One of the great things about taking photos of people is their every-changing expressions, moods, and look in their eyes. When taking photos of people, you can have several opportunities at once. If you sat in a room with someone for an hour, how many different photos do you think you could get? Even just a slight turn of the head, an unexpected smile or a pensive look, will each give you a great photo subject. Ask your self, what is typical of this person? The way they move? Their gestures and their facial expressions?
The most wonderful thing about ‘people photography’ with a digital is that you can see what the picture of that person is like on the LCD even before you take it! You can position the light in the way you want it, take the picture and if it still isn’t right you can take another one until you are satisfied with the lighting. You can even do a few in black and white, a few in sepia and a few in colours, change the ISO as you go and generally have a fabulous time. Or you can just delete it there and then. You can try all this, plus shoot them at different angles, and everything between. And if you have colour filters…..well, you are only limited by your imagination.
It is always great taking photos of friends using your digital camera, because you can always show them the shots you have taken instantly. Of course they do always want to see the shots immediately. I tell them to wait, because it slows the creative process for me the photographer and it will make them too self conscious, when the best shots are natural and relaxed.
So in order to take great shots of people, you have to be artistic and natural, which is a combination of a good artistic eye, confidence in camera handling and usage, and confidence in your own ability. And attending to the technical aspects, as well, which is understanding composition and good lighting.
Taking good photos of people requires a good amount of pre-emption. You see a good photo of someone relies on their natural goodness to shine through. In order to do this, as a photographer, you need to be able to either bring this out or capture it. The best thing to do is pretend as if you were a fly on the wall and pretend that they can’t see you if you are in a social situation. I have been asked to be the photographer at many social occasions because my own style of photography for people is candid. Candid is better. And when people see me and the camera and put on a posed, unnatural shot I simply turn away politely and wait until they are smiling and laughing and go back quickly and take the shot. They usually say “But I wasn’t ready!” And my reply is “exactly!”
If you are in this situation of a social environment like a dinner or a party, and you want good natural shots of people, then the first thing to do is watch people for a while. When you watch people you can then establish the relationships they have, who they naturally levitate to and how they settle into a conversation. Once you have seen this, then you can mentally assess when the best time to take the picture will be.
What you are doing is getting a feel for what the emotions and energy of the people is like. The energy of the people will determine your photograph.