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Guardian photographers share tips for getting a portrait in ten minutes

Mar 8, 2013 at 21:53 GMT

British newspaper The Guardian is known for its editorial photography, but like all working pros, the staff photographers sometimes only get a few minutes to capture their subjects. In an article posted on the Guardian's Photo Blog, several of the paper's photographers share their tips for getting portraits in a hurry.

One of the tips, from photographer Sarah Lee, is to use reflections. According to Lee, reflection 'works with any reflective surface [not just mirrors] and, if done sensitively, can produce interesting counter-images, obliquely, directly or partially.'

Ballerina Tamara Rojo, photographed at the Royal Opera House, London.
Photograph: Sarah Lee for the Guardian

One of the hardest things to get right when photographing people is the background. Murdo MacLeod, one of The Guardian's best-known portrait photographers, used author Maggie O'Farrell's carpet as a 'backdrop' when he photographed her at home for an article in the newspaper. The result (below) is certainly unconventional.

Author Maggie O'Farrell at home in Edinburgh.
Photograph: Murdo MacLeod for the Guardian
 

Sometimes, you just want to take the background out of the equation altogether - not easy in a crowded urban environment when you only have a few minutes with your subject. Photographer David Levene took then UN secretary general Kofi Annan up onto the roof of the building they were in, to literally raise his subject above the camera, and the clutter of the city. What you can't see in this portrait (below) is the pedestal step that Annan was standing on... 

Then UN secretary general Kofi Annan, pictured in London.
Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian