Hands as Portraiture

 

The bus had just started its journey, and so it was relatively empty. A man who entered the bus at one of the stops stood, holding the support rods of the bus. I used a shallow depth of field to isolate the hand, and also to give a sense of depth to the image. Photograph/Raj Lalwani

The bus had just started its journey, and so it was relatively empty. A man who entered the bus at one of the stops stood, holding the support rods of the bus. I used a shallow depth of field to isolate the hand, and also to give a sense of depth to the image. Photograph/Raj Lalwani

Hands have always fascinated Raj Lalwani. In the search for a different perspective, he explores portraits through hands.

My Assignment

  • Description: A series of portraits, exploring individual personalities through their hands.
  • Duration: Shoot images whenever you meet someone new, or when you come across an interesting character while travelling. 7-8 strong images can easily be obtained over a period of two weeks.
  • Notes: Aim to get images of people from varied walks of life.

Eyes are the mirror to a person’s soul, but it is the hands that characterise his or her personality. Hands give away a lot about a person – his / her age, individuality, profession and even their mood. In effect, hands talk more than eyes do. If you want to know what is going through a person’s mind, look at his/her hands. They will give away even the most subconscious feelings of the person being shot. The grit and hard work written all over a labourer’s hand, the soft, delicate hand of a young woman, can both make for evocative photographs.

People often shoot close ups and midlength shots of individuals as portraits, but portraits can be shot differently. Photographs that do not show the face of a person but ‘portray’ his/her personality are portraits shot from an alternate perspective. For example, a person’s hands always present a strong portrayal of their personality, and are hence, an interesting subject to shoot as portraiture.

My Perspective
Let the emphasis be on the hand—the rest of the frame must not be too cluttered since that will disturb the composition.

Try using shallow depth of field by using a wide-open aperture like f/2.8 or f/4, so that the emphasis is on the hand. A shallow depth of field blurs the background, and that helps to isolate the main subject.

We see hands around everywhere – people waving out, gripping something, hand gestures and so on. The key is to capture a moment where you feel that the hands best express the psyche of the person to whom they belong.

The Process
Observation is the key. Whenever I would meet someone new, I would observe how that person uses his or her hands. After that, I merely needed to do was strive for interesting compositions and let the hands do the talking.

My Equipment: Any camera can be useful. The most essential gear is a keen eye that always has a lookout for detail.

Tips You Can Use

  • Decide whether you want to focus on the hands’ beauty, or whether you seek character. If it is the former, lighting is of utmost importance and you need to ensure you shoot with someone who has nice, long fingers that are relaxed.
  • If it is character you seek and if you wish to portray an individual’s persona, you might again have to wait for the right moments – you may see a person clenching his fist, praying, waving his hands fervently or using his hands to express any other emotion. If the person is old, you may want to concentrate on bringing out the textures of the hand by concentrating on how the image is lit.
Tags: Composition, frames, hands, vantage point