Usually, when we think of portraiture, photos with faces are the first thing that come to mind. However, photos of hands and feet can show as much or sometimes more emotion than the human face.
The reason why hands and feet (with or without shoes) can make such an emotional portrait is because they express a person’s character and help to tell a story. Imagine a photo of a line of soldiers all in muddy combat boots. There is no need for a full-length portrait. With the image cropped below the knees, it still tells the same dramatic story.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when photographing hands and feet.
Know your objective and shoot in a light that will help to express it. For example, do you want to show the beauty and gentleness of a ballerina’s hands? If so, choose soft natural light. But if your subject is a rough old fisherman, then an artificial light with harsh shadows that bring out detail and the texture of the skin may be a better choice.
Keep compositional techniques in mind. When you frame your subject consider using the “rule of thirds”. Watch for leading lines, utilize triangular shapes, juxtaposition and other traditional rules of composition.
The best part about making portrait photography from just hands or feet is that it takes no special gear. Any type of camera and lens will work. All you need is a bit of inspiration and a goal to be creative.