The first time I photograph anyone, there is a certain amount of trust that must to be built. While it may seem like the majority of work has to do with the actual act of photographing, it really has more to do with working with people than taking a picture. Most people’s natural reaction when they are in front of the camera is to turn off their personality, emotion, and reaction and start as a blank canvas. Well, that can be good and bad. I don’t want people to forget who they are and turn into someone else, and I also don’t want to make them act differently than they normally would. It’s a fine balance to create an environment that allows people to be comfortable with the camera, but these are some of the ways that I do so:
1. talk. I give people a run through of what the session will be like, and then talk them through the first steps once we jump in and get started. I often ask questions and get people talking in order to help them loosen up and think about something else besides the fact that they are being photographed. It also allows them to have more natural expressions and reactions, which is one of the things I look to capture.
2. direct. I love a relaxed and candid portrait, but sometimes it can take direction to get there. Especially when starting out the person being photographed doesn’t know how to act, where to look, what to do, and some of those questions need to be answered. I start by giving more direction, either to be unscripted, stand closer, think of their wedding day, etc… to help elicit a reaction.
3. change. I find it helps to have a change of scenery, either by walking over to another location or planning a few different steps to the shoot so that it doesn’t get stale. Starting in a new location gives people something different to work with and a new place to start especially if things weren’t working out where you were. Of course I love to photograph the walking between places – and those other moments that are unscripted and natural.
4. improvise. Once I place people in the right setting, good light, etc… I love when they improvise, or act natural. Some couples catch on sooner than others, but what I’m going after is the interactions and expressions that come when they have fun, act like themselves, laugh at how awkward they were when they first started, think about the time the first met, and dream about what their future together.
5. be myself. Last but not least, I try to be myself so that my subjects can follow suit. I’m honest and open during the session since I ask people to be the same.
I’m pretty candid on this blog so any reader can get a sense of my personality and make their own judgement on if I’m a person they would like to be photographed by. It took me a while to accept this, but I can now say I know I am not the right photographer for everyone. What I bring to the table is going to be different from anyone else, in both my photographic style and experience, and my life and interactions with people. I love that everyone can pick up the same camera and see things differently, and I work best when people want my perspective not just the camera that I use.