Everyone loves nice pictures of the people in their lives. But so often, our pictures of our friends just aren’t quite as good as we might hope. Maybe they’re blurry, maybe people’s eyes are glowing red as a result of a flash — maybe there’s just no “wow” factor.
Here are tips for taking better photos of your friends, helping capture those memories forever.
Photos via Laurence Norah, findingtheuniverse.com
1. Don’t forget the rules of composition
Regardless of what you are taking pictures of, the basic rules of composition remain the same. With people, you’ll still want to apply the rule of thirds, keeping your subject off-center. You’ll also want to think about how to frame your shot, how to make your subject stand out, and how to make sure the story you are telling is clear. Once you’ve got that in mind, you’ll want to:
2. Make your friends comfortable
Few people are naturals at having their photos taken, and photos of people looking uncomfortable, smiling unnaturally or standing awkwardly won’t look great.
Since you’re shooting your friends, it shouldn’t be too hard to make them feel more comfortable, even if you are pointing a camera in their direction. If you can make them laugh with a joke or a smile, or just chat with them for a bit before starting to shoot, you will end up with more relaxed subjects.
If that doesn’t work, a glass of wine can work wonders. Or, you could:
3. Try candid shots
Some of the best photos are those that capture a moment, and usually those aren’t posed. Keep your eye out for those moments, and try to capture them.
Always keep in mind your subject positioning and image composition when grabbing these shots, and be sure you know how your camera works — there’s nothing worse than something wonderful happening in front of you, but failing to capture it properly because your camera was in the wrong mode.
4. Learn how light affects the look of people
Our facial features are a fascinating range of nooks, crannies and protrusions. As the light hits these from different directions it casts shadows, which can significantly change how a face appears — think how strange people look when they shine a flashlight from below up onto their face!
Ideally, you want an evenly lit face, which means either finding good natural light to start with, or using a flash in “fill mode” to even out the shadows. You definitely want to avoid dark shadows, and you will likely find shooting in the middle of the day will cause you problems — head for shady spots if you can.
If you don’t have a flash, a reflector can help, even just a piece of aluminum foil can help reflect the light and even out shadows.
5. Get your angles right
The best angle for shooting people is eye level or slightly above, up to around 20 degrees. Don’t shoot from below — this will result in less than flattering results. Of course, you can achieve some interesting effects when shooting from way below or way above your subject, but that’s for the last part of this post.
6. Use the right lens
Taking great pictures of people is easier with the right equipment, although great equipment of course doesn’t automatically mean great results.
Shooting people with a lens equivalent to around 85mm and up will soften features, and give a more flattering result. Try to keep away from close up shots using wide angle lenses if you can, these will result in oddly distorted facial features that your friends will not thank you for!
7. Get creative
Give your friends props. Come up with a theme. Go to an interesting location. There are lots of ways you can be creative in photography and try something that will give you unique and interesting results that will stand out.
8. Forget all the above
The best photos are often the ones that break all the rules — where composition seems to have been thrown out the windows and the light is doing crazy things. I’d not advise throwing the rules out of the window every time, but every now and again you should definitely try something new which may seem to go against all the advice in this post. Which is, I assure you, absolutely fine.