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It seems that everybody is focused on how to photograph beautiful women nowadays, be they brides, models, or regular portrait clients. Photographing women isn’t easy, but you have to admit, they are a lot more used to the whole thing than men are. So what do you do when your client is a man, a six foot two intimidating one or a shy kind of person who is just not used to being in front of the camera and staring into a lens?
Here is a quick guide to help you ease the process when working with a non-pro male model.
1. Mindset and humor
There are a number of differences between photographing a woman and photographing a man. One of the first things you need to do is understand the mindset of a man in front of the camera. This is especially important when dealing with the shy ones. Keep in mind, there can be a huge difference between how a male client acts at a meeting before the shoot and how he will behave when you point your camera at him. I’ve photographed both shy grooms and company CEOs, and one from the latter category struck me as one of the most intimidating men I’ve met, but that stopped as soon as I took my camera out.
Humor is one of the best ways to get a man to open up to you. I’m not talking about “knock-knock” jokes and I’m not saying you should only take a guy’s picture when he’s laughing. The key is to get the mood going and to get him to lower his guard. Again, it might be a groom, in which case things should be easier, but it might be someone important. Either way, quality humor is a good way to win them over, so think about that before meeting for the shoot.
2. The hands
Guys look good while they’re doing something. One of the most difficult parts about photographing men is not making their hands look like unnecessary body parts that are uselessly hanging from their bodies .Clients will often ask you what they should do with their hands. The best way to deal with this is to seek inspiration from catalogs, advertising campaigns, editorial shoots and so on. If the subject is wearing a suit, like it probably happens in most cases, ask him to put his hands in his pockets or hold something which can be anything from the regular cup of coffee to his jacket. Giving your subject something to do with his hands will also make him feel less awkward and look less funny.
3. Use the environment
Many photographers tend to neglect this vital part, but using the environment is actually a great way to give expression to a portraitof a man. It’s true that it’s the model that is the most important part of the photograph, but properly inserting him into the background can make a great difference between a good, powerful image and a bad or average one. Environmental portraits work very best when the client is performing his job. Think about tattoo artists, musicians, barbers, etc. The locations can sometimes be just as interesting and learning to balance the two elements is a pretty failsafe recipe.
The posture of your subjects should be determined by the kind of photos you want to create. Do you want something funny, or do you want to leave the impression of power?
Either way, you are looking for a successful combination between camera angle and posture. If you want a funny or relaxed expression in the photograph, ask your model to be as comfortable as possible and photograph with a long focal length, preferably anything over 85mm. Also, this is a good time to bring out the humor we talked about.
If you want a portrait of power your best reference are portraits of politicians. Experiment with a wide angle lens, a lower perspective and some strong lights. Have your model looking forward or slightly to the side and carefully explain the difference between being serious and being angry.
Follow these guidelines and practice them as much as you can and photographing men of all kinds will become and easy task.