Group of of people climbing steps, one looking back
Lens-Artists,  Photographic techniques,  Street photography,  Sunday Stills,  Themed galleries

Gallery: faces in the crowd

Coming in tight was boring to me, just the face… it didn’t have enough information. I want to capture the whole essence of a person, not just their facial features.

Annie Leibovitz

With 7.888 billion people in our world (2021 figure) it shouldn’t be hard to find someone interesting to photograph. Yet, among so many, how do we find the ones that stand out from the crowd? Which are the faces that speak to us? Which seem to tell a story that can be captured in a single shot? Perhaps it’s their clothing, their expression or what they are doing?

It’s no secret to anyone following my blog that I much prefer candid portraiture to posed. In part that’s because I often lack the confidence to ask someone if I can take their photo. But it’s also because I like the spontaneity of a candid shot. I’d rather catch someone unawares, engrossed in a task or conversation. And like Annie Leibovitz I like to capture, if not the whole person, at least something of their clothing and/or the setting in which I find them. Without those details the shots lack context, they’re just anonymous faces in that crowd.

John’s chosen theme for this week’s Lens Artists challenge is facesany faces. I’m choosing to stick with people and taking the liberty of pulling back from the face to place my subjects in a context. At the same time I’m looking for faces that stand out, whether in a crowd of people or in a complex environment such as a busy city.

Techniques to ensure a face stands out

To ensure my chosen face stands out from the crowd, or from any other distracting details (and much of the time to also ensure the person doesn’t spot my camera and either pose or turn away!), I usually use a zoom lens and a wide aperture. A favourite trick when editing is to use a Nik Color Efex filter called ‘darken/lighten centre’. This creates a slight vignette effect to highlight the face.

Another way to make a face stand out from the crowd is to capture someone turning in your direction while everyone else looks away. My feature photo, taken at the Bindabasini Temple in Pokhara, Nepal, is an example of this. I used the same technique for the photo of the young monk in Bhaktapur that I used in last week’s post about framing, but even I think it’s too soon to repeat that one!

However as always a few favourites from previous posts might have sneaked into the selection below. But for the most part I’ve tried to find some you won’t have seen before. Many of these shots were taken at festivals and special events so I’m linking to Terri’s Sunday Stills theme of celebrations too.

Note: I’ve deliberately grouped my shots more tightly than usual to create the sense of a crowd. To see a caption with the location just hover over the image, or click any one of them to open a slide show.


Do share your thoughts, I'd love to hear from you! And please include your name in case WP marks you 'anonymous' - thank you