Activity and Expression

The ability to capture the true personality of the subject we are photographing might not be as hard as we think. Surely getting candid expressions might be daunting but there are ways to make them believable. Psychologically, it is better to relate to your subject to produce a great portrait photograph. Talking to them and trying to let them open up will build confidence between the subject and the photographer thus the subject will feel calm and able to express naturally. Portrait photography revolves around the subject’s personality, so it is the photographer’s job to let his/her personality show in the photograph. Sometimes a pre-session (informal) meeting with the subject gives the chance to find out their personality and get a feeling of how they act and express themselves in different situations.

Another way to ease the situation and achieve the natural and candid feel of a portrait photograph is location portraiture. The aim of portrait photography is to show the subject’s personality and perhaps lifestyle. What more helps than putting your subject in his/her own natural habitat (either home or work)? Asking your subject to get involved in what he/she likes (a hobby for example) will help tell more about them, their hands will have something to do (obviously) and you as a photographer will be able to achieve your candid shot. In contextual or location portraits, the props and surroundings will play a big role in the photograph. However, the photographer’s job is to emphasise the subject not its surroundings. The surroundings should add to the subject but not overtake it.

What we really want in pictures is the real un-fake expression we get out of our subject. Thus it is unwise to (ask) someone to smile, but try to (make) them smile by saying something such as a joke or a small talk. Expressions can tell a story in a photographs so we should look for a candid moment, we should learn how to capture it and be aware of the various expressions that are (unique). Chris Orwig author of (People Pictures) suggests that we look at different artists for portraits inspiration and see what makes one better than the other in terms of the strong feeling it conveys.

Bibliography / References:

Hunter, B (2010) Children’s Portrait Photography Handbook. 2nd ed. New York: Amherst Media Inc.

New York Institute of Photography (1978, 1993) Location Portraiture. Revised 1998. New York: New York Institute of Photography.

Orwig, C (2012) People Pictures – 30 Exercises for Creating Authentic Photographs. Berkeley: Peachpit Press.

Wasmuth, S (2011) Mamarazzi Every Moms’s Guide to Photographing Kids. Indianapolis: Wiley.


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