People and Expressions


Firstly congratulations to _jmegan for winning April’s ‘Spring’ photo challenge competition. A special thanks to Panasonic Global and LUMIX Ambassador Gagan Sadana for judging April’s photo challenege competition. Don’t forget this month’s winner will be announced at the start of June, so make sure you submit your entry before the closing date of 31st May to be in with a chance of winning!

For this month’s Expert Advice article LUMIX Ambassador and professional photographer, Gagan Sadana, set himself the task of capturing people and exprressions

If you like taking shots of people – whether complete strangers or people known to you – then this month’s expert advice article and Photo Challenge is for you! That’s because the theme this time round is just that – photographing people and their facial expressions.

We are not specifying ‘portrait work’ as such – nothing so formal as that. What we would like you to do, though, is capture real facial expressions; to photograph real people. Their expression could be one of excitement, surprise or sadness, or something else entirely. And it could be captured indoors, at home or in a studio, or outdoors in a public place. It is up to you.

Remember – the Photo Challenge is your opportunity to share your work with us and with a wider audience. So, before you get started, why not read this month’s advice article on the subject and get some insight from a professional photographer

Gagan Sadana Portrait of an old man reading newspaper

The camera settings for this first shot by Gagan were as follows:

  • LUMIX DMC-GX7 camera
  • Shutter Speed           1/250th of a second
  • Aperture set at f-stop 2.5
  • Focal Length 20mm
  • Lens F1.7 20mm
  • White balance ISO 1600

While it is always far easier to capture the facial expressions of someone we know personally, the challenge is if it is that of a stranger. Being a street photographer, people are central to – in fact the very heart of – all my photography. Often, I am looking for interesting personalities around me, to capture faces that tell stories.

Unless both you and your subject are actually walking, I find there is always the time available to think about the composition when you are going to take a shot. In the above photograph, for example, which was taken at the Tate Modern gallery in London, I felt immediately that the gentleman had a unique personality. When a stranger comes up in front of you with a camera pointing towards you, your expression would most likely be like his: essentially one of surprise!

However, that expression and that moment might not last very long – sometimes it could all be over in the blink of an eye. So, you have to be quick and at the same time confident about your composition. You won’t have much time to re-compose the shot and capture the same expression you wanted, especially in moments like this one at the gallery, where you are taking a candid (by which I mean not posed) photograph.

The photograph below is one of my favourites. There are strong emotions captured in this shot; both couples are expressing love, but the expressions are very different. Eyes are so important while capturing mood; they will speak what words or actions do not – and that’s what we can see with the couple in the foreground here. Meanwhile, the kiss being shared by the other couple in the background was a brief moment

As a photographer, capturing something like this – the same essential emotion being expressed so differently but within the same frame – is what the magic is all about. I shot this picture using the 4KPhoto function on my trusty LUMIX, which allows me to capture 30 frames in one second and then I am able to save the best frame. Had I been using a standard still photo mode, I might have missed the best moment and, possibly, the magic too!

Gagan Sadana Photograph of a two couples in London

The camera settings for this shot by Gagan were as follows:

  • Shutter Speed 1/500th
  • Aperture f/5.5
  • Focal Length 38mm
  • Lens G VARIO 14-42 F3.5-5.6
  • ISO 1600

Whenever I am out and about, I am always inadvertently observing people – and that is what helps you to capture emotions, through their expressions. This next photograph was taken in the first week of December last year, a month when people are generally excited, happy and looking forward to celebrating Christmas with their dear ones. As soon I saw this old lady, the thing that struck me the most was the sadness in her eyes. Her eyes drew me towards her.

I mostly use a prime lens for photography, so the only way to get closer to my subjects is to walk towards them. I took advantage of the GX7’s silent mode and tilt-able live-view screen to compose the shot. Being able to fill the frame is also key in making your subject become the protagonist of the story that the image will tell. Cropping in post to fill the frame might seem like an easy option, but based on my experience, composing in-camera – getting it right first time, in the moment – is usually the best way.

Gagan Sadana Portrait of an old lady

The camera settings for this shot by Gagan were as follows:

  • Shutter Speed           1/125th
  • Aperture f/2.5
  • Focal Length 20mm
  • Lens F1.7 20mm
  • ISO 400

So far we have looked at three of my photographs that are all in black-and-white – and converting my photographs to monochrome (which is what I have done here) is often my choice as a photographer. I always think black-and-white strongly brings up the emotions and takes away the, if you like, ‘confusion’ of colour.

On my recent visit to India, however, I worked on a couple of a short series and, while my preference was to present both completed series in black-and-white, I decided after all to keep one of them in colour. Sometimes, keeping the colours as shot might complement and enhance the expressions of the people I have photographed. Bear in mind that, in entering the Photo Challenge, you are entirely free to make your own creative choices; I am only telling you how I like to do things myself!

Here are a couple of the photographs from that Indian coloured series. In the first of them, below, the two young men are happy, having a rather cheerful conversation. In this instance, quite apart from the vibrancy of their clothing, I felt that taking away the colours by changing into monochrome in post would tend to make this joyful moment look a bit, well, dull!  Preserving the story as I saw it originally was key.

Gagan Sadana Photograph of youn boys India

The camera settings for this shot by Gagan were as follows:

  • Shutter Speed 1/640th,
  • Aperture f/16,
  • Focal Length 8mm
  • Lens G Fisheye 8/F3.5
  • ISO 800

When talking about people and their expressions, we are not just talking about individuals. It’s often just as interesting to observe a group of people, I find. Individuals within any given group may have a diverse range of expressions. You will often observe this while they are speaking to each other. Or, just as interestingly, it could be that you find a group where all the people in it have the same expression, such is their unity in the moment.

The photograph below was taken at the same location as the one above. Here, a group of four people were all looking rather curious, clearly wondering why I was photographing them. So, all of them with a questioning look – but coming across fairly differently through their eyes and expressions!

Gagan Sadana photograph of a group of men in India

The camera settings for this shot by Gagan were as follows:

  • Shutter Speed 1/2500th,
  • Aperture f/8
  • Focal Length 20mm
  • Lens F1.7 20mm
  • ISO 1600

When photographing people, eye contact is very important and, in some situations, this will last only for the briefest of moments – especially when you are taking a candid shot. I was doing a photo walk at a local bus stop in India and saw a man looking outside a bus window. He was unaware of me intially and was not even looking at me. So, I was waiting, hoping to get eye contact with him. By quickly switching the camera to 4KPhoto mode, I was able to capture a very precise moment when he did look at me before then looking away again, and the bus then left the stop.

Gagan Sadana portrait of a bus passenger 4Kphoto

The camera settings for this shot by Gagan were as follows:

  • Shutter Speed 1/125th,
  • Aperture f/1.7
  • Focal Length 20mm
  • Lens F1.7 20mm

I hope these shots and the stories behind them have whetted your appetite – do it your own way, get creative and find a subject whose expression is telling their story to you! I am sure that you are all now up for the Photo Challenge – so, do please go ahead and submit your best shot to us for this month’s theme of people and expressions, with a brief description of the story behind the shot as you prefer.

Remember that you could win a great prize. Also, if you are on Twitter, then why not tweet your image as well? Remember to include the handles @LumixUK and @GaganSPhoto (that’s me!) to further share your images, after you have uploaded them to the LUMIX G Experience community. I can’t wait to see what you come up with. Happy shooting!

All the best – Gagan

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Member Comments

  1. gee posted a comment on 24 January 2019 at 11:11 pm

    Very interesting article and photos.

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