Capturing Engaged Portraits

When I give portrait assignments to students, I usually ask them to capture three different types: Front-facing head and shoulders, environmental where the subject is part of a larger scene, and what I call the "engaged portrait," which is when the subject is doing something.


I like the activity portraits a lot. My feeling is that we learn even more about the subject when they are focused on their work, a hobby, or in the case of this young boy, watching soap bubbles with his mom.

With engaged portraits, we often see expressions that reveal personality. The person is thinking about an activity and not as much about be photographed. The protective shield is lowered, and the viewer gets a peek at an aspect of the real person.

You have to have your camera available and ready to fire, because these opportunities are often spontaneous. For example, I prepared my OM-D in the morning and had it available as we started our 4th of July BBQ with family. I didn't take any pictures for the first few hours. But when Charlie and his mom started blowing soap bubbles, I grabbed the camera and captured an engaging series of images.

Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of group shots and other types of portraits during these events. But the engaged portraits are often the ones I share with others.

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