taking peoples pictures…

May 10th, 2009 by Rebekka in Uncategorized

Other peoples portraits aren’t really my “forte”…  not that i don’t , occasionally, succeed in getting some decent portraits made..  Its just that i tend to get immensely stressed at the prospect of photographing people.  I myself become extremely uncomfortable whenever someone points a camera in my direction (somewhat ironic considering my vast colletion of self-portraits.. but in turn it probably explains why most pictures of me ARE selfportraits).     Anyway, i suppose i’m too sympathetic to the plight of those i point my camera at, and that somehow makes me uneasy about the fact that im putting people in this situation. Which is dumb, because in most cases i’ve actually been hired to do this…So they did ask for it.  Anyway, i’m really selling myself as a portrait photog here, no doubt..

Anyway. While digging thru my archives the other day, i noticed quite a few portraits that i’ve taken, that i’ve never shared on flickr.. figured i’d gather a bunch of them together here, just for the hell of it .  And also because after not updating this blog thing for 3 months, i figured i’d better make a BIG post :p

Daughter of a woman who graciously offered me a place to stay in barcelona last year..

Outtake from a drummer series i did in 2007..

Another outtake from the drummer series ..

miss reykjavík 2006. shot for a magazine..

Painter Hlaðgerður Íris, shot for a magazine..

sister of a girl i was hired to photograph, took some extra's of her while i was at it..

graduation shoot..

singer Kate Havnevik backstage

from a band photoshoot 2008..

confirmation photoshoot for the girl on the left, here with her sister..

my niece

my niece

my nephew

politician, magazine shoot..

dubstep artists Mala and Sgt Pokes

Mala & Loefah in London..

icelandic band Dikta

icelandic band Dikta

Read 33 comments

33 comments for this post

every single one of them has it´s charme, but specifically the
picture of Kate Havnevik pleases me.


Love that second one of the drummer, and the headshot of the girl on white.. = )

Rebekka, you have described exactly how I feel about portraits only I didn’t know why I felt that way until I read this blog. I hate taking people’s photo. I don’t mind doing self portraits, I do it when I am bored for fun. I hate having my photo taken, I do not photograph well except by myself. Still, people ask me to do their portraits which I get tremendous anxiety over….but with my limited experience and equipment I have been somehow able to capture part of their essence that they are happy with. I keep thinking it is luck. I just take 200 in a sitting and from all different angles and hope for the best. I find with women, handing them a glass of wine first helps too.

Your portrait work is something you should be proud of. They are so raw, so honest, so real. I think you really have a knack for capturing the person inside. I would really like to see you do more of it in fact.

Ryan wrote on May 10th, 2009

Thank you for this post. I don’t agree with the comment above in that your portraits are raw. I find them refined with purpose. Your subjects show an opposite emotion to what you described yours to be when taking the shot. Somewhat ironic that is. BTW… also hate the camera pointed at me.

Nice portraits! And nice to finally see a new post on this blog :-)

jestem wrote on May 10th, 2009

I find your aversion pretty interesting because, while there are those people out there that whine every time a photo of them is taken, most people absolutely LOVE their picture being taken. Maybe it’s vanity. Maybe the joy of seeing themselves in a way they rarely can (a photo and a mirror are not the same experience). This becomes really apparent to me while traveling. I can’t count the number of times I’ve tried taking a photograph, of a building, a park, my girlfriend, when some locals, smiling and giddy, wanted to edge their way into the picture. And I have had so many of them request s copy of the photo. A very strange phenomenon.

I think it would help you immensely to not view people with your own predispositions but do your best to uncover theirs. Not only will this free you to get more absorb by portraits but will give you an insight into their beings to take even better shots.

You are so talented!
The 2nd drummer, Miss Reykjavik, gauti and dikta are outstanding!
Where did you learn to do the postprocessing like this?
I’d love to know more about how the pictures were made…
Looking forward to your next post!

The shot of the drummer playing is awesome, great energy. And the setting is amazing, obviously.

