Photographing unique people
How to photograph people to capture their unique qualities

We are all unique

When I am first introduced to the children that I am to photograph, they are a little shy and when they get to know me they become very friendly (most of them).  They are playful and fun, not afraid to fall or do something that others might consider stupid.  They try things without even thinking about whether they will be able to do it or not.  They show off, proud of being able to catch a ball or ride a bike.

As they get older, they lose that playfulness.  They get much more concerned with what people think of them.  They seem to lose a part of who they are in an effort to fit in.

Each of these people have a special and unique look and personality and it is up to me or you,  the photographer, to find it and capture it even if it is hidden.

Here are 12 trips to capturing the uniqueness in each of the people that you are going to photograph.

1.  Watch people as you just sit and watch, you will start to see differences in people, the way they sit, use their hands and their expressions.  Are they shy or confident, outgoing or introverted, happy or melancholy?    Are they tough and love sports or do they like to garden?  Do they love to be around people or enjoy their own company?

You get the picture, to capture the unique qualities in a person; it helps to know a little about people in general.  The better you get at understanding the uniqueness in people the better you will be at capturing that.

As you watch people describe in your mind what they are doing and how you will get someone that you are photographing to do something similar.

Examples would be:

Run your fingers through your hair

Put your knee up and wrap your hands around your knee

Put your thumb in your pocket

Stand with you knee bent


Thinking about how to explain what you want done will help you to remember and have ideas when you are photographing people.



2.  Watch the person that you are going to photograph before you start.  This is where you see the uniqueness in the person, do they look best when they smile or when they are more serious?  Do they have a special look or expression that is them?  Do they hold their body in a special way?

Each person has unique moves and expressions that you can capture.

3. Get to know the person that you are photographing.  Chat with the person for a while and you will find out if they are sports fans or if they play any sports.  You will find out what their true loves are and that will help you with the props and settings that you should use.

4.  Chose the appropriate setting or locations.  If you find out that someone loves their garden, motorbike, pets, the beach or history, you will have an idea of what  locations are best for them.   With their help you can choose the very best sport for their personality.

You don’t have to stick to one location and you can often find different locations that are close or even different looks in the same location.

5. Once again when you find out what people love, you can find the best props to go along with their picture.  I have found that some people's expression changes when they are with their pet or grandchild. They get an expression or look, call it a twinkle in their eye when they are with the people or things that they love.

Having a few different props that suit the personalities of the person that you are photographing and encouraging people to have a few different things that they love around them, will go a long way in making your photo shoot perfect.

6. Have fun with them and encourage them.  Photographing people definitely does NOT have to be a serious occasion.  It can be depending on the picture that you want to capture.  Having fun and trying different things will get you to a place where the person you are photographing gets comfortable with you and being photographed and that is when the true uniqueness of the person comes out.

People need to know that what they are doing is perfect and the person that you are photographing needs to be encouraged.  Sometimes, especially with children, when they do not get feedback and you keep telling them to do different things, they get the feeling that what they are doing is wrong and they start to feel uncomfortable.  Let them know that they are doing great.

7.  Let them be themselves.  People often ask how to pose and what you want them to do.   They feel uncomfortable and want your guidance.  This is where the interacting that you did with them in the beginning comes in.  You have watched them and you know how they like to sit, stand and interact.  Guide them into situations and positions that you know they are comfortable in.  Ask them to do things that you saw them doing earlier and they may start to pose naturally on their own.

Some people love to do their own thing but others like direction.  Go with what makes them feel most comfortable.

8.  Let them know that all the pictures don’t have to be great you will capture the great ones in between.  Some photographers don’t shoot unless they have a perfect shot and if that is your style, go with it.  I prefer to capture lots of pictures.   I have found that if the person that I am photographing feels that I am not happy, they start to get uncomfortable so I take pictures even when I know that they are not perfect.  I do get the perfect ones.

9.  Use some of their ideas.  Ask them what they want to do.  They might have some very good ideas.

10.  Do something crazy.  Depending on the personality of the person, ask them to do something that they would not expect.  Stick out their tongue, make an ugly face or laugh out loud.  You can think of other things.  Have your camera ready, its not the ugly face that you want, it’s the expression that they make before and after they make the ugly face that is sometimes worth catching.

10.  Talk to them.  Sometimes in conversation, depending on what the topic is, you can get some really special expressions.  You may need to keep changing the subject before you hit on a topic that works.

11.  Interact with them and help them relax.  By carrying on a friendly conversation and letting the person that you are photographing know that what they are doing is perfect, you will get them at ease and they will relax and have fun with the photo shoot.

12.  Take your time do not rush.  When you go to photograph a person or family you need to know that you have more time than you think you will need.  Take time before to get comfortable with them and get used to their expressions and body movements.

Take time with the shoot and do not try to rush to finish.  By relaxing and being chilled you will have a much better shoot.

But do not extend it longer than you have to.  It is tiring and takes a lot out of the people that you are photographing. 

As I said at the beginning, always remember, you are photographing people, each one is special, and each one is unique.  Each one has a very special personality that you are there to capture.



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