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 Pictures of People

Photos of people retain their value, long after pictures of grand vistas have been tossed away.. But "People Pictures" of bikers are technically tough. Your subject often has a helmet shading the face, may be wearing dark glasses, and is usually moving. These photos take a little planning, and usually require a strobe.

In general, you should shoot "people pictures" (and animal pictures) at eye-level. The exception is when your "story" requires an odd camera angle, for example, "my kid climbed up this tree" or "my dog is cowering under the front tire."

Close-ups of faces are best with a long focal length lens (a bit of telephoto). When you get close to a face with a wide-angle camera, it distorts the face so the nose and lips look huge. (Most disposable cameras are 32-36 mm, which definitely creates a fisheye effect when you're close up.)  Zoom your lens out to 50-60 mm to take pictures of people.

Even though a photo may be a "people picture," you should still try to establish a location, and tell a story with your photograph.

This is an "I did this" photo. You can recognize the biker riding the trail, while Mount Timpanogos documents the location. The foreground oak tunnel helps your eye zoom in on the biker. But even using a flash, the face has heavy shadow.

Mentally remove the oak trees from this photo. Now it seems more like a photo of Timpanogos (instead of a picture of somebody biking), doesn't it?

Rest stops are a good place for "people pictures." Look for a photo angle that shows the surroundings, and capture the sense of adventure. Here we have a contrast between the warm rock of the Moab Rim, and the snow-covered La Sal Mountains in the background. Because of the direction of the sun, I overexposed 1-1/2 f-stop to bring out Mike's face.

Without the background elements, this photo is just "a guy sitting on a rock."

This is the classic posed "I was there" photo. The biker poses with the trusty steed, while the background documents the location. Here again, I overexposed by one f-stop to bring out a face that's hidden in the shadow of the helmet, and added flash.

This is the easiest type of photo to take. I took this photo a bit above eye level, so I could put the Provo River behind the Jessica.

Getting closer to the subject, it becomes harder to still provide a "story" and give a sense of location. Here you see biker (Dominic), dog, pine tree, trail, and meadow. The trail is wet. This is the story of hiding from a summer rainstorm on Mill Creek's Great Western.

When shooting a person in the shade, use your strobe for fill-flash. If I hadn't used the flash, this photo would be a silhouette, not a portrait. While shooting this picture, I was actually lying on the ground so I could get the meadow into the background.

Unless your objective is to shoot a passport picture, even a close-up should tell a story.

Pine trees in the background, open biking shirt, sweat everywhere -- it doesn't take long to figure out that this is a break on the trail. Notice what the addition of the dog does to this picture. It's a "biking buddies" photo. Without the dog, this picture wouldn't have much meaning.

A second biker, a sandwich or Powerbar, or a water bottle can provide a prop (substituting for the dog) that tells a story and gives meaning to a close-up photo.

Remember to zoom your lens out to a longer focal length when shooting people's faces. It gives a much more flattering perspective. Soften shadows by using your strobe.

Please go on to the next lesson!

All photos and text on this website are
copyrighted works of Bruce Argyle.

Photo Basics

Composition Guidelines

Shooting Landscapes

Taking Action Photos

Flowers and Detail Photos

Pictures of People

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