Well, it is nice to see a new post. I totally agree with you on the portraiture work. I have been taking my girlfriend out for shoots in various places throughout the city, and we have managed to crank up the creativity quite a bit, but overall, I feel this intense pressure to take great photos, and when she looks at them, some turn out well, some, well, suck. There’s a lot to learn with them overall, and it is an intimidating task. I mean, its your job to take great photos of an expectant crowd. But overall, your photos exemplify that you have nothing to worry about, and that I have ages to go. So onto your photos right? I REALLY really like the band photo of the gun to the head. Your use of a fisheye here is absolutely perfect. I would have never thought to use that. and of course, your drummer series was always a favorite of mine. The energy and lifestyle of musicians is so interesting. And the politician photo is spectacular – hidden in plain daylight, something like I imagine politics to be. The rest, well, you capture innocence and happiness wonderfully.

Thanks for the post, they really are wonderful…

johnski wrote on May 10th, 2009

your photos show a detached isolation as a thing of beauty….
often goprgeous
often moving
otten though provoking.
What a gift to have. Thank you for sharing it.

the politicians wife is out of focus in the foreground, his phone rang in the middle of the shoot and he stepped away to answer it.. besides an awesome pic i got of them together, which is on flickr, this was my favorite from the shoot..

The pic of Gauti (he’s the mostly hidden dude holding the “rope” in the pic below) is actually cross-processed film, unlike all the others, which are digital. love the colors that sometimes produces..

i was going to post more pics here but simply was unable to locate them on my sloppily organized external drives.. sigh..

2light wrote on May 11th, 2009

Daughter of and Singer Kate have great expressions. When i view them i know the emotions they are having. I think your free spirit and spontaneity come through in the portraits you make. Portraits to me are a resemblance of a person’s spirit, expressed in a positive light. I think the reason people request the services of Portrait Photographers is so they can be a wonderful memory for others. When i photograph portraits all the emphasis is on my subject and putting them @ ease. It is always works the best, so that the creativity can flow between your subjects.

Rebekka, I understand where you’re coming from about having your photo taken & the anxiety in taking people’s pics.
I recently took some shots at a public event and I was REALLY conscious about where I pointed my Nikon; but surely if they’ve asked you for the image then half the anxiety must be relieved?
That’s when you can show your prowess with the camera & treat it like the ‘art-creation session’ that it is. You have a gift with the camera and that’s why you’re asked to take portraits….which brings me to having your own pic taken.
Not everyone who tries to take another person’s photo really knows what they’re doing or how to take an image to bring the best out in someone. Call it vanity but I really hate it when someone takes a shot of me. Usually they hurriedly stick the camera in my face, are way too close, have a naff flash which makes skin look pastey, and ‘CLIK’, I’m captured for all eternity looking like some kind of camera crime-victim! Hate it!
Now you, on the other hand, know how to prepare & capture a really classy, elegant, & contemporary style image. So, you can take my photograph ANY DAY! Although that’s no guarantee I’ll like it :) DjF

Lovely portraits!
I specially love the one of Kate Havnevik and the children.
They are all so beautiful and artistically done.
I admire your photography!

dknisely wrote on May 11th, 2009

Your results are quite good and it is refreshing to hear that you have reservations and anxieties about people portraits. Thank you very much for sharing and for discussing your insecurities.

What I’m impressed with here is the range of styles. As a mini-portfolio, you seem to have all the bases covered – full length, head shots, environmental, candid etc – and all are composed perfectly.
It would be difficult to say which are the “best”, but I think the ones of your niece and nephew are extra special. There’s a certain love in them, probably due to you being more relaxed with them (and them with you). Some of the others are more “detached”, as one would expect with things like journalism/band promos.
I think I’d be a nervous wreck if I was taking portraits of people I don’t know personally, but I really want to try, as it must be very rewarding, particularly when the model is giving you something to play with, as in the shot of the drummer in action.

yeah.. that was one hell of a photoshoot… The plan with the whole drummer thing was to not let any of them pose with their drum set… this guy was like “fuck that. Its me AND the drums, or forget it” so i figured i’d better let him have it his way.. So we drive out of town on a freezing windy february morning , and i wait 20 minutes or so while he sets things up, and starts playing like he’s alone in the world.. and i’m like “uh.. whoa…ok” then he pauses, whips off his t-shirt, and continues playing.. Very cool guy.. ;)

Great photos, will be following up to see more! :)


I´ve seen your flickr page today for the first time. I am speechless. I don´t like photography very much (or I thought I didn´t) but I love your photos.

