Archive for July 2012

Personality Driven Photography

Occasionally I'll turn down a job because the potential client doesn't want to comply with the way I work. Maybe that's me being a prima donna, or maybe that's me having values. Either way, I just don't put up with that. This is how I do it, and it's been working so far.

People come to me with your basic portrait shoots, business headshot shoots, dating website portfolio shoots; those are the major ones in my current business. These people are looking to get "great" pictures. They have seen examples and show me what they think is "great", and me, being a normal person above all, usually find the photos corny and hilarious. Granted, sometimes people show me photos like Taylor McCutchan and then I have my work cut out for me, but for some reason, that's rare.

So I have these nice people who want me to take cheesy, lame photos of them because they think they're good. I remind these people that no matter what they taught us in elementary school, just about everyone judges the book by its cover. Then I explain to them my method.

Tell me about yourself, only the important stuff. Tell me the things you want people to see in you, good things. Tell me what makes you different from other business professionals, or what you want to stand out on your social media or dating profile. Are you trustworthy? Social? Funny? Studious? A hard worker? Into animals?

I build a photoshoot around the traits they give me, using instinct to guide them. I watch them when they speak to me when I first arrive. I ask myself "Are they shy? Are they overconfident? Do they already know what they want to do? Are they comfortable with me?" To be completely honest, I NEVER use photos from the first 15 minutes of a shoot, because they're all duds. The subject is uncomfortable and I don't know them well enough yet. So I choose the most comfortable location, the easiest poses, and the most friendly conversation to get them talking, and the camera captures the rest.

By the end of the shoot, the client is coming up with poses or actions, regretting not bringing a bottle of beer or a fishing pole as a prop, asking me how quickly I can send them samples. I don't say this because I'm tooting some kind of imaginary horn, I say it because I was lucky enough to stumble upon a technique that makes my (unbelievably silly) slogan actually mean something. When you work this way, your subject is comfortable, and you're giving them photos that actually mean something and that will convey a part of their personality, it's true that "It only takes an hour".

Yes, I really do say that. It makes me feel special.

Making Your Subject Comfortable

So often, models & clients come voice to me that during our photoshoot, they got more direction than they had with any other photographer. This makes me proud, knowing I'm doing something right. But honestly, doesn't everyone give direction?

I guess not.

This post isn't for model photography, FYI, so I'll continue from here on a strictly client basis.

Just a note to self, or to you, as a photographer, you have to make the people in front of the camera feel comfortable. Every - single - time I photograph someone (unless they're a professional model), I CONSTANTLY hear "Oh, I look TERRIBLE in pictures" and "I'm so NOT photogenic" and my favorite "You're going to have to do a LOT of photoshop on my face".

I'm not sure if it's human nature to HATE the way they look, or if society's way of painting people who find themselves beautiful as vain, but just about everyone I meet is vastly uncomfortable in front of the camera. As a photographer, it becomes not only my job to take their picture, but to make them look GOOD, and honestly, not hate themselves.

The shoot starts and they're tense, not knowing whether or not to smile or 'smolder', turn, stand up straight, lean in our out, profile, etc; so I immediately begin with direction. I'd say it's a bit of a recipe.

60% Direction: "Turn your face this way, look down with your eyes, shoulders up, cross your hands"
25% Confidence boosting: "Now that's a great pose", "With your eyes looking that direction, you look really studious", "Standing that way makes you look very elegant"
15% Hard Evidence: Yes, once I finish a pose, if I came up with a shot that I know they'll like (instinct), I show them. It's a raw, imperfect photo, but when you tell them it's a great photo, show them they created the exact look you were hoping for, and that they look (insert adjective here), you'll start getting results.

Of course, I pepper in some joking, a few small anecdotes, and as many opportunities (without being too many) to remind them that they are not alone, everyone else feels weird and unnatural in front of the camera.