So you've got the equipment, you've got the top notch camera, the lighting, the studio, the backdrop and even the perfect weather - everything you need for a portrait photography shoot right? Wrong. The key behind all photographs that contain a living and breathing subject is to have the natural look.
Just like the key to a conceptual shot is having the idea, the key to portraiture photography is having the eye. Co-operative subjects help too!
I have especially found in the past, that people develop a pained and strained look on their face when the camera is pointed in their direction. Interestingly enough, it happens more often at Weddings. The bride and groom quite often develop the look that they might have when they've just finished writing out the cheque for me to photograph their big day...
Then, quite suddenly one day, I got it. It was when a stunning bridesmaid at a wedding lifted her hands in front of her face and squealed when I clicked the camera in her direction. I have always
hated having my photograph taken. I just thought that was because I wasn't the photogenic kind. I never expected it from people who radiated through the lens yet it's more common than I would have thought. So that day was mind blowing for me, and a struggle too because I realised that People Photography is not easy.
Here's how we can start to get around that...
Build up a rapport with your subjects. People are people, they love to talk. If they don't love to talk they'll soon learn to prefer it over staring down the lens of a camera. If you're subject is a child then ask them about things, if they're holding something question what it is and where it came from. Ask about their day. Treat them as an equal, and snap away whilst they contemplate responding.
Learn to read your subjects. Often with lots of crowds and people around, your subjects will shy away from being natural in front of the camera. Respect this and allow them their privacy, hold off on shooting until the area clears or move somewhere where you can have a bit more peace and quiet.
Hands are the biggest issue going - however sometimes if you're just shooting head and shoulders it's easy to disregard hands. But give your subject something to hold or a pose to make, even if it's not going to be in the shot, and they'll settle almost instantly. Quite often it gives a direction of focus for the eyes too and you'll get a sultry moody up-look which looks amazing in shots!
Make use of things around you such as walls, gates, fences and even chairs if available. Especially if you are concentrating only on a subjects face, it can be really useful to sit them down so they can be at ease.
Give direction - most people don't know what to do behind the camera, and they tend to lack all shreds of confidence! Give them direction, tell them what you need and the expectation will be taken off of them to second guess you.