I really enjoy photographing people, especially their faces.  Taking a picture of a face sounds easy.  Point your camera at the face and press the shutter release.  Presto, a photo of a face. Feel free to keep doing this and you will get disappointing results. On the other hand, I am going to present you with a recipe for success – or at least marginally better photos.

If you are not shooting in a studio, a very important part of photographing a face is to isolate it from other elements. For example, isolate your subject from other people. Shooting someone in a crowd can make the photo seem cluttered, taking away from you main subject. A cousin of isolation is the background. A cluttered, distracting background will definitely take away from your main subject. A simple, somewhat uniform background let’s your main subject stand out, drawing the viewer’s full attention.

OK, now you selected a nice background and isolated your subject from distraction.  What else is there to worry about? Probably the most important thing in the photograph is, you guessed it, the light. It is very important to get even illumination across the entire face.  Harsh shadows caused by direct sunlight will obscure parts of your main subject.  Have you ever looked at someone’s photo and noticed that half the face is impossible to see while the other half the face is so bright, you cannot see any of the distinctive markings on the face? If you haven’t noticed this, then maybe you should let someone else take your photos! 🙂  The best time to shoot a face is when it is cloudy.  Sunlight through the clouds produces even illumination so that you can see all aspects of the face. But, what if it is a sunny day? Don’t fret, shoot your subject under a tree or in some shady spot. In the photo below, I shot Rachel in the shade caused by the side of the building.  As you can see, her face is evenly illuminated which produces a pleasing look. (Of course, she is quite pleasing in her own right)

My final quick tip is to focus on the eyes.  Keeping the eyes as sharp as possible (and in focus) is critical.  Most point and shoot cameras will take care of this for you. If you have a more advanced camera, make sure your focus point is right on the eyes.  When a viewer looks at a photo of a face, they look at the eyes first.  If the eyes are blurry, it will ruin the entire photo.

Rachel at UMass Graduation-064

Even illumination, sharp eyes, non-distracting background. check, check, and check.

There you go. These are just some of the things I think about when photographing a person.  If you do just a couple of these, you will get much more pleasing photos. Then, after the shoot, there are some editing “tricks” I do to finish off the photo.  I’ll save those for another post.

Thanks for reading and remember, it’s all about the light.

P.S. If you would like to see more photos from Rachel’s graduation, check out http://www.dannaytest.com/rachel/