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Gesture photography

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012 by | Filed Under: Digital Photography

Gesture photography is nothing more than capturing any movement of the subject while you are engaged in portrait photography. Just the way active voices are better than passive voices in the English language, action shots are better than posed ones. Here is where gesture photography comes to your rescue and turns this into a form of art. Follow these tips and you are on your way to creating photographs of everlasting value.

CC image courtesy of Ronn Ashore

Start with a pose
This works for just about anybody, but more so for senior citizens. With age showing on their face and hands, just a smile at the camera or even a stare right into the camera’s lens works like magic.

Keep working
Now that you are done shooting in a posed state, don’t shut off your camera. Keep it rolling even while telling the subject that you are merely adjusting the lens for the next shot. The subject loses his stiffness immediately and does what he does best: relaxes. It could be a wave of the hand to her friend who has come to watch the photo shoot. It could be straightening her dress, looking down. It could be leaning against the wall for some breath or even yawning. All these candid moments capture the subject the way they are in real life, making your photographs all the more authentic and timeless.

CC image courtesy of Hamad Al-Mohanna

Make them jump
If patience is not your virtue, you can still resort to gesture photography with this time-tested technique. Make the subject jump up and down, or run and crawl. This works because the moment the person does any of this, they lose their inhibitions and you capture the subject the way they look when they engage in an activity. Now, invest some emotions into it by asking your subject to either growl or say something like ‘hip hip hurray’, and you’ve ‘created’ your Kodak moment.

CC image courtesy of PFV

Go with silhouettes
Sometimes, silhouettes tell a story better than a brightly-lit color photograph – and if these silhouettes are in black and white, it gets even better. It could be anything from a jockey patting his horse after a hectic session on the field, or two children looking at each other and smiling their crinkly smiles. Even parents waving at their relatives when they get down from the plane can make an impact. You might argue that not all of these are perfect for creating silhouettes, but then again, what’s Photoshop for? Use it to darken the entire picture to only reveal the outlines of your subject and presto, your gesture silhouette is ready.

CC image courtesy of VickyTH

Mirror, mirror on the wall
Sometimes your subjects lose all their inhibitions when looking at their reflections. Capitalize on it by asking them to look at the mirror and adjust themselves before the shoot. While they are at it, take a close-up shot of them with their mirror image and also a far-flung shot of them in the center of the hall, checking out their reflection.

Cc image courtesy of TheQspeaks

Water, water everywhere
Another trick to get the subject to relax and capture them is to use a garden hose. On a cue, ask your assistant to aim the water at your subject and capture the moment. Make sure, you do this as your last shot of the photoshoot. And don’t just stop there – shoot while your assistant is apologizes for it. The subject’s ‘no problem’ gesture, the surprise ‘smile’, the surprise ‘ shriek’, the ‘helpless’ soggy look… all these add so much drama to your pictures. Remember, though –  you have to know your subject to do this, so this tip comes with a warning.

~Zahid H Javali

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One Response to “Gesture photography”

  1. Trish says:

    Zahid, I’ve never done a lot of portrait photography, preferring landscape & wildlife, but when I do portraits I use your philosophy – make them be or do silly and you get great portraits. Like the 5 yr old putting a spoonful of chocolate in her mouth and all over her face. I can’t wait to show her boyfriends when she gets older. Thanks, keep the ideas coming, we’re listening, Trish

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