HP Academy: Take Great People Shots

GroundShot_P.jpgA good rule to live by: “Never stop learning.” And here at HP, we’re always trying to give you new information to help you work and play smarter. What you may not know is that HP has established an online education site for that exact purpose, The HP Learning Center. The curriculum covers everything from digital photography and Photoshop to how to run your business better. There are quick lessons, long courses and quizzes to make sure that you’ve mastered the material.


Oh, and the cost of tuition: Absolutely nothing. All you need to do is create an account and enroll in whichever class you like at hp.com/go/learningcenter. I’m going to provide you with quick lessons and if you want to learn even more, you’re just a click away.


Today’s Lesson: Take Great People Shots


I take photos. No, I take that back. I take LOTS of photos. It could be with my point-and-shoot, it could be with my cell phone (a Pre2, in case you were curious). But I’m always looking for better ways to capture shots of friends and folks I meet. So, when I came across this lesson about how to take better shots of people on the street, at a trade show…or you get the idea.


Together with a few accessories, your digital camera offers a wealth of possibilities for producing some stunning photos of people, in both formal and informal situations.


Not So Formal Portraits


baby and mom_P.JPGWhether you're holding your camera in natural light or using a tripod coupled with an auxiliary flash, it's easy to get that perfect shot when you know a few tricks.


Here are a few suggestions for informal people photos:


  • When shooting indoors, aim the flash at the ceiling. The result is a soft, diffused light surrounding your subject, eliminating the harsh shadows and the chance of red-eye so prevalent with small built-in flashes.
  • Window light makes for perfect diffused light. Seat your subject close to a window so the light falls evenly on the person's face. The window should be to one side -- not behind the subject -- so the background  is unobtrusive. Use a tripod, shoot lots of photos and watch for the perfect expression.
  • Another aid when shooting by window light is a homemade reflector, which you can make from a piece of white cardboard or other similar reflective material. It should be white so as not to introduce unwanted color. Place your reflector to the opposite side of your subject so light is reflected on the shadowed side of your subject.
  • Take photos of your subjects doing things they like to do. This gives your photo composition more interest. A child with a favorite toy is a good example; another is a hobbyist with the tools of his trade or a grandmother knitting a blanket for a new grandchild.
  • When photographing someone, get down to the person's eye level. That way, you're photographing the person straight on and not from an overhead angle.

Get with the Action


blurry focus_P.JPGAction shots can provide great mementos of happy activities at any stage of life. When family members participate in sporting events, be there with your camera. The little ones can be just as exciting as the pros when it comes to sports and far more approachable with your camera. Accessories such as telephoto auxiliary lenses and auxiliary flashes help you get the perfect shot.


Here are some tips for capturing that perfect action shot:


  • An auxiliary flash, particularly one that's equipped with a zoom flash head, can be useful when photographing sports, especially when action occurs quickly. This flash extends your distance reach and freezes motion, so you're ready to shoot at the peak of action. Before you start, however, remember your distance limits and set a high ISO to extend your available distance.
  • When you do set a high ISO, a camera with a fast lens can capture the action without the aid of a flash. This is particularly useful if you can't get close enough for your flash to be effective. Shooting at a speed of 1/250 or 1/500 freezes action.
  • Another way to portray action is through a slow shutter speed for intentional blurring. Track your subject by panning the camera so your subject is sharp and the background blurred. Some digital cameras have settings for performing this task without your manual intervention. (Likewise, your camera has a setting to blur the background while showing your subject crisp and sharp.)

The Silhouette


Another interesting technique to explore is the silhouette. You can create a silhouette to convey any subject's character in a unique way. Set your camera on a tripod and pose your subject where light can strike the subject from behind, to create an outline.


An example of a good time and place is on a waterfront at sunset. Watch the reflections and position your subject to take advantage of the natural outline that's often present. You should allow more space in front of your subject than behind, providing more space into which your subject can gaze. Meter-on the light areas so the shaded side goes dark and then lock your exposure in by pressing the shutter button down halfway, recompose your shot and you have your silhouette. You can use the same technique for children playing on the beach or just groups of people enjoying a summer evening.

To get the exposure correct, meter-off your background. You can set this exposure into the camera manually or press the shutter button halfway to lock the exposure while you recompose your shot. In this situation, don't use your flash.

Printing your photos


skyshot_P.JPGThese days, you have a whole host of options available when it comes to printing your digital photos. If you have a photo printer at home, all you have to do is upload your pictures to your computer, select a few settings and print. Many photo printers also accept memory cards and support PictBridge direct printing, which lets you print pictures directly from your digital camera to your printer.


  • If you don't have a photo printer at home, consider an online photo sharing and printing service, such as Snapfish, which lets you upload and share your photos, order prints and even create personalized gifts. In addition, you can also order prints from your favorite photo lab, or print your own from self-service photo kiosks.
  • If you're in the market for a new printer, consult the HP Photosmart photo printer buying guide to find the perfect printer for your needs.

Now that you've learned some solid tips for taking better portraits, action shots and people shots, you're ready to bring out the personality of your subjects and start shooting with confidence! Are there any tips that you found really helpful here? Or maybe you have some of your own that you discovered. Let us know what you think!

Labels: how-to
by Michael Zerman
on ‎06-27-2011 11:34 PM



The following is simply an observation on responses to The Next Bench's content as posted here over the past three months, ie since 1 April 2011.


[Of course it's your, HP's, media strategy to do as you wish.]


Of approximately 100 posts in the past three months, the majority (about 80%) have received no commented responses, a few posts have garnered 1-5 comments and only one post has received a significant number of comments, namely 15 responses to a piece about "Battery Recalls".


To me this implies that the content is not rivetting or sticky or even engaging to the point where the reader(s) wish to respond or take issue with the posts.


Maybe commenting is not the purpose of this Next Bench exercise, and scraping by external aggregators is your aim or retweeting to social media sites.


 As the author above suggested, "Let us know what you think!", is this site making headway these days.




Michael Zerman


by GizmoGladstone
on ‎06-28-2011 02:13 PM

Hey Michael, we actually do get a lot of engaged conversations around our stories, but those are happening in our Facebook and Twitter communities. You’ll even see our friends at sites like

Engadget and CNET reference our content as well.


Thanks for your feedback!





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