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Mattina Zheng

3 Quick Tips on Composing Shots with Human Subject(s)

Dressed to the nines this festive season, most of us would love to get our photos taken, be it with relatives and friends or simply just outfit shots. I feel bad most of the time to get people to take more shots for me after I reviewed them and was unsatisfied, but I can’t take photos of myself most of the time!

So here are a few tips for photographing human subjects:

  1. Take note of the headroom, that?simply means the amount of space between the head and the end of the frame. If the backdrop is plain and doesn’t have any significant signs or banners, adjust the shot lower, so there’s no redundant wall space above the subject’s head and that also allows more space for whatever that is in front of the subject. If the subject is well-dressed, frame them in a way that it shows their whole outfit. If the subject can’t be moved, position yourself and move till you get a good composition. Also, make sure that there isn’t anything sticking out of the person’s head, unless intended with jest.
  2. Avoid silhouette shots?unless intended. ?One common error that I noticed is of photos or videos with people who are indoors and they are standing against a window on a sunny day. Those photos turn out to look like interviewees who choose to be anonymous and do not want to show their faces on national television. To fix that,?position subject against a background that is the not extremely bright, or get them to face the brighter side. If the bright backdrop really has to be included, try shooting with flash.
  3. Make sure everything in the shot stays horizontal, not slightly diagonal. Use pillars, window frames, floor lines, bookshelves, iPhone grids etc. as visual references to make sure whatever that are supposed to be horizontal and vertical stay that way, or it will look like the photographer is tipsy. This point also applies to formal interviews.

Of course everything doesn’t have to be that rigid, these points are more for casual settings without extra lighting equipment and all that fancy artistic angles. Shoot away and see what’s comfortable for you and your subjects.


Mattina Zheng
Mattina Zheng

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