This is Part 2 of a week-long photography series Shooting Better People Pictures by Trish Hummer of Everyday Images by Trish.
Part 1: Digital photography basics and great full-body shots
Part 2: Focus on faces and shoot when they're not looking
Part 3: Being silly and letting kids be kids
Part 4: Capturing relationships and shooting groups
Part 5: Doing what they love and going faceless
Part 6: Shoot multiples of expressions
Part: 7: Great lighting, the unexpected, and indoor sports
Shooting Better People Pictures (Part 2)
Tip 2: Focus on Faces
Faces are what people respond to best but you don't have to show the whole head. I will often crop off the top of a person's head because the top of their head isn't important to the picture. Everyone knows we have dome-shaped heads that are, for the fortunate, covered with hair. It's their faces that draw us in, especially the eyes.
When shooting faces, make sure they're not just giving you their "camera" smile. A good way to tell if the smile is genuine is to look at their eyes. For the picture to ring true, the emotion shown in the eyes should match the emotion shown in the smile. (I'll often point out to people that they are just smiling with their mouth and not their eyes, and they get it. If they don't, I'll demonstrate.) Don't be chagrined, though, if you are taking pictures of kids between the ages of 3 and 6 years. You need to catch these kids smiling if you don't want the typical "Say, 'CHEESE!'" smile.
Tip 3: Shoot when they're not looking.
Shoot when they're not looking (but be respectful of their privacy and don't shoot anything questionable.) These shots tend to ring most true in terms of the subject's personality and you can catch glimpses of personalities and relationships.
For more great tips, check out Part 3 tomorrow with advice on being silly and letting kids be kids.