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Photographing people offers challenges that can be different to taking a photograph of a landscape, still life or something else. 

  • People Move.   The subject can move. If they move fast, a fast shutter speed may be needed to keep the subject in focus (so the photo is not blurred). Because people move, sometimes the photographer needs to work fast before they move away from the camera.
  • People Dress Differently.    The same person can look different according to the clothing or make up they wear. Similarly, dress and make up can be used to make different people appear alike.
  • The subject can be changed.   When you photograph a statue, you can change the time you take the photo, the equipment you use, or the placement of the camera; in fact anything external to the subject can be changed, but the subject (ie. the statue) is always the same. Unlike inert objects (or most landscapes in the short time frame), living subjects (animals and people) can change considerably from moment to moment.
  • Peoples Moods can be Uncontrollable.   To capture the best portrait of a person you need to have them in an appropriate mood. A person can, for instance, appear happy one day and sad the next. An individual may co-operate with one photographer and not with another. Such considerations can, and probably will, impact upon the final image which the photographer captures.


Glamour Portrait Photography
The main objective of this style of photography is to lift the subject or model out of their daily reality and take flattering photos of them.  There is an art to using light and shade, cropping, posing, make-up, filters, styling and lens selection to enhance the most attractive aspects of a person and disguise those they may find less desirable.  More than just a cosmetic skin smoothing and toning effect, however, the real art lies in bringing out someone's inner beauty.  

Bringing out someone's inner beauty requires not only an ability to see their inner beauty, but an ability to make your subject comfortable and relaxed.  A countenance that allows them to play and reduces any self-consciousness they may feel.  In addition to allowing spontaneous play, however, you should be well prepared for the shoot and have a list of shots already planned in your head before they arrive. Concentrate on the models eyes and look for that expression in them you want to capture. It also helps if you mirror the look you want with your eyes and ask the model to look into your eyes; this should influence them to copy your eye and facial gestures. Much of glamour photography is about capturing the eyes that will bring the viewer into the image, to give that special connection. Although not ‘a glamour’ shot, one of the most memorable photographs of all time is Steve McCurry’s image of ‘The Afghan girl’ for National Geographic. The connection with the eyes in that image is truly remarkable.

When working with a model ensure the directions are clear and precise, including not only physical  the posing instructions but emotional cues also when necessary. Use your hands to direct the model to the way you would like them to move and pose/ position themselves. Try not to use ‘move left’ and ‘move right’, as this leads to the confusion of ‘your left’ or ‘my left’. Remember the model is intensely focused and concentrating on their pose, so simple hand gestures and words help for better communication, between you and the model.

The photo shoot is generally broken up into stages.  Firstly there is an introduction -  these photographs that create the right mood and portray a theme.  Secondly, you aim to tell a story in great detail with the shots, and finally there is the experimental stage.  The experimental stage is where both the photographer and the model get to play with lighting, posing, composition and technique.

Setting, Clothing and Make-up
 Both the setting and  the clothing are obviously important.  Clothing which is too tight will pinch the skin and leave marks, or highlight fat and cellulite most people do not like to admit they have. Clothing which is too revealing may also show areas of fatty tissue that most people dislike to admit they have, and clothing which is too loose can make people look larger than they  naturally are.

Make-up such as foundation which may look fantastic under regular lighting conditions can look awful with a studio flash as the light can highlight the oil, creating glowing shiny spots rather than a matt smooth skin appearance.  Powder must be applied on top of the foundation.  Too much powder, however, can collect in creases and age the person.  Remember that photography captures everything in great detail so all make-up must be expertly applied and not overdone unless that is the look you require. A good practice is to use a professional makeup artist to complete the models makeup.  A well trained artist should also have a good knowledge of what foundation bases will give the skin a yellow, grey or blue tone in various types of lighting.

Like make-up hair styling can also be used to complement the subject and disguise less flattering features.  If the subject is your client, it would be wise to ask them how they like their hair.  There's nothing worse than taking a brilliant photograph of someone only to have them complain: ‘But there's a hair on my forehead’ or, ‘I never part my hair on that side’!  Of course many things can be fixed in Photoshop but the amount of time this takes in enormous when compared to the time it might take to sweep their hair aside or ask them to adjust their clothing.



Learn More with our Distance Education Course


The course aim is to take better photographs of people, and it provides a foundation for taking formal portraits through to informal group or crowd scenes. 

There are ten lessons as follows:
1.Introduction to Photography and Human Subjects
2.Equipment and Materials for Photographing People
3.Basic Techniques
4. Portraiture
5.Wedding Photography
6.Candid Photography
7.Nude Photography
8.Sports, Street & Action Photography
9.Fashion Photography
10. Folio Project
Amongst other things, you may do all of the following:
-Consider your needs for accuracy, speed, graininess, sharpness & colour
richness etc. in film for taking different types of people photos.
-What type of film would you suggest most appropriate for each of the
following situations:
a/ A wedding reception, indoors, in a restaurant.
b/ Family shots at a family picnic, (with aunts, uncles, grandparents,
parents & children etc) in a national park.
c/ Photographs of your spouse (or boyfriend or girlfriend) taken
at the beach, mid morning in summer.
d/ Portraits of a pretty girl standing in front of a city building at
-How does the positioning and lighting of the eyes affect a portrait?
-Choose two different people who you know, and who are of very different ages and personalities, and describe each.
-Explain how you would plan to take a portrait photo of each of these people, with the
aim of creating a unique image that reflects their personality.
-Explain the equipment, film, location, lighting and technique you would use for each, and how these things would all come together to create the image you plan for.


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