About people photography: to pose - or not to pose (and anything in between)

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deednets Veteran Member • Posts: 9,777
About people photography: to pose - or not to pose (and anything in between)

There were a few people threads on the Fuji forum where there was some debate about the gear used (of course!!) but also about the photos posted.

I must say that since I am an almost exclusively prime lens shooting individual, any portraits/people pics taken with an F6.1 (FF equiv) lens generally leaves me feel less than lukewarm. But there are of course exceptions!

One of the aspects of people photography is the degree of engagement you - as the photographer - has with your subject. Posing your subject by giving directions versus shooting at the "decisive moment" PLUS using the right gear for the shot is not always easy to balance. But there are of course helper tools:

  • Make the engagement fun or - even more important - interesting for the people you shoot.
  • Use directions that don't sound like you are a pinterest bully - if you must give directions.
  • Use the right tool.

OK, so how do those who shoot people on this forum work with people? This is NOT a "here is my bag of tricks" but how do people here approach this subject?

I will not speak for others, like Benjamin Kanarek, who I am sure has a certain routine, I imagine him talking A LOT during those shoots, maybe music in the background - and if not, like those outside shots he often takes, he possibly talks simply a tad louder. I imagine that he has the confidence NOT to feel silly when watched by others?

I don't have this confidence and when I do portrait shoots in the studio I also talk like a waterfall, but don't feel as easy when people are around that have got nothing to do with the shoot. Surprisingly for me, I don't have this problem when I shoot in public. Odd.

Clearly a staged studio shot Fuji X-E1 60/2.4

I am interested as to how others here shoot "people" so will share (terrible expression within this context me thinks) how I approach "public" or "travel" people photography:

First I chose my gear e.g. walking into a Hmong Village in Northern Laos I would use longer lenses than in Rajasthan where people photograph each other A LOT!!!!!!

Northern Laos, Fuji X-T20 90/2

The photo posted here I took after I had been "around" the village for a while, making faces with the village clown, an older woman who had made fun of me, imitating my walk etc. I then imitated here, the ice was broken and I then took the above shot. Although people were ok with me being there, I still thought that the 90mm was my best choice here as it provided some considerable distance between me and the young mother and her child. The shot was taken at F5.6 to give some environmental context. But I had the option to open up:

Northern Laos, Fuji X-T20 90/2

When I shoot older people (in Asia!!!!!) I like to use the RX1 SONY with its external EVF as I can look down when I take the shot. I wish Fuji had one of those. Sadly Fuji only offers this for medium format.

Jodhpur Rajasthan, 2015, SONY RX1 with external EVF, looking down

Fenghuang, Hunan Province, China 2016 Again SONY RX1 with external EVF

Note that both woman were aware of me taking a photo, but bowing down CAN relax the tension dramatically. I used the Panasonic GX8 because it has an angled EVF. And: NO I don't think that the LCD screen works the same way, too small too far away and somewhat stealthy, not my style.

Young people I feel like I can use almost any gear, I would typically chose the 35/1.4 50/2 56/1.2 or 90/2 - or, like in this case: the GX8 plus 75/1.8:

Shanghai 2016, Panasonic GX8 75/1.8

Or the X-T20 plus the 50/2 a brilliant lens - if you want to go close:

Bikaner, Rajasthan 2017 Fuji X-T20 + 50/2

I also try to keep a low profile and whenever I go to (sort of...) remote-ish places I try to tone down my gear, the RX1 brilliant at this, but also the X-T20 with either the 35/1.4 or the 50/2 are excellent examples of lying low:

Pushkar 2017 X-T20 + 50/2

Will leave it at that for now, but interested as to how others approach this subject.


 deednets's gear list:deednets's gear list
Sony RX1R II Fujifilm X-T2 Fujifilm X-T3 Fujifilm XF 14mm F2.8 R Fujifilm XF 55-200mm F3.5-4.8 R LM OIS +5 more
Fujifilm X-E1 Fujifilm X-T20 Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8 Sony RX1
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