As a professional travel photographer, photo tour leader and workshop teacher, I’m often asked by people how they can improve their people pictures. One of my favorite resources to direct them to is Erin Manning’s book Portrait and Candid Photography Photo Workshop (John Wiley & Sons)

“Taking great people pictures isn’t a matter of luck,” writes Manning.
“The secret is in observing your subjects and connecting with them, and then using your camera to its best advantage.” I couldn’t agree more!

n the book, Manning, professional photographer, digital photography expert and host of the Telly Award winning how-to series The Whole Picture, uses hundreds of full-color images and step-by-step instructions to help you create people pics with personality including assignments at the end of each chapter so you can build hands on experience. Later you can upload your photos to and get feedback from other readers. How cool is that.

Before you dive headlong into the book, here are 5 simple tips from Manning to help get you started.

  1. Experiment and take a lot of photographs. Even after you think the picture taking is over, you never know when that magical moment will happen. Be prepared to capture unexpected moments.
  2. Fill the frame with your image. Look at the background and get rid of any distracting elements. Seeing people up close provides immediate impact and a feeling of intimacy.
  3. Include a natural frame in your photographs. Using an overhanging tree branch, doorway, or archway in the foreground creates more visual interest.
  4. Place your subject off-center. A face right in the center of an image is great for a driver’s license or passport photo, but when it comes to artfully composing a shot, consider the Rule of Thirds. Think of your entire scene as a tic-tac-toe board, and place something of interest at one or more of those intersections.
  5. Share a laugh. An authentic personality is easy to catch if you and your subject can share a laugh. When you’re shooting the pictures, keep talking and give them feedback about how they look and direction on what to do. Encouraging comments and direction really help loosen up subjects in front of the camera.

Now, go on, dust off your camera, apply these techniques and watch your subjects come to life!


* Portrait and Candid Photography Photo Workshop by Erin Manning is part of John Wiley & Sons’ Photo Workshop series, a co-publishing partnership with Other titles in the book series include Photographing Children, Composition, Photos That Inspire, Canon EOS Digital Photography, Lighting, Macro Photography, and Rick Sammon’s Canon EOS Digital Rebel Personal Training. Click here to learn more.

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Ellen Barone has been creating words and images for travel and tourism since 1998. She co-founded and publishes the group travel blog and is currently at work on her first book "I Could Live Here".