People Photography

People are probably the most popular photographic subject. More pictures are taken of women than of men, but children are the most popular subjects of people photography.

One tip for good people pictures – Don’t say “cheese!” Such pictures look like you’re gritting your teeth. If you must say something, say “bunny.” Really, a simple smile is best. Also, subjects should not be standing stiff like statues. Pictures are much more interesting when the subjects are engaged in some meaningful activity.

Different focal-length lenses can give quite different effects in people pictures.


The normal focal length (50mm) is best for full-length photos. 100mm is perfect for head and shoulders portraits. Longer focal lengths flatten the perspective too much to give a pleasing effect. 35mm or 28mm lenses are good for group pictures, but be sure to hold the lens level to avoid distortion. Wide-angle and fisheye lenses can distort features and give some really weird results. If this is the effect you desire, that’s great. Otherwise, be careful in your use of wider than normal focal lengths.

The best lighting for good modeling is to arrange the main light so that it falls on the subject at about a 45-degree angle from above and slightly to one side. In portraiture, the side of the face opposite the main light should be illuminated with a fill light of about 1/3 the intensity of the main light. In bright sunlight shadows should be filled in with flash. With some SLR cameras this can be a problem because the x-sync shutter speed may be too slow for a proper exposure (see the article on flash). If fill-flash is not practical, try using a reflector to fill the shadow areas. People don’t look good in pictures when their faces are partially-obscured by shadows.

A better picture will result if your subjects are engaged in some meaningful activity, rather than standing stiff like statues.

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Updated: September 22, 2014 — 6:23 pm
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