Show Some Personality
To begin, I just want to say that portrait photography goes beyond photography! It’s all about judging a perfect stranger and coming to terms with what he or she best symbolizes. It could be haughtiness, confidence, innocence, etc. But the real question is: how do you capture those traits in a photograph? Well, keep reading and you might just find out!
Bring Out Their Personality
Simply put, watch your subjects. Watch their mannerisms, their body language, the way they speak and the way they express their emotions. Who knows, maybe it’s their perfect front teeth that could prompt you to take their smiling photo. Perhaps it’s their serious look that adds many more layers of wisdom to their persona. Or, maybe it’s their ability to make faces that take your portrait photography to a whole new level. But, no matter which way you look at it, capturing what makes them tick should be your goal. And here’s how you can detect that!
This one works all the time! Give your subjects some alone time. Ask them to continue what they’re doing, whether it be issuing orders to their co-workers or gardening at home. Just observe their movements and be ready to capture them at a moment’s notice and without the subject’s knowledge. That can be achieved by telling the subject you’re doing some “test shots” to check the lighting, mood and so on. By saying that, you remove the subject’s anxiety toward the photo shoot and they will act more like themselves.
It’s important to get to know your subjects before you embark on capturing their personality on your memory card. That’s why it’s best to set aside considerably more time for the shoot than what you had originally intended. The success of portrait photography lies within being patient and investigating the subject a lot more. Once you know what the subject’s traits are, the shoot is as good as done.
So, how do you investigate? It’s simply done by asking questions and being straight forward. It also helps if you try to be genuinely interested in who they are. If you take the time to ask about their likes and dislikes, chances are, your subject will open up much more. You’ll then be able to get a better feel for who they are as a person. Once you do that, your pictures will speak for themselves!
Know the Details
“God is in the details.” That old saying works well with portrait photography as well. It’s important to observe the subject to be able to focus in on things they are good at. Does your subject sneeze often? Do they photograph better on one side as opposed to the other? Do they twitch a lot? Do they have to keep adjusting their glasses? Do they hate sunlight? Are they more at home with nature or with gadgets? Those are just a few examples of the little tendencies you can see in your subject that will help you decide what best suits their persona.
There’s nothing like breaking the ice and getting to know your subject better. Observing them and asking them a few questions might get you answers, but you still may not be able to capture a Kodak moment. For that to happen, you need to gain your subject’s respect. You need to guide them through the emotions you want to capture with your conversation by talking to them, making them laugh and essentially, making them be themselves. Once you establish that rapport, you will come away with tons of great pictures. It could be the wry smile, the casual glance, the contemplative profile, the creased forehead, the sparkling eyes, the terse lips, the animated face and so on. But, if the subject doesn’t know you, they will be stiff as a collar and you will end up with photographs that don’t represent them at all.
Here’s to letting a little personality shine through in your photos!
~ Zahid H. Javali