Tips for the Lazy Photographer: Faces

One of my favorite things to photograph is people. Last week when I introduced this lazy series, I mentioned that I’m no professional. But there are some general things I have learned to help make people photos a bit better, no matter what kind of camera you have. This is also referred to as portrait photography, but that is kind of fancy so I like to call them face photos.

1. When photographing faces, get close. I know it seems obvious. But when I want the face, I want the FACE. Especially with kids. Grown ups tend to shake, giggle, or threaten physical harm when you get too close. But with kids, start out as close as you feel comfortable.

Then, GET CLOSER. Bring the camera to the point where you feel uncomfortable. Then move in another inch. Yes, that is what I said. This is where a zoom lens comes in handy, as you can get close without being annoying.

2. Lose the background. In photographing people, I prefer the background to be blurry. It keeps the focus on the face. If you have a fancy camera like a DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex), you can control some of that depending on the size of the aperture. But if you are lazy or don’t have a fancy camera, fill the frame with face and person so the background is unnoticeable.

You can’t imagine how messy this room was when this photo was taken. But who cares about the room? You want to see those beautiful blue eyes.

3. Don’t wait for the smile. Remember film? You had 24 or 36 chances to get a good shot. Those days are over. Click before, during and after the shot you want. Some of my favorites happen this way.

Provoking your subject with potty humor works sometimes too. In fact, I highly encourage it.

Related Posts and Link Love:

Tips for the Lazy Photographer: Indoor Lighting

Browse more face photography at I Heart Faces.

And for those of you who aren’t quite so lazy, check out Digital Photography School on aperture and depth of field (ie. blurry backgrounds).


  1. emily says

    Hi Kathy,

    I do use a digital camera. But these tips hopefully apply no matter what type of camera you have. Happy snapping!

  2. Mom in High Heels says

    I love it! You are my hero. I always want close up shots but M likes wide shots. Why? WHY? I ask. I don’t care about the background, I want to see the face. Of course when standing in front of the Eiffel Tower, or a castle or whatnot, THEN I want the background, but otherwise, faces, faces, faces.

  3. Imperfect says

    I love those pictures. Especially the one of the girls laughing at the bottom. Thanks for the great advice. Now I just need a camera that isn’t from the Bronze Age.

  4. Kim@ForeverWherever says

    I love zooming way in! There’s less distraction in the photo and you get to see every detail of their face. Thanks for sharing you photos and reminding me that kids change so fast that we better take tons of photos!

  5. Courtney and the Boys says

    Love, love, love, love, love your blog! Thanks for popping by mine through I Heart Faces. I am SO sticking around here! I won a Canon DSLR from a photo contest in December and am trying to learn all about it. Love your tips!

    Courtney and the Boys

  6. Jessica says

    Thanks for the great tips. I love photography but have yet to get a good camera. I will suture your tips to my brain until then. I love your blog and have read it for several months.

  7. Beloved says

    A.G. looks sooo much like The Man these days! Her nose, expressions…Yet, kind of like you, too, which tells me that people marry people that look like them :) I think S. looks like the Man in a different sort of way, and baby boy has your eyes MOST DEFINITELY!

  8. Kimberlee says

    These are fabulous! The last one with the girls laughing – even if induced by potty humor – is so much fun!!

    My 16 yo would have none of this – he’s entered the world of “turn that thing off!!”

  9. Becca says

    Thanks for the welcome! I believe I found your blog off of Kellys. I just love taking pictures but I am really not that good at it so that’s how I ended up here! Your pictures are lovely and I enjoy all the tips!

  10. AnNicole says

    I love this! You’ve taken such great photos…not to mention the fact that your kids are adorable. Thanks so much for sharing your tips.

  11. Amara says

    Thanks –keep these tips coming! Thanks too to Kelly for sharing that shutter sisters link. That was great! Someday I’ve got to invest in a DSLR camera.

  12. Aubrey says

    Oh man, I have GOT to get a new camera. Thanks for all the tips. I really, truly do need them. Looking back at the pictures of my kids, most of them look so dumb.

    And how did Kelly put a link in her comments? Sheesh, I need a new brain too.

    My word verifaction is drootrap. So, go catch some droo. Whatever it is. Maybe our kids could tell us.

  13. Bonnie says

    These tips are so great! I know you said you use a Pentax and we are currently shopping for a new camera. Do you not use a DSLR Pentax? I just assumed….

  14. emily says

    Hi Bonnie,

    I have a Nikon D80. It is a DSLR. I had a Pentax 8 years ago when I first got married. It was a 35mm SLR.

  15. 3LittleByrds says

    Those pics are so cute. You did a wonderful job. I love pics when they least expect them. Catching them in the moment always turns out great. Thanks for sharing your tips. I am loving your blog and your sisters as I’m new to the blogging world. By the way your house and decorating is gorgeous.

