a few techniques to practicewhen taking photographs:

    Experiment and take a lot of photographs.Even after you think the picture taking isover, you never know when that magicalmoment will happen. Be prepared to captureunexpected moments.

    Fill the frame with your image. Look at thebackground and get rid of any distracting ele-ments. Seeing people up close provides imme-diate impact and a feeling of intimacy.

    Include a natural frame in your photo-graphs. Using an overhanging tree branch,doorway, or archway in the foreground createsmore visual interest.

    Place your subject off-center. A face right inthe center of an image is great for a driverslicense or passport photo, but when it comesto artfully composing a shot, consider theRule of Thirds. Think of your entire scene asa tic-tac-toe board, and place something ofinterest at one or more of those intersections.

    Incorporate basic design elements in yourphotographs. These basic elements includeperspective, focal point, line, repetition, pat-tern, texture, color, symmetry, and contrast.

    PORTRAIT AND CANDID PHOTOGRAPHY / What You Must Know aboutPhotographing People

    For more details about all the ele-ments of composition and basicdesign elements, see Chapter 4.


    TELL A STORYInteresting and meaningful portraits are createdby telling a story visually, as shown in 1-6, 1-7,and 1-8. If you watch a great movie or TV showand notice how its edited together, you might seea wide shot of a room, then a medium shot ofsomeones face, then a close-up of a foot or handor other detail in the scene. A series of imageslike this, when presented together for the viewer,tells a story, creates interest, and draws us in. Thesame principle applies when telling a story withstill images.

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  • 10

    ABOUT THESE PHOTOS Each image in the series of 1-6, 1-7, and 1-8 is a progression inthe process of telling a story. If you did not speak English, you would still be able to read thestory visually. Taken at ISO 400, f/4.0, 1/125 sec. with a Lensbaby selective focus lens.



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