Putting Personality into Portraits

Leah Lindsay takes a moment at work to share her personality.

How do you get someone to share their personality in a portrait naturally and not have them pose?  I listen to the person and observe them over several minutes before I create a portrait that shows them and their personality.  This requires having the camera and lens with all of the settings correct and ready to go at any moments notice.  The above portrait of Leah Lindsay was taken while she was at work in the radio station.  We had planned on me seeing her at work, as I had to do some training for my job.  I would be in Kalispell on a day that she was in the studio and on the air.

We spent many minutes talking informally before and after this photo was taken. We caught up on what was happening in our personal and professional lives.  I also helped her tally the score on a call in competition she was holding at the time, where listeners chose between two classic rock bands as their favorite.  This was a very fun and relaxed photo shoot, which is what I prefer to do most often.

The Kohm family poses on the deck the day after Christmas in 2016.

I’d much rather have the individual or family in their own setting where they can be comfortable and acting much more natural.  The photo above was taken the day after Christmas in 2016 at the Kohm family home near Plains, Montana.  The snow was lightly falling and everyone was in very good spirits, even though it was a little cold.  I spoke with everyone several minutes before this photo was taken.  In the minutes before the photo I asked what kind of photos they wanted and where.  I  then encouraged them to all close their eyes and only open them after a count of three.  I waited one second more after the count of three, then captured this photo.  This trick works every time and is one that I learned from a professional photographer by reading his book, The Digital Photography Book.  A huge thank you to Scott Kelby, the author and photographer who has been an immense help with his easy to understand directions, tips, and suggestions on digital photography.

How often do you talk with and listen to the people you are photographing for a portrait?  Do you always have your camera and lens settings ready to capture the photo at a moments notice? Are the people you photograph for a portrait feeling relaxed, comfortable, and acting in a natural manner in front of your camera?


About Douglas Wilks Photography

I am an advanced photographer who lives in western Montana. I create a variety of strong images using a DSLR, computer, and digital software. I am available for hire for full time, part time, or projects. Most of my images are of landscapes, still life, and events. I am always looking to improve my skills, network of friends and professionals, and portfolio. I look forward to creating new friends, contacts, and others who are interested in photography.
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