Three boys fishing while standing in the ocean water in Palm Beach, Florida, USA

People – Just point and shoot won’t do the trick

I don’t really like it when cameras are pointed at me. Not that this would happen too often anyway, but when it does, I start to act weird. Maybe because I start assuming the outcome, fearing the shot will show me at my worst. Yeah, I know – Welcome to the club! One day I will find a shrink who
will listen to me long enough to talk about this also. I share this experience with many people, maybe even with the majority. As someone who takes photos of people, I am confronted with these uncomfortable feelings almost every time I point my camera at someone. The first reaction almost always is: “No, don’t, please don't take my picture!” Taking portraits or family shots always include some sort of convincing, a relaxing atmosphere, good light, maybe some music and some test shots to prove that everything will be alright. And why not? It's not really different from what's going on at shoots with professional models. Even though they are used to cameras pointed at them, they still are very nervous and critical about the outcome. Just as everybody else. I came across very few people so far who are natural in front of a camera. Bottom line, photographing people is not the easiest task in photography. To capture people in a way, so that they like themselves in the photos is everything else but easy. But it can be done. People photography can be a great challenge but with the right knowledge, good light, some practice and patience it almost always will end in success.
Little boy skiing plus headshot

Keeping it real – Any smile is better than a fake smile
For me, children and older people are better “amateur models”. They never lose their relaxed personality, never really “pose” or give you a fake smile. They are always themselves and ideal to photograph in almost every situation. Sure, there are exceptions to the rule, but for the most part, it is just like that. The age group in between is a bit more difficult to capture. Sometimes I wonder how crazy people act when they have their photo taken. One would think in times of cell phone selfies a portrait taken is just like a walk in the park. Well, for the most part, it's not. There are some rules to be applied when shooting people, so heads don't become melons and limbs distorted, crazy looks can be avoided and most of all the result will be something very cool to look at. A very good portrait photographer once told me: "Shoot with a telephoto lens, communicate what you need them to do but don't direct too much, distract them but still relax them and shoot when they don't expect it." And yes, it works!

In people photography it is just like in real estate: location is the key to success 
Another important thing is where to photograph people. To have them in their comfort zone is key, especially when the result is a head shot. At their private home, in their kitchen, playroom, bedroom or living room. Talking in advance about the preferred location can take the stress away, build up confidence and also lead to creative ideas. When people do what they normally do, they will be relaxed and their personality will show in the result. I always try to keep the depth of field as shallow as possible, focus on the eyes, make sure there is nothing bothering in the background, distract and then I shoot. One more thing: Fake is fake and a fake smile also looks fake on a photo. I always try to make my “models” smile naturally, like with a fun conversation. At times even the right song playing in the background works and can produce a smile or two. Just wait for it. And believe me, everything coming from the heart – from the photographer and from the model – shows in a photo big time.

Never forget the moral and ethics of photography
When photographing people outside, there are more things to think about than just how to get the best shot. Not everyone wants to be a model for a photographer or photographed for that reason. I’m always careful and discrete when I do street photography. Even though I’ve been a press photographer for many years I don’t agree with the “license to shoot everybody” as long it’s in a public place. My moral believes take issue with that. There is something like ethics also in photography, especially in street photography which doesn't allow to shoot as I please. I developed a good feeling over the years when it’s okay to release the shutter on a stranger and when it’s not. When I am thinking about to approach someone with my camera I first have to feel this feeling of silent consent. Without it, I won’t even think about pulling the trigger. If I am not sure, I ask and when someone asks me not to take a picture, I won’t. Once in a while this happens and I’m kind of proud to say, I always respect this wish for privacy and don't even try to convince otherwise. I rather let go of a great image before hurting people’s feelings. It's just not worth it!
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