People Skills for Portrait Photographers

Taking great portraits is as much about people skills as it is about technical ability, or using the latest and greatest photographic equipment. Sure, refining your technical skills and knowledge may expand the extent of your capabilities, and using superior equipment may indeed boost your edge. But, unless you can first see through your subject’s eyes, and understand her as a unique individual, and then build rapport with her so you can unveil and accentuate her finest qualities, your portraits will remain mediocre at best. Some lessons learned along my journey as a photographer may help those who choose to follow.

1. If using a tripod, compose your portrait and then take one step just to the side and forward from the camera. Do not look through the viewfinder as you capture your subject’s image. This allows you to make eye contact initially with your subject, and then direct her in mood, expression, position, and the angle of gaze you are aiming for. When your subject interacts with your camera, the result can be a cold or lifeless rendering, but when you engage your subject through eye contact, expression, gestures and words, the result can be a warm and candid reflection, charged with mood or emotion.

2. If you are not using a tripod, you really should redouble your effort to maintain constant interaction with your subject. Many photographers tend to keep their eyes in the viewfinder of the camera, but this leads to your subject interacting more with the front glass in your lens than with you. Again, you do not want the sterile and lifeless rendering that most often comes when the camera serves to isolate you the photographer from your subject. Interaction with an inanimate object (your camera) can never be a substitute for interaction with another human being (you), when your goal is to capture the essence of your subject, and reflect the attitude and emotion she was feeling at that moment in time.

3. Allow your subject to be herself. A little girl dressed up in fairy wings for a special picture is very cute, and I suppose there is a place in this world for cute. But, contrast this with the little girl who just loves to dance. You put her in her everyday clothes, stand her in front of a plain backdrop, put on her favorite music and say to her, “can you show me how to dance to this song?” You should have no difficulty in capturing timeless expressions there. Now imagine a jeans and t-shirt kind of guy whose true passion in all of life is sailing. You dress him up in a tailored suit; formerly pose him in front of a low-key backdrop, seated in a Chippendale chair, and use classic loop lighting. What would be said of this portrait years later? “Who was this guy, an executive?” But just suppose, you photographed this same guy in his favorite t-shirt and blue jeans, at the helm of his beloved sail boat, on a beautiful late afternoon, just as the boat was coming about? What would be said of this portrait years later? “This was Charlie, doing what he loved most! That was such a glorious day.” The point is, “keep it honest”. Fantasy can be cute, but your subject being herself, years later this will be much more meaningful.

4. Allow your subject’s expression to be honest. A frown or a grimace that is genuinely felt can be more interesting than a smile that is forced. I try to never just pose my subject and then say, “Okay, now smile for me.” If you want your subject to smile then tell a joke, put on a face, or perhaps merely smile at her and she will smile back at you. People generally tend to reflect in their face what they see in yours, but in my experience this is not always so. Nevertheless, interaction with your subject is the key. That being said, the next time you have a difficult subject ask him to tell you a joke, to bring out a smile, if that’s the expression you are after. If you are a professional, you know that smiles sell, but if you’re an amateur, you are under no pressure to sell, so make your portraits interesting. Not everything in the world is to smile about.

5. Direct your portraits. Take control of the composition of your portraits! Do not be afraid to tell or show your subject what you want. Sometimes showing is best. I often find that actually demonstrating a pose I have in mind, works better than trying to direct my subject through words alone. If you are photographing a group, your life will be easier, if you arrange and pose the adults first. Then, work your way from oldest (or more mature and settled) to youngest of the children. The point to remember is, as the photographer, you should take charge of the shot. The success or failure of the portrait will be your responsibility, so take charge.

Engage your subject to establish and build rapport with her, to take your photos to a higher level. Make your portraits more meaningful by keeping them honest, and natural. We all know a fantasy photo can be cute, and a formally posed portrait can be graceful and dignified, if that is your subject’s personality. But, a portrait that is true to the subject is always more meaningful. Allow your subject to be herself, and never force an expression. Learn to take charge and direct your portraits and you will move far ahead in your journey as a photographer. Practice your people skills with each portrait you take. People skills are the prerequisite to all else, if you want to take great portraits.


