Monday, 14 January 2013

Photographing People, Especially Children

By Diane

When I hear the term Portrait Photography it conjures up the image of a head and shoulders, however Portrait Photography is more than that. It can be of the whole person set in their environment to make the photo tell a story, which is what we should be aiming for in most of our photos.  On the other hand it can be a photo of parts of the body like hands or you can fill the whole frame with the face or part of it. So I prefer to call it Photographing People rather than Portrait Photography.
USING A FLASH: It is best to turn off your flash to create ambiance. Flash creates harsh, flat lighting.  When indoors you can turn on lights or use natural lighting. You can set your camera for different light by using the white balance settings: sun, cloud, tungsten, fluorescent, flash, or automatic.

If your subject is backlit it can create a nice portrait with highlights in the hair.
Claude Schneider
However the face may be too dark so use a flash but try to diffuse the flash or bounce it off a wall or a ceiling. You can diffuse the flashlight with a tissue or plastic bag or a proper diffuser.
Some cameras have a flash setting for keeping the subject and background evenly lit.
Some cameras will have a slow sync flash setting. This catches the ambient light either when the shutter opens or before the shutter closes. You can select front curtain or back curtain mode. Find it in flash menu.
When using a flash, do not have the subject too close to a wall or else you will get harsh shadows. In fact it always better to move the subject away from the background.

NATURAL LIGHT: When indoors use light from an open window or door. Side lighting is more flattering than front on. Don’t have the subject too close to the lighting source. Be careful when using a fast shutter speed inside it will trigger the flash or it will be underexposed so bump up the ISO if you don’t use a flash.

Gina Milicia
When outside it is best to use early morning or late afternoon light. This will give soft shadows and create a 3D effect of the subject. Never ask people to look into the sun they will only squint. 

Learn to read the light. Where is it coming from, are the shadows hard edged or soft edged? A bright day gives hard shadows. A dull day gives no shadows and a flat photo. An overcast day gives soft shadows and definition to the face. The sky acts as a diffuser. 
from google images

Position yourself lower to the ground it makes your subject look taller and leaner. You can get rid of harsh shadows by bouncing the light off a reflector. You can buy one or use aluminium foil over a board, a car sun reflector or a white foam board.
Gina Milicia
 When there is a harsh light move the subject into the shade. The subject should be on the edge of the shade so that the light bounces onto them.

Gina Milicia
 Even in the rain can create interesting shots.
Gina Milicia

A very dull day gives no shadows and a flat photo.

SKIN TONES :Automatic light reading in automatic settings will capture way too much detail, blemishes and wrinkles. The secret is to over expose by half a stop. Use the exposure compensation setting. +2 +1 0 -1 -2 .  Good settings for smooth skin tones are 1/60th @ f 5.6 or 1/125th @ f 4.
 Karl Bluemel used Lightroom 4 to over expose the original.

CAMERA SHAKE: If you turn off the flash or you are in low light your camera will automatically increase the aperture. If you are using semi manual settings then use F4 to F5.6. This will let more light in and give a short depth of field, which will make the background soft and blurry. However in low light, when the aperture is wide open, the shutter speed slows down too so it is very easy to get camera shake and a blurry photo.
blur caused by camera shake
To avoid camera shake, steady your elbows on a table, a fence etc. If the shutter speed goes below 1/60 sec you need to use a tripod. Increasing the ISO will increase the camera’s sensitivity to light but it will also give your picture more grain, which can be used as a special effect or corrected with post processing. Using a tripod gives you more ease to concentrate on the subject and to compose the photo without worrying about camera shake. It is best frame your shot in the camera rather than crop.

from google images

COMPOSITION: There is a temptation with portraits to place them in the middle but you will get a more dynamic shot if you don’t.
from google images

 A portrait doesn’t always need to be head and shoulders it can be the whole body.
The whole person placed in their environment tells a story about that person. e.g. on the farm, on holidays, in the garden, shed, den, kitchen, sports field, park, playroom.

 For something different, fill the whole frame with the face from the eyes to the mouth.
Photo from DPS
 To put people at ease mingle with your camera around your neck they will get used to you and relax.

CHILDREN: Interact with them, play with them, and build up a bond with them. “Let’s throw up the leaves,” “Lets play with the blocks.” etc. Be yourself and relax, kids are perceptive. Sell your personality. Treat them with respect. Give them space; use a zoom lens at first.
Let them play
Talk to them and SNAP many times and you will get one good one.
Some kids like an audience and others are painfully shy. Work out what the child prefers.  Use familiar surroundings like where they usually play. Give them something to do: use paint and paper, balloons, bubble machine, dress up clothes, go to the park, or play with a pet. If they remain shy and introverted capture them hiding behind mum. Parents can be in the shot reacting with the child.

Let them have a comfort object.
 Take children when they fall.

Use reflections. A child’s expression can change when they think you are not looking. Capture their reflection in a tap, mirror, pond, or window.

They don’t always have to be smiling or laughing, take them serious, curious, grumpy, silly or sad.

serious /wonder  John Rogers

This will lead to more natural expressions. Use continuous or burst setting and you are sure to get some good shots.

WHEN TRAVELLING: Be culturally sensitive and treat people with respect.
Interact and communicate.
Learn complimentary words. Ask permission although it is not always necessary.

ask permission,  John Rogers
Try not to be with a large group of photographers. Sit down with your subject, have a drink with them, talk to them and help them relax. Get to know a bit about their lifestyle and interests. If they are selling something, buy from them.
Environmental backgrounds give context to the photo but be careful they don’t become distracting.  Either blur them or find a dark background or fill the frame with the subject.

