April 15, 2009

One Photo, Seven Tips

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By Rick “RAW Rules” Sammon

Most photographers have a favorite photograph, or perhaps a few favorite photographs. One of mine is a picture that I took of three schoolgirls in Costa Rica in 2001. It’s been published many times, and is the main photograph on the cover of one of my books, Face to Face.

When I give a photography seminar, I use that image to illustrate my top tips when it comes to photographing people – tips that I’d like to share with you on this guest blog. But first . . . Scott, thanks for inviting me back!

#1
The camera looks both ways; in picturing the subject we are also picturing a part of ourselves. In other words, remember that the mood, feeling, emotion and energy that you project during a photo session will be reflected in your subject’s face – and in their eyes. That way, you’ll get a higher percentage of keepers, and fewer outtakes.

#2
Catch the light. Look at the eyes of these girls. They sparkle! That’s because the skylight behind me is being reflected in their eyes. That light is called catch light. You can create catch light with a flash, reflector or by positioning a subject in such a way so that the light from the sky is reflected in the subject’s eyes.

#3
See eye-to-eye. When you photograph a subject at eye-level, the viewer of the photograph can more easily identify with the subject than when you shoot from above or below eye level.

#4
Get up-close-and-personal. The closer you get to a subject, the more personal the photograph becomes for the viewer. That’s why I like to shoot street shots like this with a 17-40mm lens. For my photograph I set that lens to the 40mm setting. A 24-105mm lens is also a good choice.

#5
Make pictures, don’t just take pictures. These girls were playing in direct (unflattering) sunlight when I spotted them. For a more flattering picture, I asked them to move into a shaded area, where the quality of light was much softer.

#6
Focus on the eyes. When I photograph people, I set the focus (using the center AF point and focus lock) on the subject’s eyes. That ensures that the eyes – the most important element in the picture – will be in focus.

#7
Shoot RAW files. As I mentioned, my photograph of the three girls is one of my favorites. It is, however, technically flawed. Way back when in 2001, I was shooting JPEG files. Shame on me. Because my original was a bit overexposed, some of the detail in the girls’ white shirts is blown out. Ahhhhhh. Look closely and you’ll see that lack of detail. Had I shot a RAW file, I could have rescued those seemingly lost highlights, because you can rescue up to a stop of overexposed areas in a RAW file – in Aperture, Lightroom, Photoshop and Photoshop Elements.

Okay, I’m outta here. Catch you on the Photofocus podcast with my buddy Scott Bourne.

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About scottbourne

Founder of Photofocus.com. Retired traveling and unhooking from the Internet.

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