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Google Picasa 2

Picasa 2

Picasa is Google’s software application for organizing, editing and sharing photos. At first glance, it seems to contain only the most rudimentary functions. However, upon further exploration, it proves to be a robust application with a minimal learning curve.


The first time Picasa opens, it scans your hard drive for photos, lists the system photos and displays thumbnails in a large adjacent window. It differentiates efficiently between “actual” photos and does not import system or temporary internet pictures.

The two basic organization options in the program work with existing Windows folders or with Picasa Albums. Working with Windows folders is much easier to use in Windows Explorer, so Albums work better in this instance. Picasa Albums are extremely easy to create and use, and they help to simplify the use of other options.

One outstanding feature is the Timeline option. It does exactly what it sounds like, sorting your folders by photo creation date. This is useful for chronicling a long family vacation or more easily organizing childhood photos.


There are three different sections to Picasa’s editing features: Basic Fixes, Tuning and Effects.

Picasa2’s Basic Fixes are basic, but one might consider them necessities. They include Crop, Straighten, Redeye, Auto Contrast, Auto Color, and Fill Light. One unique fix is the “I’m Feeling Lucky” option which optimizes the color and contrast levels and deepens bright and dark colors with just one click.

Tuning refers to Picasa’s lighting effects which allow you to manipulate the lighting in your photos by adjusting the Fill Light, Highlights, Shadows and Color Temperature.

The Effects section offers the most interesting editing options for your photos, containing Sharpen, Sepia, B&W, Film Grain, Tint, Saturation, Soft Focus & Glow. Some special effects include:

Filtered B&W. It turns your photo black and white as if you were using a colored lens filter. You choose what color filtered effect using the color picker and can see the differences in real time.
Focal B &W. It turns your photo black and white, while leaving a portion of your choice in color.
Warmify. It increases the warm tones, enhancing skintones.


After you are done organizing and editing, you can put all that hard work to good use by sharing your photos. Picasa contains a wide array of choices, most of which integrate seamlessly with some of Google’s other products. You can email, print, save to a Web Album, order prints, upload it to a Blogger blog. It also has a nice feature called the Gift CD which not only saves your photos, but also includes a built-in slideshow on your CD for easy viewing.


Google provides Picasa for free, but it can be invaluable for the digital photographer who wishes for more control over his or her photos.

To download Picasa, please visit:

There are some great books to be had on AMAZON that will help you improve your photography. Using books to self teach and learn is a good way to go for those on a budget. Check them out.

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The Great Things About Photography

Are you thinking about taking up the hobby of photography? Many who have already discovered this exciting and fulfilling hobby can tell you the top ten reasons why photography is so great. Maybe you will be captivated by this compelling and diverse art as well.

1. The Challenge of Getting the Perfect Picture
If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Sometimes a hundred shots have to be taken and you have to try for several days to get just the picture you want. An individual must have patience, but at the end of the day a great sense of accomplishment is felt from capturing the best part.

2. Tell A Story
From beginning to end of a snowball fight, with people throwing their first snowball and eventually rolling in the snow and then dusting off, you can see the event and it tells the story of friendship, fun and joy of life. Looking at pictures of an old family farm from its humble beginnings to the growth and increase over a hundred years it tells a story of family, hard work and sacrifice. Everyone has a story, photos can share that story and bring it to life.

3. Express Individuality
A photographer subject matter will reflect their interests, likes and preferences. A photo can also reflect the individuality of a subject. The clothes they choose to wear and the location they want the pictures shot all show who they are and their personality.

4. Joy and Laughter Increase
Anyone who looks at their first grade picture can attest to this fact. What is more fun than looking back at your younger years or seeing the awkwardness of adolescence? In your later years of life, seeing a picture of your family working or playing together warms your heart and lets you remember good times and better health. A photo lets us travel over the decades and brings back moments that make us laugh and carries us through the hard times.

5. See Things Truly As They Are
Somethings are so perfect the petals of a flower, the height of a Redwood, the still calm of the lake at dawn. They draw you in to the grace of nature and life in purity and simplicity. The sweet smile of a child reflects the goodness of life and all the hope for what we can become and achieve. This is what life is and who we are in it.

