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 proof 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 a 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 – No smile is better than a fake smile
For me children and older people are the better “amateur models”. They never lose their relaxed charisma, never really “pose” or give you a fake smile. They are always themselves and ideal to photograph in 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 people react really crazy when it’s known that there will be a photo taken. A very good people photographer once told me: "Shoot with a telephoto lens, always distract them, don’t direct too much, relax them and shoot when they don't expect it." One of the best advises I ever got – 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. At their private home, in their kitchen, play room, bed room or living room. Talking in advance about the preferred location can take stress away, build up confidence and also lead to creative ideas. When people do what they normally do, they will be relaxed and their charisma will show in the photo. 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 my model, relax it and then I shoot. One more thing: Fake is fake. A fake smile looks fake also on a photo. I always try to make my “models” smile the natural way, 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 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 on a public place. My moral believes take issue with that. There is something like ethics also in photography, especially in street photography which don'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 a 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 whish 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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