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Tips on How to Photograph Men

written by: Larry M. Lynch•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 5/19/2011

The unique challenges of photographing men - from the man next door, blue-collar workers and tradesmen to male models, actors and professional athletes - can yield some rewarding images with relatively little set-up and stress. Here are some tips and techniques on how to photograph men.

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    So You Want to Photograph Men

    Whether they are young, old, ruggedly handsome or “the-boy-next-door”, men offer a fascinating variety of facial features, hair cuts, expressions, poses, clothing and many other aspects you can easily use to capture a wide range of digital images for fun, trade, or profit by considering these tips and techniques for photographing men from jocks to intellectuals.

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    The Man of Action

    Jurubida December 2005 260 Undoubtedly, one of the best scenarios in which to photograph men is the environment where they work or play. Ask your subject about his favorite leisure time activities, favorite participation sports or the type of work he does. This may well open an interesting venue for getting quality digital images of men. Go “on location” to show the man in action. Allow the subject the freedom to engage in normal activities under the chosen setting. Then you need only to set your camera, compose your images and start shooting. Fill the frame with your subject to show more detail.

    Photo Shooting Tips: In strong sunlight you may need to use flash to fill in shadows or reduce harsh lighting contrasts. Use a fast shutter speed to help “freeze” motion and bracket your exposures one stop up and down of your camera’s automatic settings. Alternatively, adjust your shutter speed one setting faster or slower than automatic settings too.

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    Character Studies on Men

    Jurubida December 2005 234 If you’d like to shoot digital photographs of men outside of a studio or formal setting, why not try some character studies? Whether the man is an outdoorsman, seaman, white collar or blue collar worker, tradesman or a fashion model, the environment which they are exposed to on a daily basis helps to form and mold their body and features. As a digital photographer, you can capitalize on this by moving in closer to show the man’s distinctive facial and physical features. These types of images can tell viewers far more about a man than many other portrait types. Strong lighting can aid in emphasizing rugged features and provide strong digital images through heavy contrast. Allow the man to wear typical clothing for the photo shoot to provide more authenticity to the photographs.

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    Sports Action Photography

    IMG 7849 There’s another hot button for getting great digital images of men – sports. Whether he plays or just watches, you can bet on a relaxed, stress-free photo shoot when his favorite sport is the backdrop. Is he a jock or a weekend athlete? Great! Now just toddle along to the game, scrimmage or practice session and you’re all set for some action images of your male subject. He doesn’t have to be storming up and down the court or playing field either. Be sure to catch your subject before the event, at halftime and at game’s end for a broader range of photos. Again, don’t be afraid to fill the frame with your subject to capture greater detail but don’t neglect good composition either. No cutting off of heads, arms, legs or other body parts, unless you’re Henry the Eighth.

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    Sports Action Photo Shooting Tips: When there’s plenty of action, shoot fast with a fast shutter speed of 1/500th second or faster. Focus on zones which are close enough to you for you to capture good detail in your images. Don’t try to cover the whole playing field, you most likely won’t be able to do a proper job of that anyway. By shooting in a close zone you can focus on when your subject approaches without worrying about too much else. Depending on the team position played, you might have to position yourself near a particular part of the field or court for a consistent supply of “photo opps” of your subject.

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    Things to Avoid When Photographing Men

    James Daniel Steele 063 In addition to the suggestions above, you should try to avoid the following photographic faux pas. In this image, note the pole “growing” out of the man’s head – oops! Now where did that come from? Check for obstacles like poles, trees and other artificial appendages suddenly sprouting from your subject. Move your subject if possible. Another problem with the photo on the left is that the background is far too cluttered. An unavoidably “busy” background can be thrown out-of-focus using a wide lens aperture (f5.6, f2.8 or wider usually works). Alternatively, move back from the subject and zoom in to tight-focus the shot to blur a “busy” background. Have your subjects interacting if at all possible to help to personalize and liven-up the picture. They’re not about to be executed by firing squad so don’t “line them up” to be "shot" (pun intended). If, however, you've already taken the photo and find there are undesirable objects growing from your subject's head, there are some post-processing edits you can make.

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    Photograph Men Using Variety and Imagination

    AGASVAL Bogota Seminar July 009 When photographing men, use a healthy dose of variety in settings and situations along with an open mind and imagination in composing digital images, shooting angles and other photo dynamics. You can then be assured that your efforts will be amply rewarded with outstanding photographs of men of all types.