Great Advice for Shooting portraits

One of my favorite websites is the mindful eye.  Craig Tanner, who heads up The Mindful Eye, has been an important influence on my work. I’ve taken two 6-day workshops with him, and have just signed up for another one, in Santa Fe, in May of 2011.

Craig has some terrific advice on shooting portraits of people. I do some of this already and it is amazing the expressions you get when you ask people to share something about who they are and what’s important to them.


One of the biggest challenges for many photographers who are trying to improve their skills of photographing people is what to say and how to direct the portrait subject. If you are working on non-formal, non-posed portraits where you would like the portrait subject to quit observing themselves being photographed and to have body language and gestures that appear natural and are potentially exciting in gesture and expression then I highly recommend engaging your portrait subject with emotionally charged questions. These questions are anchors into powerful emotional states for your portrait subject. This requires practice because you will be carrying on a conversation while you are shooting. Two of my all time favorite emotionally evocative questions for portrait subjects are:
1) Who would you die for?
2) Specifically…. what is your favorite place in the world?
Many times you will immediately get a powerful response from the portrait subject. Be prepared to shoot as they answer. The great thing about these questions is that the answers often give you a great opportunity to follow up with more questions that put your portrait subject into the mode of emotional storyteller – which is a state of being that often leads to a highly expressive portrait subject.

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