6. Solitude of the Dark Room
The magical atmosphere of the dark room leads you to discover the potential of the photograph. Lightness, darkness, shadows all are in the control of the photographer. It is a work done alone with your ideas and skills combined to bring out the story of the photo before you.

7. Understand the Emotions of Others
As you look over the events of history and witness the faces of those who endured the depression or see victims of the Holocaust you can see in their eyes what they have endured. Their faces portray their hearts and hurts and although you were not there, you understand what they carry with them a little more.

8. A Gift to Others of Their Most Precious Moments
After the couple returns from the honeymoon one of the first priorities is to get the wedding photos. One of the happiest days of their lives is recorded forever. When someone does something for you that you can’t do for yourself you feel indebted and forever grateful. It is a special gift to give someone their special memories and most cherished events.

9. Once You Capture a Moment You Can Display it
From the famous to the personal, photographs reveal lives of people. Some are placed in history books, some on the walls of a museum and some in the home. When they are displayed they are able to reach into the lives of others and stir emotion and thought. Photos are meant to be shared and seen.

10. The Only Way You Can Freeze Time
A photo is a moment frozen in time for a person to enjoy and remember whenever they want. The look, the expression, the emotion only happen for an instant. Although someone might carry it in their heart, with time the memory fades. If a photo is taken a child is able to see the happiness of their parents on their wedding day, a parent can see how small their child was the day they brought them home for the first time and all the years after as they grew to adulthood. All the birthdays, first days of school, vacations and friends can be captured and with you always. Time and space do not take a loved one from us when we can see them and the moments we share together, always.

About the Author:

Francesca Black enjoys photography as a hobby and manages content at Future Photo and Photo Wizard



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The GIMP !!

You want a full copy of Photoshop but the price puts you off ? Have you considered your other options.

The GIMP is a multi-platform photo manipulation tool. GIMP is an acronym for GNU Image Manipulation Program. The GIMP is suitable for a variety of image manipulation tasks, including photo retouching, image composition, and image construction.

GIMP has many capabilities. It can be used as a simple paint program, an expert quality photo retouching program, an online batch processing system, a mass production image renderer, an image format converter, etc.

GIMP is expandable and extensible. It is designed to be augmented with plug-ins and extensions to do just about anything. The advanced scripting interface allows everything from the simplest task to the most complex image manipulation procedures to be easily scripted.

One of The GIMP’s strengths is its free availability from many sources for many operating systems. Most GNU/Linux distributions include The GIMP as a standard application. The GIMP is also available for other operating systems such as Microsoft Windows™ or Apple’s Mac OS X™ (Darwin). The GIMP is a Free Software application covered by the General Public License [GPL]. The GPL provides users with the freedom to access and alter the source code that makes up computer programs.

The following list is a short overview of some of the features and capabilities which GIMP offers you:

A full suite of painting tools including brushes, a pencil, an airbrush, cloning, etc.

Tile-based memory management, so image size is limited only by available disk space

Sub-pixel sampling for all paint tools for high-quality anti-aliasing

Full Alpha channel support for working with transparency

Layers and channels

A procedural database for calling internal GIMP functions from external programs, such as Script-Fu

Advanced scripting capabilities

Multiple undo/redo (limited only by disk space)

Transformation tools including rotate, scale, shear and flip

Support for a wide range of file formats, including GIF, JPEG, PNG, XPM, TIFF, TGA, MPEG, PS, PDF, PCX, BMP and many others

Selection tools, including rectangle, ellipse, free, fuzzy, bezier and intelligent scissors

Plug-ins that allow for the easy addition of new file formats and new effect filters.

GIMP can be installed as an actual program to your computer and it may also be installed as a portable app that can be stored on a USB storage device or a section of your hard drive. Why not give it a try ITS FREE


There are some great books to be had on AMAZON that will help you improve your photography. Using books to self teach and learn is a good way to go for those on a budget. Check them out.

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People Pictures

What is it that people find irresistible about pictures of other human beings, what makes them special ?

We have all taken pictures of people of one sort or another, family, friends, celebrities, children, so why ?

