Genealogy: Photographing people

Genealogy: Photographing peopleFor over 40 years I have used the camera to capture the lives of my family and friends.  The camera has been a very important tool in my professional career in public relations and advertising.  I first started with a film camera and spent hundreds of wonderful/fun hours in a dark room developing and printing my on prints.  Since the late 90’s I have used the digital camera extensively in to aid in my genealogical research.

I would like to share with you a few of the lessons I have learned when photographing people.

  1. 1. Enjoy taking photographs:
    1. Don’t work too hard to position your subject.
    2. The goal is for him or her to relax and fall into a natural pose.
    3. Try shooting in your subject’s favorite place, or at least a comfortable place.
    4. Meaningful props–like a trophy, a musical instrument, or even a fish–can add interest.
  2. 2. Take close “tight” photos of your subject:
    1. Fill the camera’s LCD display with your subject to create pictures with greater impact.
    2. Step in close or use your camera’s zoom to emphasize what is important and exclude the rest.
    3. Check the manual for your camera’s closest focusing distance.
  3. 3. 3.    Take candid pictures:
    1. Ignore the impulse to have subjects pose by staring at the camera.
    2. Take a variety of shots.
    3. Take candid photos of subjects working, playing, and leaning against a banister chatting, or relaxing.
  4. 4. Use natural light:
    1. Cloudy, overcast days provide best lighting for pictures of people.
    2. Bright sun makes people squint and it throws harsh shadows on their faces.
    3. On overcast days the soft light flatters faces.
    4. Indoors, try turning off the flash and use the light coming in from a window to give your subject a soft appearance.
  5. 5. Avoid harsh shadows:
    1. Avoid harsh facial shadows by using the soft lighting of a cloudy day or a shady area.
    2. On sunny days, if your camera has several flash modes, select fill flash. This will fire the flash even in bright sunlight. This “fills” the shadows on nearby subjects, creating more flattering portraits in direct sunlight.
    3. Check your camera’s manual.