Become invisible
Keep communication to a minimum. Try not to distract them from what they are doing. Thank them when you have finished.
Spend a lot of time with them so that they forget you are there and don't worry about you taking shots.
Mitchell Kanashkevich

Capture people doing something familiar to them.
Natural candid shots are best. Capture the people working, playing, at home, feeding children. If you want engaging eye contact with the camera you may have to interrupt them for a minute. Talk to them or stand in front of them, as they look up shoot.
Mitchell Kanashkevich

Add another subject. It adds interest and a new layer. It makes the viewer wonder about the relationship.

Capture a variety of people. Don’t have all of them in national dress. Mix gender and age.

Be an observer of people
Observe people's body language to get natural shots. Posture, movement and facial expressions can differ from culture to culture. When a camera is pointed at some people they can take on a pose which at first may appear unphotogenic but these poses tell about the person and you will be able to capture a natural engaging portrait.
 Mitchell Kanashkevich

Frame out awkward poses
 Previous observations will help you decide if the pose is unusual and interesting or simply awkward and uninspiring. In many cases this happens below face level. The way the subject looks into the camera is still engaging and photogenic. So focus on the eyes and frame out the body.
Mitchell Kanashkevich

Get the subject to look away.
For some people looking into the camera is confronting. They will look less awkward if they look away from the camera. It will give a less formal portrait but a more casual one.
The best lens is a 55mm-135 mm but zoom and wide angle are also handy for reasons mentioned later.
Mitchell Kanashkevich 

The pose after the pose.
When you have a subject who is posing awkwardly just start shooting away until they relax or pause and when they think you have finished and they return to their natural seves squeeze in a few more shots and get their natural look.

EyesThe eyes are the most important feature to highlight. The focus point must cover the eyes; they must be in sharp focus and lit well. (Use post processing to sharpen eyes and soften skin.) Try to capture catchlights. Get the subject to look straight down the lens. This connects the subject with those viewing and it is very important to engage the viewer to the photo.
John Rogers
If a child is engrossed in playing you can call him/her and capture them when they are looking at you.

On the other hand the subject can look out of the shot, pointing, laughing or surprised this creates interest out of the shot

Or the subject can look at something or someone within the shot.

Photo from DPS
When taking a profile, which is not completely side on the nose should not stick out beyond the cheek. Also remember to give the person active space to look into.

Get down to a child’s level; level with the eyes otherwise they will look like they have big heads. Hover at their level and take loads of shots. With babies lay on the floor with them or set the camera on the table with them. Look directly into their big, beautiful eyes engage them with the viewer.
Photo from DPS

Hover at their level, John Rogers
Change perspective, even get lower and look up
Photo from DPS
Stand over them and look down be careful not to get your feet in the shot, or hold the camera at an angle.

Use landscape and and portrait views.


 and now square is popular with smart phone photography. 
Bill Bohlen
Vary the distance you are away from the subject. Step back a long way and it accentuates their smallness.
 Bernie Curry

Change the focal length; use both wide angle and zoom. With Point and Shoot cameras use macro and no zoom. A wide angle can distort the foreground for an interesting effect.
Photo from DPS
Hold the camera at an angle; but make sure it looks like you did it on purpose. Don’t cut heads off or have something growing out of the head.
Experiment with expressions. With children play the expression game. Call out a word and they have to show you: happy, sad, surprised, shocked, and smelly. Or “What is your favourite thing to eat?” “What is your least favourite food?” Get them to shout.
Photo from DPS
Experiment with lighting. Get patterns of shadows across the face or only one side of the face lit.

Give the subject a prop, like blowing bubbles with soap or bubble gum. Give them a football, hockey stick, doll, car. Get them to wear a cap or a scarf covering part of their face. It is better for subjects to wear plain, dark clothing unless they are very dark or white.

Focus on one part of the body like hands and feet
Pru Upton
 Frame the subject looking out of a window,or through a fence or an overhanging tree, or through Dad’s legs or through people.
Photo from DPS

Show Movement: Get the subject to move (jump, run, swing, cycle) and use a fast shutter speed to freeze the action

 or slow the shutter speed to blur the action.
Photo from DPS
Pan the camera to blur the background to show movement.

Get the subject in focus standing still but others are moving around.
Photo from DPS
Use fans or wind to show movement in hair.
Unfocused shots: Focus on an element in front or behind the subject, like a bubble or a flower. This makes the subject look dreamy.
photo from DPS
Backgrounds: Keep it simple and uncluttered and with natural light. Use a plain wall or fence but don’t have the subject too close to the background. If you can’t get a plain background get the subject out in the open and give yourself room to zoom and blur the background. Use macro setting or a large aperture to get a narrow depth of field.
John Rogers
Try different coloured and textured backgrounds.
  Pru Upton
Take a series of shots: Use burst/continuous to create a series of shots.
Curry photos

 Family or group shots: For formal family group shots try copying the old fashioned way of sitting grandparents in the middle in front and others standing around. Us a self-timer so that everyone is in the shot and a remote control to avoid fixed smiles.
The latest idea is to have the group doing something like jumping, climbing, shouting or sitting on something which gives context.
unknown photorapher

unknown photographer
Break the rules of composition: Put the subject dead centre
or right on the edge with part of the face missing.
photo from DPS
Shoot over the subject’s shoulder to show what they are doing like playing a game, drawing, using an iPad or watching a grader.
In the words of photographer Natalie Norton, “We don’t want to impose limitations on creativity. Take what you have learned here and modify it in a way that fits within the realm of your unique style. There is no wrong way. The right way is what you choose.”
Use candid shots and get natural expressions when the subject has his/her interest elsewhere. Cut the “cheese” and camera face.
Pre School photo
Go for authenticity. Let kids do their own thing. Shooting people how they really are makes photography editorial or photo journalistic. Take the challenge to shoot interesting characters and      tell a story or show emotion.
interesting characters, John Rogers