EXPRESSIVE, ELEGANT, STRANGE
Look for the striking in expression, gesture and posture, and reject the ordinary, says Michael Freeman
When you photograph people, which is what this issue’s Creative Path is all about, there’s almost always a choice, and it’s an important one. I’m not talking about choosing who to photograph, because only your own gut reaction will tell you who looks interesting, while if you’re doing it because you’ve been asked to or assigned to, then it’s a given. The important creative choice is: at what moment in how they present themselves do you shoot?
Naturally, there isn’t a universal answer, but if you don’t ask the question of yourself in the first place, you’re pretty well guaranteed to get a string of mediocre portraits. Here I’m using the term ‘portrait’ to include any kind of image that focuses solely on one or two people, even in street photography; in fact, especially in street photography, and any situation in which people are not posing for your camera, because it’s then that people are not presenting themselves self-consciously, and you’re likely to capture more natural behaviour. Much depends on how long you have subjects in the frame, but during that time, they will probably move and act in a variety of ways.
Remember that people behave – that is, they present themselves to your camera –in three different ways, and sometimes these are combined. At one end of the scale is body movement, posture. A little closer in is gesture: what people do with their arms and hands. And closer in still, and most compelling, is expression.
Let’s start with expression. When you have a choice, it’s important that you know what you want, at least in general. You won’t always get it, but being clear about what attracts you as a photographer makes sure that you shoot when you see it. There isn’t ever one universally best moment for this, so this is just one suggestion, and it’s the obvious one: go for the most intense,
If you enjoy this article and want to learn more, there are 50 more paths to be discovered in Michael’s new book Fifty Paths to Creative Photography (NB: all 50 are different from those that will be featured here in the magazine).