Tips for People and Portrait Photography

People can make interesting subjects when it comes to photography. They are, unfortunately, not as easy to photograph as you might like. Some people like having their photographs taken and will happily pose for the camera, whilst there are others who feel uncomfortable in front of the camera, and it can really show in their facial expressions and the way in which they hold their bodies. 

If you want to take pictures of people, whether candid photographs or portrait ones, then there are some things that you may want to consider in order to make the process as smooth as possible. 


When you work in portrait photography, communication is key. To some extent this applies to any instructions that you might have for your model; things like turning a little to the left, or to the right, looking away from the camera etc. However talking to your model and putting them at ease is also really important. The more comfortable they feel in your presence the more likely they are to smile, a comfortable smile not a forced one. This will help them to relax, which will make your photographs seem more natural. 

Get closer

If you are taking more candid shots of people and don’t want them to be particularly posed, then don’t make the mistake that so many photographers do. Yes, you can take the photograph from further away and edit it to bring your subject closer, but when you do this, you will lose some of the integrity of your shot. Be confident. If you approach the person you want to photograph in the right way, they may well be happy to have their photograph taken. It is your job as the photographer to make them feel comfortable so break the ice, tell them why you want to take their photo and let them make the decision. 


No matter what type of photographs you take, the key rule is that practising will help you to improve your skills. It can be a good idea to practice taking pictures of people you know rather than strangers or clients. This will help you to improve your skills and feel confident. People can often sense when you don’t feel comfortable. Practice will help you to feel more comfortable taking images of people and this in turn will give others more confidence in you. If you want some top tips and tricks from other photographers, a photo sharing site is a great place to gain some inspiration and connect with fellow portrait photographers. 


The setting that you take a photograph of someone in is just as important as the person themselves. When they are in a familiar setting, one in which they feel comfortable they will be more relaxed, and this will show in your photographs. If you put them in a setting they are unfamiliar with or one that makes them feel uncomfortable then your images will not capture the real essence of the person in front of you. 

The setting itself will help people to understand your photograph. Include some of it in the picture but not too much that it detracts from the person who is the real subject of your photograph. 

Consider behaviour

Taking candid photographs of people is in part an exercise about understanding human nature and being aware of how your subject will react in a particular situation. Someone in a restaurant will look up on the approach of a waiter, people, not all of them, will normally smile when they see a baby, or frown when there is a child acting up nearby. 

At a sports event people will react when a goal is scored, regardless of their team – although obviously their reactions will be different depending on which side they are supporting. 

Anticipate, and be prepared for what should happen.