4 Secrets to Taking Great People Photos

Want to learn how to take awesome portraits? Photographing people is a lot of fun and if you set up to do a shoot with someone, there are a few tricks that I use in my photography and commercial work that can give your pics some extra zip. Most are pretty easy and take just a little preplanning.


1. Use a Flash with the Sun at their Back

This is my secret technique, actually, perhaps it is not such a secret now. Outdoors when the sun is out, there is a tendancy to turn the flash off and aim people towards the sun. This typically results in flat pictures where the subject is squinting. Not very appealing. Try turning your flash on, I know it’s daylight, and spinning your subject so their back is to the sun. You’ll get a nice fill flash on the front while providing beautiful backlit sun rays highlighting the hair and outline of the body. Make sure you are not too close with the flash, better to move back a bit and zoom in, but this one technique will give your pictures a very professional look.


2. Tilt the Camera

We’ve all seen hundreds (thousands?) of pictures on Facebook, Twitter, the web and in many photo albums where the camera is aiming straight at a person standing straight. This really produces visually dull imagry. It’s as flat as a mug shot. Try tilting the camera, to the left, or to the right. Start to make the picture more engaging by not doing what viewers expect. A tilt could be subtle or dramatic, but it throws the viewer off a bit and makes them visually explore the picture more than they normally would. Having a person leaning while perhaps tilting can make for some very interesting shots.

3. Shoot at Sunset or Sundown

When the sun is high in the sky, colors and shading can be very dull and flat. But there is a twilight time, sundown is a great time, and also very early AM, where the colors and light really pop. Make the time of day work with you. When you do your first shoot leading up to sundown you’ll suddenly see hues of color that can look very dramatic. The warm tones and vibrant light can make your pictures even more dramatic.


4. Don’t be Predictable

We’ve all seen photography that is, well it’s not bad, it’s just kind of adequate. If you want your photos to stand out you need to try some things. I like to move in to the face, tight closeup, and capture a dramatic look. Add in a tilt and have the subject look off into the distance for a dreamy or mysterious look that captures the imagination. Avoid front on shots of people just sitting there smiling. Anyone can do those types of shots. Have the model or subject glance over your shoulder, close their eyes, or look up, look down, anything to add some spark. I typically will suggest some emotions (look scared, look angry, look excited, etc) and it can get very fun, and very silly, but I’ll tell you I’ve gotten many of my best shots from coaxing some “acting” out of my subjects. Many photographers sit people on a stool and snap away lifeless, stiff poses. Your pics will be nice, but flat. Get your subject moving and have them be unpredictable.

These shots of Andrienne incorporated all of these tips, using a flash with sun at her back, tilting the camera, shooting around sunset and having fun and trying some differnt looks via acting.

Next time you shoot, give these methods a try, you may be very surpised how much life you can give your photos with a few simple changes. Good luck!