Look at the Baby!
Credit: Julie McElroy

Aside from landscape and animal shots, most photographs include people.  People make a photo more interesting. Taking snapshots that include friends and family make it more likely people will pause while looking through your vacation pictures. There are a few tricks that can help make these photos even better.

The few rules to portrait photography can be broken and still result in good images. However, I would like to pass on some tips to help novice photographers improve their image taking.  I am not a professional photographer, but as an avid traveler and writer, I have learned a few tricks over the years to add photos to my articles and blog posts.

1. Make it Personal

When photographing people, include something that makes it more personal about the individual or group of people.  One of my favorite type of photos are images that show children in what appears to be a natural environment. Photos of them playing or laughing are more appealing than in a rigid pose.  I try to take shots that tell stories and capture a bit of the true spirit of the people being photographed - making it much more personal.

2. Capture Fun Shots

If you have a skill at being stealthy, capture people when they are having fun. Some people don't like to smile in a photo or force false smiles making the picture dry and boring.  Sure, you could ask them to say "cheese" and snap away.  But if you want natural smiles and laughs you need to capture them in the moment. Victorian styled portraits have their place for formal photos on the mantel, but spontaneous pictures will induce the fun memories.

3. Always be Ready

Those spontaneous shots are easier to capture if you always have your camera ready. This is especially true when a lot of activity is taking place.  Think about picnics, the beach, carnivals, and concerts.  These are all activities that create laughter, so having your camera ready means you won't miss those special moments. How many times have you said, "I wish I had my camara for this!"?  Make sure you have a charged battery and the right settings.

4. Catch people in Natural State

Often times, the best photos are captured when people are not posing, or in their natural state. Encourage people to act normally as they would every day, then capture the shot when they don't expect it.  Timing is important here.  Click when the person is not moving around a lot or has their back t you.  Use your zoom lens so you are not right next to them.  It is hard to stay naturally when a camara is right in your face.  


Children in Conversation
Credit: Julie McElroy

5.  Take Photographs Outside

 When you are capturing photos of people in their natural state, it is easier outside.  Children will be playing. Adults are participating in some sort of activity and will forget you are there.  The lighting is natural, and the scenario offers a more interesting scene compared to an indoor background. When you are taking photos outside, include settings like mountains, trees, lakes, or attractive man-madeobjects or buildings. The background can be as important as the subject you are photographing, which leads me to my next point.

6. Consider the Background

Ensure the background is pleasing to the eye without distracting away from the image. Choose subtle colors that do not draw the viewer away from the subject.  For example, a red image will cause the eye to  immediately look at it, pulling attention away from the main subject. Subtle colors will add some depth to the photo without distracting from the subject.

7. Change the Shooting Angle

For many novice photographers, taking a straight shot with the subject right in the middle is common. Change the angle to make it more interesting.  Consider an angle from below with the subject looking down. Or a crooked shot. The subject may blur into the background if the main focus is something else. 

8. Be different

Photography is more of an art than a science.  Have fun.  Be different. Use your creative imagination to capture images that stand out. If everyone else takes a picture in front of a famous building, take one behind the building or looking out from the building.  Do something out of the ordinary. Have the people in your picture facing different directions, or looking away from the camara. Be creative!

Get Out There and Have Fun!

My last tip is get out there and take pictures!

9. Practice

Just like any hands-on hobby, you have to practice.  Physically get out there and take pictures. Practicing with a variety of angles, lighting, action shots, and backgrounds will help you learn the different settings on your camara.  

You can read a dozen books and visit every photography website out there, but there is no substitute for learning by experience. You may not have people to take pictures of, but if you head out to a park, a festival, or a shopping mall, you are going to find subjects.  

Just understand that some people don't want to be photographed, and you may have to obtain permission if you are going to publish the photos.