Distinguishing Feature

Distinguishing Feature

The distinguishing feature between a good photographer and a mediocre photographer is the placement of the hands.  The hands of the subject tell the whole story.  If the hands aren’t right, it’s a bad portrait.  Plain and simple.

I wish I could post the work of these photographers so I could show you examples.  But, to ask them, “Can I share this picture as a bad example?” would be in bad faith and tacky.  It would also bring embarrassment to their clients.

I guess I could recreate the pictures, but I don’t have that sort of time.  And, to use some of my own examples (where I screwed up) wouldn’t be appreciated by my clients either.

Instead, here’s the list of what I’ve seen lately.  You can mentally draw a picture.

  • A beautiful high school senior posed in a masculine pose – fist clenched, back of the hand to the camera, chin resting on the fist.  Her face said ‘angelic’, but the pose/posture said ‘manly.’ (disappointing!)
  • An engagement photo of a couple where the girl’s arm is coming out from under the guy’s arm and sticking out between his legs.  Ummm… let’s just say it looks like he has an arm growing between his legs and leave it at that. (disturbing!)
  • Another engagement photo.  The arms are uncomfortably wrapped around each other and because of a long-sleeved sweater, this hand looks like it is just plastered onto his ribcage.  (creepy!)

To the Client

To the client, I watch for those things.  Often you’ll hear me say, “Please place your hand between his shoulderblades so it doesn’t look like little sausages hanging off his shoulder.”

Or, “Let me see the pinky edge of that hand.”  (This is so a lady’s hand is positioned correctly towards the camera.

Do I miss little things?  Yes, and if I miss them, I don’t charge extra to fix them.

To the Other Photographers

Here are a few ‘rules’, if you will, to help you watch for those distracting hands…

  1. It is okay for a man to show the back of his hand to the camera.
  2. A woman’s hand should show the pinky or thumb edge, but never the back of the hand.
  3. If a hand is shown at all, let us see where it comes from.  i.e. show the hand, wrist, elbow, shoulder.  Let us see a path from the body to the hand.
  4. If the arm is wrapped around another person’s body, be careful not to show the hand.  I call this the ‘phantom hand’ because people wonder… Where did that hand come from?
  5. Keep both eyes open while composing your picture.  It helps you see distractions.

About the Author

D. Brent Walton is a Certified Professional Photographer, the Certified Professional Photographer Liaison for New York State, and a Photographic Craftsman.  Owner of photography by db walton llc he has been in business for 17 years.  His studio is located in Palmyra, New York, on the Beckwith Estate at 213 W Main Street.

copyright 2017 db walton
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