Tips for Great People Pictures

Here are a few of Bob Krist’s Tips for Great People Pictures

It’s all too familiar: you turn a corner in a village in Peru or Portugal, see a local with a fascinating face and colorful, traditional clothing and think, “A fantastic portrait.” But, you don’t take the photo and go home with few “people pictures” from your trip.

Tip #1: The thing that prevents many travelers from approaching people is fear of rejection. There will always be a potential subject who doesn’t want bothered, but in my travels I’ve found people to be more cooperative if I tell the stranger why I want to take his picture. For instance, “I’m a student in a photo class, this is my assignment,” or, “My father’s family is from this region and I’m doing a slide show to share at our family reunion.” The mission specifics are not important, but the fact that you have one and are sharing it opens an element of trust. Also, explaining your mission in the native tongue helps enormously.

Tip #2: Take along your best people pictures to share. Most people can’t resist a really nice picture and if you have samples that show your past successes, you’re much closer to winning permission from your potential subject. The easiest way to do this is to carry a little book from a print-on-demand photo service like Shutterfly, Apple, Blurb or Picaboo. I usually carry a 20 page, 6”x8” softcover book that is inexpensive, easy to carry and works like a charm.

Tip #3: Once you win your subject’s confidence, keep it by photographing them in flattering light. Overcast conditions are ideal for great people pictures. If it’s sunny, try to maneuver your subject into the shade. If you must shoot in bright sunlight, turn your subject away from the sun and turn on your flash. That way, you’ll come back with a nicely lit portrait and not something that looks like a face on Mount Rushmore!

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