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I'm a Cairns, far north Queensland, Australia professional photographer specialising in travel, editorial and environmental portraiture.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

People and wide angle lenses - you gotta get close!



I went to a photographic exhibition last Friday night. It was a great chance to get out and see some work by some amateur photographers from various places around the world. There were some really nice pictures but one thing really jumped up and bit me in the butt.

The vast majority of pictures with people in them - as in pretty much all of them except for a couple - looked like this one above.

In other words they were shot with a wide angle lens where the people were a long way away from the camera and there was absolutely no interaction whatsoever between the people and the photographer. Indeed there was no sense that the people even knew the photographer was there.

Which is all fine and good but the majority of the captions indicated that they were supposed to be photographs of people, which they weren't. They were photographs of a scene in which there happened to be some (tiny) people somewhere in the frame.

Now when I say that there needs to be some interaction between the subject and the photographer I'm not asking you to get people to look at the camera, smile and give you the proverbial peace sign. But I like to look at an image and know that there was some connection between the subject and the photographer.

Take this shot here. Now none of these people are looking at the camera. But you just know that they know that I'm there.

How do you know? Because I'm so close to them with a wide angle lens that they couldn't help but know I'm there. But it's still an environmental portrait because you can see the beach and everything around them.

Now granted both shots were taken for a commercial photo shoot (for Quicksilver cruises in Port Douglas) but you'll have to forgive me because it was the only two images I could find where they were both taken of the same group of people, in the same place, within a few minutes of each other but illustrate the point I wanted to make!

The point being this. If you really want to get over the shyness of photographing people then you have to make it fun. The subject of your photos has to feel honoured to be photographed. And they're not going to feel that way if you photograph them from a long way away with a wide angle lens so that they're hardly visible in the picture.

So get in close to people and say hello. Make some connections, break down some barriers. Once you've got past the smile and peace symbol stage they'll ignore you and then you can take some intimate, engaging portraits that will resonate with your viewers, and will make your subjects happy that they agreed to be photographed.

And if all that sounds a bit hard? Stick to landscapes. No need to have to interact with anyone. :)

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

And for your work, say the couple on the beach, but up close and with their faces visible, would you then have them sign a release?

Paul Dymond said...

Most definitely. Because this was a commercial shoot they all signed a model release for me. For every day street shooting of people I don't know though I very rarely get model releases - which is probably why I drive a KIA and not a Ferrari! :)

Jonny Tilney said...

I thought for a minute you might have been superhuman!

Paul Dymond said...

Mate I am so far from superhuman it's not funny. :)