5 SIMPLE TIPS FOR BETTER PEOPLE PICTURES
I’ve been a professional photographer for long enough now to start getting invited to judge some local photography contests. In doing so I have been struck by the fact that so many of the pictures, especially those of people, could have been dramatically improved by the application of just a few simple ideas.
I’m not talking professional portraiture here. Few, if any, of the entrants to these contests would even consider themselves to be serious photographers. In this digital age, it has become even more obvious that the difference between a good photograph and an ordinary one has little to do with the camera and everything to do with what the photographer thinks about before they take the picture.
With that in mind, here are a few things to think about the next time you take a picture of someone. Who knows, you might even want to enter it in your own local photography contest.
1. TURN THE CAMERA AROUND / Покрутите камерой (поверните)
It is the easiest thing in the world to just pick your camera up and hold it horizontally to take the picture. Cameras are designed to be naturally held this way but it produces an image in what is called a landscape format, where the picture is wider than it is tall. As the name suggests, this is very good for landscapes.
Turning the camera on its side will produce an image in portrait format (taller than it is wide) that is much better suited to pictures of people. It’s obvious when you think about it, people are taller than they are wide so they will always fit the frame better if the camera is held this way round.
Using the camera this way might feel slightly awkward at first but, with a little practice, you’ll soon get used to it. The only times a landscape format works best is with a group of people or if you go close enough for a “head and shoulders” shot or you deliberately want to include something else in the background of the shot.
GET CLOSER / Приблизтесь
A general rule for a good photograph is that the subject “fills the frame” and, once you have turned your camera on its side, this becomes much easier to do. It’s almost essential if you want to include their whole body but you would only need to do that if what they were wearing was important to your picture.
Normally it’s best to go in until there is just a little space either side of them and a little more space above their heads. This will usually mean you are cutting them off around the waist. For various technical reasons, it is better if you don’t get physically closer than about 6 feet (2 meters), especially if you’re using flash.
3. FIND A PLAIN BACKGROUND / Найдите размытый фон
Another thing that makes a good photograph is if there is nothing to distract the eye from the main subject. Filling the frame will help a lot with this but every subject has to have something behind them so try to keep this as plain as possible. The sky (especially on a cloudy day) might be the most obvious choice but it’s not usually the best.
This is because it is much brighter than it looks to the human eye and, unless you know how to compensate your exposure for that, may give you an underexposed picture. Even when you do compensate, there is a great danger of your subject’s hair just disappearing into the washed out sky. This hardly ever looks flattering.
If you’re near a building, consider having your subject stand close enough to it so that there is just a plain wall in the background. If there is nothing obvious in the vicinity, try standing a bit further away and zooming in. In most cases this will throw the background out of focus, making it less distracting and making your subject stand out much more clearly.
Be careful if you have a zoom larger than about 4X because it may be difficult to avoid camera shake if you zoom right in with one of these. Ideally, you would use a tripod in these situations but that’s getting a bit beyond the realms of simple photography.
4. WATCH THE SUN / Смотрите за солнцем
It’s great when the sun comes out. All the colors are brighter and people find it much easier to smile. However, bright sunlight produces hard dark shadows which can have a very unflattering effect on someone’s face if they are at the wrong angle. It is much easier to take pictures of people on a cloudy day because, no matter which direction they face, the lighting won’t change too much.
Of course, we can’t control the weather, so probably the best thing to do on a sunny day is to find a shady spot to take your photograph. In order for this to work best, the background, the subject, and the camera should all be shaded from direct sunlight.
When there is no shade to be found, consider the angle of the sun relative to your subject’s face. There are two positions that minimize the effect of shadows cast by the sun. If your subject stands almost directly facing the sun then the shadows on their face will be at their smallest. Don’t have them absolutely directly facing the sun or you might get your own shadow into the shot.
Another option is to have the sun behind them so their entire face is in shadow. Again, don’t have the sun directly behind them or you could end up with some flare in your picture. You may have to adjust the exposure for this