To me, a good portrait or photograph of a person must show some sort of emotion coming from the person. It's just so much better.
You can have the perfect composition and the perfect lighting- but if the subject's face is devoid of any type of emotion what's the point?
(Unless of course that's what you're going for.)
So that's why I think it's important for you to actually connect with your subject so that your subject can connect with the camera.
Have you ever seen a portrait of some one where their smile is just mechanical and fake?
It's just not the same.
So here's 5 tips on getting some genuine emotion out of the people you're shooting!
1. Get to know your subject.
What's their story? What makes them laugh? What do they enjoy doing? It's hard to connect with some one whom you know absolutely nothing about! Forming a connection with a person starts with taking a bit of time to get to know them first, before they get behind your lens.
2. Warm Up.
Even people who feel completely comfortable and at ease in front of the camera usually need at least 5 minutes to warm up. Although most people (including myself,) are just not comfortable in front of the camera. (I know, shocking right?) :P
My mind goes something like ... YIKES! There's a camera pointing at me! What do I doooo? Does my smile look stupid? Do I look like a deer in headlights? Am I making a double chin face? What about my hands? ... Am I BREATHING right?!?!
So. Take some time to get those nerves and/or awkward jitters out. Just start shooting!
Talk to your subject- tell them how awesome they look. Make them feel comfortable! Let them laugh and get all those silly faces out (although I must confess I never truly get all of MY silly faces out ...) After 5-15 minutes (depending on the person,) they'll begin to feel more comfortable and at ease.
I always try and make the people I'm shooting forget that they're being photographed!
3. Interact with your subject(s).
When I'm shooting some one I'm constantly interacting with the person. Talking to them, asking them questions, making them laugh! The more you interact with them the more comfortable they will feel. Do you know how awkward it feels to be photographed by some one who is completely silent?
Click .... click click ... click ...
4. Get excited!
It's one thing to interact with the person(s) you're shooting, but truly getting excited about it takes it to a whole new level! It's pretty simple. In most cases, the more excited you get, the more your excitement will rub off on your subject.
I personally start talking in a british accent when I get excited.
(Don't ask me why because ... I don't know.)
5. Experiment with a range of emotion.
Go for some variety! It makes life more exciting. Serious ... playful ... happy ... somber ... you get the idea.
6. Don't forget about those in between moments.
I love to snap photos of people "in between" photos when they don't realize I'm taking their picture. For just a moment they let their guard down and you can get some candid, raw emotion and it's a beautiful thing!
Now go out and take some emotion-filled photos of the ones you love! (And even those who you don't.)