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Don’t Forget to be Human

humanI remember this phrase from a tutorial that I read when I got my first camera: “you are looking at  person, not your camera”. It can be really easy to turn into a robot with your camera just an extension of your mechanical parts, especially when you take photos for a living. Don’t forget that you are a human and so is your subject. For the purpose of this post, I’m not even going to call them ‘subjects’. A tree is a subject. Today, we’re talking about humans. I have actually just gone back through the entire post and substituted the word ‘subject’ with the word ‘human’ and it felt surprisingly uncomfortable to do so. And you might feel uncomfortable reading it. I really feel that it’s highlighting our discomfort with taking the technical and substituting it for that which is human and we should embrace that feeling because it will drive us to be better and do better.

{In the Viewfinder}

When you look into the viewfinder, do you see the exposure meter and focusing plane or are you looking at your subject? I often get humans asking me why I’m looking for so long before I ‘click the button’ or why I move the camera around when I’m looking through the viewfinder. It takes a surprising amount of confidence to take your time taking photographs of human beings. You can look at a landscape for ages, but do you have the guts to stare into a person’s soul through the viewfinder for an uncomfortably long time? Don’t just shoot quickly to get it over with. Take the time to check whatever technical details you’re looking at through the viewfinder and then start actually focusing on your subject (focusing with your heart, that is).

{Personal Space}

My first proper photo shoot was with a young engaged couple. And boy was it hard! I felt really invasive and almost apologetic for getting into their personal space but those images will always hold a special place in my heart.
You have to allow yourself to connect with your human’s heart. Be empathetic. Feel their feelings. I know in an instant when a subj…oops…human is feeling uncomfortable. Sometimes I ask if they are, sometimes I just change location or position. I once read a tip before about giving your humans something to hold. It takes their focus off of themselves and gives them something to do which is exactly what I did with this couple and it worked a treat.


human-3As a photographer, you must be confident and remember that they have asked you to take their photo which usually means that they already like you. And most people think they’re ‘not photogenic’ and ‘can’t take a good photo’ and if they’re a bride & groom, you can expect them to be even more antsy at times. They are looking to youfor their confidence.

Give them good feedback. Steer away from the stereotypical “work it, baby” (unless you’re going for laughs). I always say things like “that’s great”, “you look great”, “yes do that again”. Take the voices out of their head telling them they’re awkward or ugly or standing funny and replace them with your positive feedback. Tell them that what they’re doing might feel strange, but looks great on camera.

I’m really struggling to come up with anything more to say at this point. I can’t conjure up any more sentiments other than to say ‘don’t forget to be human!’

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Elizabeth Halford
Elizabeth Halford

is a photographer and advertising creative producer in Orlando, FL. She wrote her first article for dPS in 2010. Her most popular one racked up over 100k shares!

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