Personalities & The Portrait

by William Lulow

I wanted to say more about being flexible when it comes to making quality portraits. When you are shooting a large family, for instance, there are multiple personalities that you need to take in to account while in the process of making a photograph. You need to be aware of who the major players are and arrange them accordingly. You need to be cognizant of who is going to judge the pictures. That person will be the one who needs to be pleased. And, if that’s the one who will be paying the bill, it’s even more important to please that person. Sometimes, you have people who don’t like to be photographed. You need to be ready when they are there so that you take up as little of their time as possible. You’re not going to get good expressions if you fumble around with your equipment and take too much time.

When photographing large groups, try to scope out the ones who pose easily. Ask them to hold certain poses and smiles while you concentrate on the harder ones. Many children (and of course, animals) are difficult to pose. They also present problems when it comes to getting great expressions from them. So, one of my strategies has been to find those for whom posing is no problem. I tell them to hold smiles or poses while I work with the children. When I see great expressions from the kids, I’m pretty sure that the adults will be able to hold their poses while I go for the greatest overall shot of the whole family.

This particular family shot was made at the subject’s house. I chose a spot with the sun behind them so that no one would be squinting. My fill-in consisted of a single portable strobe on a light stand, connected to the camera via radio.  As long as my flash-to-subject distance didn’t change, I could move the camera back and forth as much as I wanted and the exposures would be constant. This is important to remember when you are shooting large groups. You may often have to change the camera position to make sure you include everyone.

Bleustein (29)BBut, note everyone’s expressions. They are all smiling and look happy! Basically, I told the adults to hold their poses and smiles while I concentrated on the kids, trying to get a shot where they all looked great at the same time. There are eleven people in this photograph. It is usually eleven times harder to make a group shot like this than it is with only one subject.