17 Apr 2017

Photographing People Makes Better Art

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Did you know that photographing people can help you in your art if you draw or paint? By photographing men and women, you learn how to pose, the effect of lighting and so on.

I’ve always been interested in photography. I took a class in Junior High school and learned how to develop my own film (black and white only), compose pictures and use a camera. Back then all we had were film camera (you remember film, don’t you?) It was a different world – this was even before you could get your film developed in a hour. For the most part, film had to be mailed off to a processing company, then returned a week or two later – unless you liked the smell of chemicals and knew how to use them.

Later in life, after my wife passed away, I bought a new camera, this time one of those new-fangled digital SLRs – a good one. I started attending fairs and shows, and before long I found myself taking pictures of people. I began with performance photography, which has it’s own set of special problems such as movement, lighting and positioning.

I soon learned that photographing people presents some unique challenges.

For example, did you know it’s best to shoot photos of people in diffuse lighting, such as you find near sunrise, sunset or on a mildly cloudy day? Harsh lighting such as when there is an afternoon sun will make a person look harsh, and lighting from the wrong direction can obscure details or bring out lines and crevices better left to the imagination.

Where you position a person’s eyes also makes a difference to the feel of the photo. Looking downward can signify fear or deceit, while looking directly at the camera with barely a smile can be interpreted as a challenging or dominating role. Other features such as unkempt hair, bad complexion and dirt or smudges can ruin an otherwise good picture.

You run into even more problems with full body shots. The positioning of the hands and legs are important, for example. Hands folded across the chest signals defiance while the hands in the pockets might be interpreted as boredom or indifference.

When you move a shot from the indoors, with the problems of artificial lighting, to the outdoors, you run into even more issues for the photographer to address. It’s fascinating how many otherwise perfect photos are ruined by a telephone pole seemingly sprouting from someone’s head or other similar background elements that inadvertently come into the shot.

My photography has come in handy now that I create and publish coloring books. For example, I used many of my photos from performances and photoshoots as the basis for my coloring pages by hiring an artist to draw sketches from them.

If you are a coloring book artist who draws people, taking photos of a model can help get the pose and lighting correct so that you can produce the best possible coloring page. You can either sketch the photograph or use it as a guide to help you draw your human bodies with the correct proportions, lighting and pose.

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