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Capturing people and their personality Ideas about portrait photography

Photography & Film Last update: Estimated reading time: 1 minute
Tags: Portrait

Photographing a person calls for another approach than photographing buildings. A portrait is not just a photograph of a person. And because humans are more than just their faces, I spent some thoughts about how we can capture this "more" in photography.

In episode 49 of The Candid Frame podcast, Erin Manning explains:

(...) be sensitive to what's happening with that person in front of the lens. Because it really is all about them right now. It's you connecting with them and capturing that personality. (...) You need to kind of follow people around and pay attention. (...) Pay attention and care about other people.
Erin Manning

This means that photographing a person is not just about capturing her, but about showing her personality. A couple of ideas which I'd try to meet this demand:

  1. Talk extensively to the person. What kind of human is she? What is she interested in?
  2. Follow the person, if she agrees. Where is she staying, what kind of place does she like?
  3. Note any peculiarities. What is the most important trait of her character, in her opinion? What makes her unique (behavior, opinions)?
  4. Think about how you could capture this. What places are suitable for this? Should the person sit or stand? And how? What should her gaze express? Which facial expression fits?
  5. Take pictures. Your thoughts are just a vantage point, but most often, you will not stay at this point. Photography is much about being open for what happens and what a person does. This way, you could find an even better portrait than while thinking.

On the one side, I thus think that you have to give some thought to constantly create good photos. On the other hand, you have to be open enough to let chance play its role. This does not mean that thinking is useless, because it opens ways previously unthought of. And it opens your eyes for situations that could turn out important for the task at hand.

Chance favors the prepared mind.
Louis Pasteur

This post is just a couple of thoughts on portrait photography, where I purposefully ignored studio photography which tries to control most aspects of photography as well as possible.