Elevate Your Photography: Best Tips for Guiding Regular People

I remember being very shy when I started photographing – feeling terrified whenever I needed to photograph a person. 

However, it’s one of the best ways to gain confidence in photography, because once you master photographing people, you can indeed photograph anything.

Once you learn to photograph people, you can go more in the direction of weddings and portraiture, really delve deep into being surrounded by people, and still know how to not be overwhelmed.

Capture authentic and compelling photos by mastering the art of directing subjects. Discover expert tips to make people feel at ease in front of your camera.
Photo by Photography Maghradze PH on Pexels.com

The best and least terrifying way to start photographing people is through street photography. You can decide to keep your distance to your models, but also to engage with them if you see an interesting frame you want to capture.

Once you capture an image where they look right into the lens, it is common courtesy that you introduce yourself to the person and show them what you captured.

But what are the tips one can gain after years of photographing people, how to really make the subjects relax and capture moments where they’re truly themselves?

The Best Tips for Directing People For Photos

Get to know them beforehand

If the photoshoot is something you’ve planned, introduce yourself before the photoshoot – maybe even show images you’re previously taken to show your expertise – and offer them coffee or water (if you’re photographing them in a studio or an indoor space and the photoshoot is preplanned). Maybe show them around and go through inspirational images and the mood you’re going for during the photoshoot. If you find something in common create a discussion which can relax your subject and create a comfortable dynamic between you two.

Create a relaxing environment

This might require you to have a more private setting for your photoshoot, but having music is a sure way of making the mood more relaxing for both of you. There will be fewer quiet moments and any inconveniences or waiting periods won’t seem too bad for your subject. 

Even better if you can put something on that your subject enjoys – it will instantly lift their moods and take them back to a certain time when they heard the song for the first time.

Capture authentic and compelling photos by mastering the art of directing subjects. Discover expert tips to make people feel at ease in front of your camera.
Photo by Rik Schots on Pexels.com

Emphasize what you find unique about them

Now you’ve pointed out their eyes, so enforce those moments when they are looking straight into the camera, to let them feel more confident in doing so. Saying simply ’that looks amazing’ or ‘this feels very powerful’ will communicate to your subjects that they’re doing something right.

Re-enforce the poses you like the best and try to let them know why exactly it is working: If they had a strong posture in a picture, I like to let my subjects know that I captured something very elegant or poised. Additionally, simply stating to your subjects when they can relax, so you can go through images will create a more straightforward communication between you two, and they have those in-between moments to get more comfortable.

Complimenting your subject 

As cliché, as it might sound, finding things that might make your subject smile is a great way to lift their mood and make them a bit more comfortable during the photoshoot. This should always be done from an authentic place, and you should compliment only what you naturally find attractive in them. Their smile or their eyes, and even their clothes – people become more comfortable when they feel safe in the surroundings they’re in.

I usually create a discussion between me and the model, asking how their day has been and if they’ve ever been photographed like this before. You’ll see, your subject will most definitely start trusting you more and opening up to share an experience they’ve had. 

If you’re doing street photography, you can simply tell the subject why you decided to photograph them and even let them know if there’s an exhibition coming up or if there’s a platform they can see these images afterward. A business card is not a must but will be great in a situation like this.

Capture authentic and compelling photos by mastering the art of directing subjects. Discover expert tips to make people feel at ease in front of your camera.
Photo by Gaspar Zaldo on Pexels.com

Let them look in a specific direction instead of the camera

If your subject seems shy and isn’t sure where to look or whether to smile; pick a spot they can put their eyes on and ‘relax’ in knowing they don’t need to find a spot themselves. Notice, how looking higher than the normal height, might seem like they’re daydreaming, and if they’re looking down they might give off a melancholic feel. So let them know what you prefer so that they know where to direct their eyes.

After a while, their look might get a bit stiff, so I like to tell my subjects to relax their face – just let loose, open their mouth, close their eyes, etc. – and then ‘reset’ the pose, so that it looks more natural.

Before you go out or have a photoshoot, check out interesting photographers to find inspiration for your images.

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