By Rick Sammon – Follow Rick on Twitter

These aren’t technical photography tips. Rather, these are some interesting thoughts on photographing people that were first published in my previous Wiley book, Rick Sammon’s Digital Photography Secrets. I share a condensed and modified version with you here because the information offers some perspective on photographing people. Here goes.

Overhead Lighting:
The majority of famous painters “illuminated” their subjects from above and to the left. For whatever reasons, we seem to like that kind of lighting.


Here are two pictures that illustrate that lighting technique. Hey, if it worked for famous painters and if it works for me, it will work for you!

Open Pupils: Pictures of people in which their pupils are open wide are typically preferred over those in which pupils are closed down. That’s one reason we like pictures of people taken in subdued lighting conditions—in the shade and on cloudy days, when a person’s pupils are open wider than they are in bright light and on sunny days.

Color Variation: We see colors differently at different times of the day, depending on our mood and emotional state. Before you make a print, look at it on your monitor at different times of the day to see if you still like your original version. You may want to tweak the color to get the look you like best. You can learn more facts about people pictures, and why we like them in one of my favorite books: Perception and Imaging, Third Edition: Photography–A Way of Seeing.


Make the Time
Here is another non-technical tip. It’s a philosophical tip about working as a photographer—well, working in general. I’ve told the following story at least a thousand times since 1979. It illustrates the point about wanting to do something and then doing it. While I was the editor of Studio Photography, the cover featuring Jaclyn Smith was my favorite. I thought she was exceptionally beautiful and I liked the photograph. My boss, Rudy Maschke, knew that. One day he came into my office and asked me to do something. I said, “Mr. Maschke, I’m too busy. I’m sorry I can’t do it right now.” He said, “Sammon, who do you think is the most beautiful girl in the world … aside from your wife, of course.” I replied, “Jaclyn Smith.” “Well, Sammon, if Jaclyn called you up right now and asked you to have lunch with her for 20 minutes, would you go?” “Sure.” He said, “Sammon, get to work.”

The point of this little story is that if you really want to do something, you’ll make the time and you’ll do it well. Keep that story in mind the next time you feel as though you don’t have the time to do something.

Here’s another thing I learned my Mr. Maschke: When there is not enough time to do something right, there is usually enough time to do it over. If you love what you do, you never have to work a day in your life!


This site is made possible by sponsorship from: