Photographing older people can be a joy for many reasons. To start with, a lived-in face is usually more interesting than that of a callow youth. Also, older people are usually more generous with their time. So here are some tips of photographing older people.
I life story in every portrait
It’s said that a person has the face he deserves by the age of forty. Maybe these days sixty would be more appropriate. Certainly as far as photography is concerned, the older a person gets the more of their life story will be etched into their features – and this means that older people make natural and fascinating subjects for both portraiture and Street Photography.
The sensitive photographer should be able to capture the essence of a person’s personality and of course this will be that much easier if you have a good, expressive face to photograph.
The best light for photographing older people
The direction of light that can most often enhance texture, shape and form is sidelight. So it stands to reason that if you are photographing an elderly person and you want to emphasise the lines and wrinkles of that person’s skin – its texture – then side light can come in very useful.
However, like everyone else, some older people can be extraordinarily vain, and will not take too kindly to photographs that make them look decrepit. So a degree of diplomacy may be needed if a photography session is to go smoothly. If you want to take a more flattering picture, try using backlight and reflect it back into your subject’s features with a white reflector. I explained this simple technique when I wrote about the Understanding the Quality of Light.
I love photographing children because of their natural innocence and charm – they can be appealing and very funny. Well, so can older people, and often the sparkle of youthful mischief and memories still shines through in an older subject’s eyes and facial expressions.
Explain what you want to achieve
When you are photographing older people, you will find that they tend to be much less self-conscious and easier to work with than younger adults. Old people often take it as a great compliment that a photographer is interested in them. Often they are willing to give up their time as a result. You will almost certainly be able to work closely with an older person in order to achieve the picture you have in mind. So explain exactly what you want to achieve at the start of the session.
Take the time to LISTEN
When photographing older people take time to listen. Listen to what your subject has to say. Older people have been around a long time. Most have often gathered knowledge and stories worth listening to. Sadly these days, not everyone is prepared to take the time to listen to our senior citizens. If you are prepared to be an exception, you will be rewarded with some fascinating stories, and you will help put your subject at ease and achieve better pictures.