I take lots of pictures of people because I find them to be most interesting of subjects. Capturing facial expression and body language are my main objectives, but doing it with interest and compassion, not to make the individuals look stupid or foolish but to try to capture something of their innate essence.

Looks of curiosity, happiness, friendliness, sometimes fear or confusion are all things that can generally only be caught in humans.

Much of my work is done on the street where I do not know the people who I photograph, not formal portraiture done in a studio, and this in itself is part of the challenge and interest for me. To be able to apply my skill as photographer quickly and precisely so as not to miss the picture that I saw.

Seeing and capturing things people do going on around me. Interesting occurrences, the way people interact and relate to one another, and also how they interact with me a react to the camera.

Three things that I find irresistible when taking ‘street’pictures of people are:

1. The challenge
2. The innate tangibility of the human species.
3. Having to apply my skills in a fashion that often leaves my little time to think.

Ian Kydd’Miller © 2011

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No it’s not something you should be discussing with your wife, husband, girlfriend or boyfriend but the place where your chosen lens will give its sharpest results, usually a range of middle apertures from f5.6 to f11.

Lets us firstly consider the other factors that help you produce sharp images.

1. Good camera grip and holding technique. This will minimise camera shake and blurry images.
2. Poor focus, check your lens is focusing correctly and adjust where necessary. (back focusing and front focusing in AF cameras). If focusing manually do get your eyes checked.
3. Subject movement.
4. Noise (high ISO noise)
5. Becoming over reliant on Image stabilisation.

Good Camera Grip
Probably one of the most important techniques for the photographer to master. Holding the camera firmly supporting the lens with you left hand, do not so tightly grip the camera that your knuckles go white this will almost certainly induce camera shake. Breathing (control of) is also important, take a deep breath exhale half, keep holding and take the shot this will vastly improve your shots.
(sniper technique).

Keep you elbows in and down and the camera close to the face.

If you have problems holding your DSLR steady consider using a Tripod or even a Monopod.

Poor Focus

Not all cameras and lenses are created equal, some focus fast some slow, some good and some bad but many newer DSLR’s now have the facility to adjust the focusing accuracy of individual lenses to prevent front and back focusing. Some lenses may have difficulty focusing in certain situation, mainly low light low contrast, get to know your lens and be ready to compensate for its deficiencies.
If you are not using AF but are manual focusing please get your eyes checked and maybe consider replace the focusing screen with a split image screen as used on older non AF film cameras which will make it easier and more accurate (if you can do this with your camera).

Subject Movement

Subject movement is pretty much beyond the control of the photographer in most situation and occasionally can be an effective part of an image. Getting sharp images of moving subjects you need to use a correct shutter speed, aperture, ISO combination, keeping the shutter speed as high as possible. Also try and catch the peak of the action.

Camera Canon EOS-1D Mark IV
Exposure 0.002 sec (1/500)
Aperture f/5.6
Focal Length 245 mm
ISO Speed 200

Camera Canon EOS-1D Mark IV
Exposure 0.002 sec (1/500)
Aperture f/5.6
Focal Length 245 mm
ISO Speed 200

High ISO noise has certainly as of late become much less of a problem than with earlier DSLR’s. Many now produce acceptable images up to 1600 ISO and beyond, but for the ultimate in sharpness keep the ISO as low as possible for the prevailing conditions.

Canon EOS-1D Mark IV
Exposure 0. 006 sec (1/160)
Aperture f/5.0
Focal Length 120 mm
ISO Speed 500

Image Stabalisation

Image stabilisation is certainly one of those superior recent advances that if used properly can give help to photographers in low light situations some giving up to 4 stops, but don’t become over reliant it does not help with bad camera practice.

The Sweet Spot

Although the Sweet spot of any lens is described as the aperture or range of apertures where it will give its sharpest image, this Sweet spot can only really be viable, in my opinion, if all the other variables are taken into consideration and good camera technique give the lens the proper chance to demonstrate its SWEET SPOT.

Ian Kydd’Miller © 2011



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Greg wins POTM May 2011

Greg owns FULL © to this image and it should not be reproduced without his permission

Congratulation go to GREG its a great pic.

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