Skip to main content

Think quick: What do you take photos of most of the time? If you’re like most photographers, the answer will be “people”. Whether you’re capturing your friends when they’re up to their daft antics, your sister’s attempts at running the marathon, or trying to finally nail a half-decent Facebook profile photo, it’s all about capturing the essence of what makes up someone’s personality. We’ll show you how.

To capture people at their best, you’re going to need a lot of light. A lot of cameras come with flashes, but natural light tends to look better. If you’re outdoors, try to stay out of direct sunlight. It might sound counter-intuitive (after all, the sun is the brightest light source we’ve got), but sunlight tends to be directional, so one side of your subject will be brightly lit, and the shadow-side will come out much darker.

Spontaneous portraits can look great. Keep an eye on the background, though: The scaffolding behind this girl isn't doing the photo any favours.
Add context to portraits by only barely including your model - In this case, a photographer working on a dramatic low-angle shot

If you’re outside, try to take your photos when it’s overcast. The soft light you get from a cloudy day is because the sun shining into the top of the clouds in effect turns the whole cloud into a huge light source. Hey presto – no hard shadows, and beautifully lit people. If there’s not a cloud in the sky, go into the shade instead for a similar effect.

Soft light spilling through a window from the side combined with artificial lighting in the background gives this photo its mood

When photographing portraits, don’t worry about the camera settings too much. The Nokia N8 is magnificently tuned to taking perfect portraits in the automatic mode. If you have enough light, turn off the flash manually, and hold your camera very still when you take the picture.

The angle you take the photos from is probably the most important aspect : If you take the pictures from below, people tend to look down, which gives even the slimmest of us a double chin. Ask your models to look up a little, and take the photos from above and slightly side-on.

All done? Good. Now all you need to do is to look at your friends’ astonished facial expressions when they see your photos!