Photographing People In Social Situations

You know as much as I love digital photography (photographing trees, flowers and most pretty things that come from nature are my fav’s), people are still one of the most fascinating to photograph. Digital photography and people are a great combination. Wouldn’t you agree?

Let’s talk about this digital photography topic for a minute. People are so interesting in digital photography because what they say and what they do are two different things, until you get to know someone of course. Then you find them coupled with two sides; happiness and insecurity. That seems to be our mental make up. We’re happy and confident with many things, but so too are we worried and anxious about other things. It’s just how we are made. And digital photography can reflect this beautifully.

So what does this have to do with digital photography in the real sense?

Well my friend, this is good news. You see the best digital photos of people are the ones that are taken when they don’t know they’re being watched. I have tested this and it’s true. The same rings true fordigial photographs of people when they are not scared of the camera.

And goal of “people digital photography” is to take shots of people that make them look alive, happy, and connected to life. This can be especially challenging when we want to take lots of people shots are parties and get the guests looking this way. I’ve been in this situation many times and have found a good way to take great shos of people I don’t know, and have them just as I want them.


For starters in all aspects of people digital photography, you need to make people feel comfortable. That comes down to your communication and people skills. This entails getting their permission to take their photo. Most people will be happy to let you have a few if you promise to get what you want and go away! Others will be appalled at the idea of having their photo taken.

Okay so you’ve got these two types of responses. (There are more, but we’ll just stick with these two for this exercise.) The people who don’t mind having their picture taken with the promise that you’ll go away can be dealt with as follows:

Normally people at social occasions like weddings, birthdays etc will be talking to others in a group. You can go up to them and polite introduce yourself. You can apologise for interrupting and say to them that the hosts have asked you to take pictures for the night. Or you can say that as your gift to the birthday boy or girl you have offered to take the photos for the night. As a result ask them if it’s okay if you take a couple of natural shots and then you will be gone. You can assure them that it will only be a couple. And make sure you work out in your mind exactly the type of shot you want first so you don’t have to stand around saying “oh darn it, that wasn’t what I wanted, just wait until I get the shot I want.”

I guarantee you’ll here groans and see lots of eye rolling.

If you don’t want that, work out what you want and take it as quick as possible.

If you find that they fall into the second group of people by them hiding behind each other even before you’ve opened your money, simply because you’ve got a digital camera around your neck, then this can be dealt with this way.

Forget trying to change these people. If you tell them you are taking the digital photos for the host, and ask if it’s okay to get one group shot, then you will have more luck. Okay you may not get your lovely candid shot, but heck, it’s better than nothing.

You see my friend; good digital photography comes about through learning to compromise. Digital Photography being the creative medium that it is, means learning to take photos in less than ideal conditions. A good digital photographer will be able to work with these less than average conditions and still get relatively good photos. This does not apply in all situations of course, but most.

And let’s not forget the big “P” word. Patience. Patience and photography tend to go together a lot of the time. Especially with people. But when you can just wait a minute before snapping eagerly, perhaps waiting for the punch line when people are laughing, or when a friend walks in the door and there are hugs and greetings you can get sensational shots.

Really what I am saying is that just relax with people when you are photographing them. Just work with them in a friendly way and be calm always. Compliment them and tell them how good they look to relax them and make them feel at ease with you.

Amy Renfrey

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