Hints and tips from Philip Grosset

First, I'd suggest that much of the advice already given about photographing children applies to people of any age:
  • Show them busily engaged in something that they like doing, and that is really characteristic of them.
  • Include some pictures of them just smiling at the camera if this is what you want! Instead of just telling them to smile, though, do something that will make them smile more naturally. If your subject is looking self-conscious, ask him/her to look away for a moment before looking back at the camera. This way you may get a natural smile.
  • Don't make people squint into the sun. Either experiment with back or side lighting (if you have got it, using flash as a fill-in), or choose a bright cloudy day, or, failing that, position them in the shade. Try to avoid harsh mid-day lighting. With older people, aim for soft, even lighting which may (partly) conceal their wrinkles!
  • Choose a camera position that lets you see their faces really clearly.
  • Don't get ultra close, unless you really want to give your subjects extra large noses and tiny ears!
  • Avoid distracting backgrounds - and particularly any objects that look as though they are growing out of people's heads.
  • Arrange for your subject to lean towards you. This often produces a more lively result. It's also usually more flattering to look up at people from slightly below, as shown lower on this page.
  • Have everything ready so that you take the photo(s) as quickly as possible.

Man reading
An attempt to catch the character of the subject. He did not even know he was being photographed until the fill-in flash went off. The side-lighting meant that his face wasn't screwed up - and the dark out-of-focus background doesn't distract our attention.
Boy's face
This flash photo combines a happy animated expression with a natural but pleasantly undistracting background.
Baby laughing Baby crying
Sometimes you may choose to take pictures of people looking straight at the camera from the middle of the picture. Babies lend themselves to big close-ups - older people don't always find them flattering. But always try for a variety of expressions. Here, the differing backgrounds are appropriate to the different moods - but this was sheer coincidence!

Boy from below Boy from above
As mentioned previously , it is usually more flattering to look up at your subject, as on the left. If you look down at him, as on the right, you produce a much more distorted view.

Girl: portrait format
Girl: landscape format
Most portraits are better suited to a vertical (or portrait) format, as on the right. The horizontal (or landscape) format on the right can often leave unwanted empty areas on each side of the subject. The attractive cut-out effect was achieved using a photo editing program. Photo by Helen Williams.

Soft focus Out of focus
Take your pick: a sharp picture (on the left) or a soft focus one (in the middle). The soft focus effect can be used to hide wrinkles on older people, or to glamourise younger ones. It is easiest obtained using a photo imaging program like Photoshop when a slightly blurred layer can be superimposed on the sharp one. Notice that soft focus is not the same as out of focus (shown on the right). With soft focus, much more detail is retained. With out of focus, everything is blurred. I myself prefer the sharpest version.
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