  16. Kimm says

    Thanks for sharing your knowledge! I love to take pictures, but have LOTS of room for improvement. I appreciate the help!

  17. Sing4joy says

    Yay me for you giving Lazy Photographer tips! You went plum wild turning that one black and white! Could you make, “Lazy Photographer” a category in each of these posts, so I can get them all in one place? Is that too controlling? You probably already did something like that and I am just not paying attention right. Anyway, I adore your pictures and it is always a pleasure to look and to read here at Chatting At The Sky

  18. Kathy says

    “Provoking them with potty humor” LOL Do you know how many times I have resorted to this with my three boys. And of course, being TRUE boys it worked like a charm. :) Love this series and hope you have more in store for us. Your photos always look fabulous!!!!

  19. Denise K. says

    Great photos Emily and what a wonderful family to photograph!!! I was going to ask what kind of camera you use, but just read all the posts and found the answer! Keep up the photography posts, they are a lot of fun! :-)

  20. Blue Castle says

    Thank you for sharing this. I used your tips to get some nice pictures of my son. :) Those little faces are so precious.

  21. Megan@SortaCrunchy says

    I am all about the face! My husband is forever irritated with me because I consistently cut off foreheads, but I am trying to convince him it’s my artistic point of view. 😉

    Great tips – tried and true!

  22. Debbie at Cheaper By the Bakers Dozen says

    What a helpful post!
    And gorgeous pictures to boot.
    I should’ve read this before yesterday when I posted pictures of my post-appendectomy son in bed.
    Maybe I’ll delete and start over!

  23. Halfpint says

    I'm loving this series!!! I got a D60 a couple of months ago & I have to say, you were actually the inspiration for me to spend the cash. Keep the posts coming.

    And post an after picture of your kitchen w/ the new painted cabinets already!

  24. Becki says

    Thanks for the tips! It would never have occurred to me to move in so close. I spent last night practicing on my children. They loved it! Well, not really. But I loved it! Becki

  25. pocket full of pink says

    Thank you for your comment! I absolutely ADORE your blog and can’t get enough of it. I feel special that you took notice of me, ha! Thank you for always providing a fun read!

  26. Margaux Achee says

    Your tips are great. I would have to say I am not all that great with my camera. I look forward to checking in for more tips.

  27. Amber says

    I feel like you and my hubby collaborated on this post. 😉 I hate the close up shots…of me! And he loves to take them. It seems to highlight the double chin or round face. I like some distance between me and the camera, and some background to give me some context that balances my big face out. 😉 Now, for kids, (and a lot of other people) I LOVE the close ups. They do capture a lot of personality and emotion!

  28. queenbee says

    I love looking at your pictures and cant wait to get a new camera either the Canon Rebel or Nikon 40. Do you have a preference?

  29. STEPHANI says

    Emily, I just started a blog recently and through that process I came across yours. I think when I was looking for Christian blogs. Anyway, I don’t know you but I wanted you to know that opening your blog visually gives the feeling of a soft place to fall. This recent post will hopefully help me as I am an avid scrapbooker and am desperate to learn how to take better pictures. Thanks for the tips.

  30. Kim says

    I swear, I think the last picture reminds me of you and your sister!

    Thanks for the tips and the other site! I just got a new camera! Rebel!! AND I went ahead and got the fancy lens {something to do with 2.8!}

  31. Kathy says

    Love your tips!!! I think about them now when I take pictures.

    If you get a chance, stop by my blog. I need some recipes for my digital scrapbook if you’d like to participate.

    Have A Great Weekend! Kathy :)

  32. Sandy says

    oh, love your photography. as i write, my hubs is taking close-ups of my son in the living room. :)
    you’re talented, girl!

  33. Jo says

    Thanks for the tips. I’m saving up for THE CAMERA!!! When I get it – i’m bookmarking all these greats tips. Love your writing.

  34. Kate says

    Hey Emily. Been a long time! Just found your blog through Paula’s. Last week I looked through Avery’s first year album. Thought of you guys when I saw a picture that you took ages ago. The kids are so old… How did that happen already? They are beautiful.

  35. Jennifer P. says

    I’m a big fan of candy…as in PLEASE JUST HOLD STILL FOR 2 MINUTES AND I WILL GIVE YOU ONE, NO ALL!, OF THESE CANDIES!!!” (followed by open weeping as I’ve been trying to take just one decent picture for a 1/2 hour now). Heh heh :)!

  36. Courtney says

    GREAT tips!!! perfect for a mom with lots of kids that loves taking pictures but doesn’t have time or energy to read manuals :-) keep em coming!!!

  37. says

    I love this! I read one other post in this series and I will check out the others. I am trying to improve my photography on my blog. Thanks for sharing!

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