The Importance of Photographing Hands
Before we start, it is important to note just how versatile hands are in photography. While longer focal lengths are recommended for traditional portraiture, almost any focal length can photograph hands. For this B&H Insights entry, I've used a 35mm F/1.4 L, 70-200mm F/2.8 EX OS, 14-42mm, and 85mm F/1.8.
Hands Can Show Affection
Perhaps one of the most important times to photograph hands are when they are expressing love and affection. Consider an engaged couple. A photo of their hands together revealing their wedding rings is an image they will love and value because:
- Their hands together shows their union.
- The wedding rings shows that they are married or will be getting married.
- Depending on how you shoot it, the bride to be will remember how much meticulous effort she put into getting her nails done correctly.
- Alternatively, years down the line she may yell at her husband about how he needs to moisturize his hands (unless you retouch them of course).
When you photograph hands in these kinds of situations, make sure the background isn't distracting since you want the photo to emphasize the affection between two people. If you don't get it right in-camera, then it can be done through various editing techniques such as desaturating certain areas of the image, changing the composition through careful cropping, or adding vignetting effects.
Hands Tell Stories
In cultures where the bride decorates her hands, a photograph can capture exactly what the design looked like. Then when she sees the image years later, a flood of memories will come back and she'll remember all the work that went into making her hands look perfect.
If you're a dad, think back to the first moment you touched your newborn child. Then remember the first time this new bundle of joy wrapped a tiny hand around your finger and just how special that moment was. That child's hand is never going to be that small again. Later in life, you'll look back at these photos and think about how much your child has grown up.
Hands Can Be Expressive
Besides telling stories and documenting moments in your life, hands can create interesting images by being a means of expression.
If hands aren't ready for their close-up, then consider how they can make a portrait more effective. Take a look at the compilation above and notice the difference in hand positioning with the model. In each photo, her expressions are different but her hands help to define what those expressions are. The bottom right and top left photos would have a totally different feel to them without her hands.
How do you feel hands are important in your images? Let us know in the comments below.