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How to take a soulful portrait

October 3rd, 2008 No Comments

 Today we bring you the first in a continuing series of articles written by some of our keen staff photographers.

It is every photographer’s goal when taking portraits: to show the subject’s soul.

That’s the only way for your audience to grasp the entirety of the person on the photo, and get to know your subject than just the color of the eyes or the age of the skin. When you capture the soul of a person on a photograph, a lot of things naturally follow: personality, heart, strength, experiences, humor, and priorities.
When you take photos of your kids, your wife, your friends, and even strangers in the streets, do you attempt to bare the story of their lives, their souls?
How do you make that happen? Is there a button on your camera that can do that? The bad news is that there is none. The good news is that there are tips you can rely on to help you and your camera do the trick.

1.      Go candid

Capture your subject’s normal, spontaneous behavior. Pre-arranged poses look unnatural and pretentious. Take their photos while they are around friends or family, while at work or playing, or while they’re doing something they love. This works particularly well when photographing kids.

2.      Eye Contact

As they say, the eyes are the windows to the soul. Usually, your subject’s eyes look down the lens and that creates a sense of connection between your subject and your audience. But you can also make them look elsewhere.


Ask your subject to look at something not seen on camera. This creates candidness and a bit of intrigue on the part of the audience because they wonder what the person on the photograph is looking at. Could it be his love interest, his favorite food, or the horizon? Why does your subject look intensely interested?


3.      Get closer

Tight shots reveal more details. Photograph faces real close. You can also choose just one part of the face or body—the lips, eyes, hands, hips, shoulder, or feet. These focused images will leave the viewers imagining about the rest. 


4.      Out of comfort zone

Stay away from cliché photo shoots: head and shoulder shots, desk shots, standing shots in front of the company emblem. Instead, push your subjects out of the box. Ask them to jump, make silly faces, bang their heads like rock stars, dive on their beds, or even do cartwheels. This will show how much a good sport the person is, and how much he can make fun of himself.


5.      Take a series of shots

Set your camera to Continuous Shooting or Burst mode and fire away. When you do this, you capture more emotions and actions from your subjects. They also feel more at ease, and the photos become more real and candid. Plus, you get a lot of photos to choose from in case you need to capture the best shot.

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