When I was reading a commentary of one of the photos I noticed you had a blog and here I am.

I like your posts very much. I feel very stupid saying this things but I write a blog too and if you don´t mind I´d like to insert a link to your flickr page and your blog.

Kedar Pingle wrote on May 21st, 2009

Hey Rebekka..

I hope i have spelled ur name correctly…

I have got a huge crush on you after watching your pics…

Good Going… all the best…

and hope to meet u :) :)

I also didn’t thought I’ll be a portrait photographer either. But my experience is that when you do great photography, no matter what kind of photography, clients show up and wants from you to take portraits in the way you shoot table top (for instance).

Anyway I found that with portraits I can support my family (and build a house) so I’m officially portrait photographer. It does get a lot of fun…. eventually!

Hi Rebekka, I really like the first picture posted of the little girl; the one of the singer Kate; the band one where the guy is making a gun gesture. I know what you mean, I get really stressed photographing other people too! I’m trying to figure out why. I think part of it is what someone else commented, people expect something good from you, or at least it feels that way. They are paying after all. But I found it easier to take portraits when I was doing it just for fun, no money involved. Also, taking pictures of my two year old nephew is easy because he doesn’t care what If I got anything good; although he does like to look at the camera to see what I took. But I’m also relaxed with him, because I know him…and vice versa.
I did a photoshoot of a band once, not long ago. I was very nervous about it, because I don’t like posing people, and they were wondering what they should do. But I got some good shots anyway.
I really enjoy doing self portraits also! It’s weird, I’m very comfortable taking pictures by myself-of myself-but if someone else has the camera on me, sometimes I feel a little awkward. [I know I feel that way because they're looking at me; if I'm just taking the picture, no one is looking, it's just a mechanism.] It is more of a challenge to photograph yourself since you’re not behind the camera…but I think it’s fun. It’s a surprise when you see the image.

I don’t know if I will ever become a hardcore portrait photographer, like you seem to be.
I guess practice makes you better and more comfortable though, like telling people what to do, or just capturing the candids.
Very interesting topic you brought up. Thank you for posting those great pictures!
PS. I added you as a contact on Flickr :)

i agree that there is an inherent stress and anxiety about taking portraits of others.

i feel that you have to come out of yourself- be someone else in a way. i am generally outgoing and far from shy, but as soon as i have a cam in my hand trying to take someone’s portrait, i get uncomfortable. it’s hard not to, but that obviously makes the subject uncomfortable. you know all this, but there’s a strange way i’ve found to be positive, excited, and make your subject feel comfortable and show their true self.

it’s exuded here- http://www.wired.com/video/street-portrait-photo-how-to/27609165001

although he says to let people go who aren’t into it, clay is a bit too pushy at times.

sandra wrote on July 3rd, 2009

i’ve been following your blog for about a year now, and i just want to say how great your pictures are.
and you’ve made me fall in love with iceland.

I’ve had my own misgivings about taking pictures of people, generally passing on any request to take portraits…least of all as a paid, results driven, assignment. Yet I’ve found, as have many I’ve shared this view with, that our best “work” (if it can be called that) are those images captured purely as an extension of our personal vision. How we see people, not as objects but subjective actors in our own lives. And once in a rare moment, we may present something extraordinary — even overtly personal — that may otherwise have remained over-looked and unrecognized. It’s then that a mundane scene from our lives suddenly becomes a work of art. And, sometimes, it’s even good. LOL

i dunno why, but yer pics seem a bit to homosexual for my tastes.
love and peace,
peace and love,
kirk gregory czuhai

Hi, I can’t understand how to add your site in my rss reader. Can you Help me, please :)

actually.. i never use rss feed myself… so im afraid i can’t help you there :/

That photo of your nephew is fantastic. The intense gaze looks like he’s saying, why is she always taking pictures of me..hurry up already. :)

superbes photos, ces portraits sont magnifiques
bonne soirée et à bientôt

Awesome, I did not know about this topic up to the present. Thanx!!

a really great post by you hope to read more really soon.

Maybe you could make changes to the webpage subject title
taking peoples pictures… | Rebekka Guðleifsdóttir to more better for your blog post you write. I loved the post still.

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