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The biggest game-changer for your family photos

In a definite better-late-than-never move (mea culpa), I want to share with you the two things that I believe have the absolute biggest impact on how soulful, emotive and beautiful your family photos turn out. So today, we're talking about hands!

I always tell my clients that we want our photos to tell a story about the people who are in them. Without words at our disposal, we rely on body language to do the talking for us, and some of the best communicators our bodies have are our hands.

How we hold our hands, what they are doing, whom they are touching and how they are touching that person communicates so much about the people in an image and their relationship. Simply being in physical contact with another person conveys a sense of comfort and familiarity. Beyond that, the placement of the hands can tell us a lot about the subjects' relationship, whether it be playful, nurturing, protective or intimate.

Holding someone's hands during a walk shows that two people are close and enjoy being together. A hand on a woman's abdomen immediately suggests that a new life is on it way and is already loved by the person touching the womb. Hands reaching for one another can communicate support or a very special companionship. And of course, hands brushing a shoulder, someone's lips or face communicates a deeper level of intimacy between people.

Once you can see how impactful hands are in an image, you will start to notice that something seems wrong when the hands are missing in lifestyle portraiture. Hands truly do "complete" a person, and so I always ask clients to do their best to keep them in the image, preferably above waist level, and not just hanging at their sides. Hanging hands have a better chance of being cut off when the camera is focusing on your faces. Even worse, hands that are just not doing anything but hanging at your sides can seem somewhat lifeless; photographers actually call them "dead hands" for this reason. It's actually better to have a hand tucked in your pockets with just a thumb showing than to have "dead hands" detracting from your photo.

Hands are so impactful, that we often photograph them without faces included. These "faceless portraits" are some of my favourite ways to include some interesting, emotive images that complement the rest of your gallery. Faceless portraits allow us to focus in on little details, such as a baby's tiny hand or head in relationship to his or her parent's hand. During an engagement shoot, I might focus on a couple's intertwined hands with the engagement ring in the image, highlighting their oneness and the commitment that they have made to each other. Cropping faces out of an intimate caress between two people -- focusing on where hands are touching bodies -- can actually add a beautiful mystery and sensuality to a couples photo.

So when you are doing your next photo shoot, remember these three hand-y tips:

  • keep your hands at or above your waist, where the lens will catch them

  • use your hands to touch your loves in ways that are natural and speak to your your relationship

  • avoid "dead hands" -- carry some flowers, a hat or a scarf to keep them busy, tuck a thumb into your pants pocket or swing or arms a bit to keep your hands from looking like they're just hanging there.

And the second thing that has the greatest impact on your how amazing your photos turn out? We'll save that for another blog entry -- coming soon!


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