It can very tricky to photography a person speaking in American Sign Language. I get lots of practice with my RIT, NTID, Rochester School for the Deaf Shoots and thought I’d mention a few things that might help someone.

Honestly, part of it is shooting lots of frames. ASL is a fast moving, arm-waving experience, so it’s easy to get blurred shots. One of the toughest things is that the language is so expressive (due to how much meaning is conveyed by expression since there is little voicing), and you can get some really awful expressions as well. Sort of like when someone is really into singing or dancing and their face makes sense if you are their live, but as a frozen frame… it can be nasty.

Here’s a series I shot at the RIT Celebration of Scholarship. This student is (I believe) the incoming student government president, and really lively & terrific.

And this is just a few of the frames… with the worst ones cut.

How’d I do… well, I know I got one or two OK shots, and I wouldn’t use this one…

as the sign (and expression) is too close to ‘Where’s the toilette’… although she’s obviously not saying that! But it does bring up the issue that know some sign is not only useful in life, but helps in editing. And when you are shooting, you can catch some positive signs that photograph well like ‘Thank You’ ‘I’ ‘Congratulations’, ‘Love’… that kinda stuff.

This one is just plain bad:

So learn some sign, shots lots of frames and try to get in synch with your speaker and her expressions. The best news is that it does lead to great expressive images with lots of gesturing, which we shooters all love.

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