People Photography


People photography is one of the main reasons many buy cameras. Maybe it's to get pictures of your kids as they grow up, maybe it's to record memories with friends and family. Or maybe you would like to make photography a career one day and shoot weddings. All good reasons....

Unfortunately, people photography is also one of the hardest things to do well. And let me say right now that I am not really a "people photographer."  It's not an area of photography that I work in much.

That's because people photography is all about conveying "who" someone is, the way they feel at a particular moment, or who they are pretending to be in the case of model photography. This is very hard because people "change" the moment you point a camera at them....all of a sudden it becomes "important" and "serious", and then everyone becomes self conscious.

So how do you overcome that? Well, if it's friends and family it's easy..... you pester them non-stop until they eventually start to ignore you. Take pictures constantly. Don't even worry about them being any good, they won't be. The point is to get them comfortable with having a camera pointed at them so the pictures CAN be good. Tell them you are just "practicing" and the pictures won't even be saved. Delete them all. Eventually they will relax and realize that it doesn't *really matter.*

But what about the rest of the people?

This is where it gets really hard. It's all up to you. You have to communicate well and get people to relax, to be "themselves." You have to be able to give direction without making it serious. You have to be a "people person." If you're not a people person you better start learning how to "fake it." Eventually, if you fake it well enough and for long enough, you will become more of a people person.

So, what's the key? There isn't one. Every individual has their own personality and their own insecurities that you are going to have to manage. But there is one thing that can help....


Walk in their shoes. If you at least truly understand what it's like for you to be on the other side of the camera, then you can empathize with your subject. If you can truly understand what it's like to try to follow/understand directions, and the tension it can create, then you can become "better" at giving direction.


So here's the first assignment for people photography:

Walk in their shoes:

Your assignment is to give your camera to someone else and have them take pictures of you. Put the camera on the big "professional P" and hand it over. The goal for the pictures should be casual and convey something of you. Have them give you direction on what to do and how to position yourself. If they ask you to do something goofy, do it. 
Relax! It's not "serious"; the camera isn't going to steal your soul.

BTW, giving the camera to your child is cheating! 


The point here isn't to get a good picture; you probably won't. The point is to listen and to understand. "Feel" what it's like to be on the other side of the lens.... What could they do to make you "feel better?" What could YOU do to make you feel better? 

What could they say differently? HOW might they say it differently that would make it "easier" for you? 

What makes it "ok" to do something goofy and have it recorded?

And how can you incorporate this understanding into your approach towards working with others?

The point of this assignment is introspection. If you can understand yourself then you can understand ninety percent of other people. When you get right down to it, we're all pretty much the same.


If you're the type of person for whom this assignment is easy...well, then you'll probably never understand the rest of us. BUT, you're probably EXACTLY the kind of person who can make this easier for the rest of us.

Yeah, that's me 3 yrs. ago...Image is titled "no-bag". I think I have less hair now.

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