I wanted to touch on a few things that I enjoy about working with people when I’m shooting. Whether working with models or shooting every day lifestyle images, there are several common denominators that I find necessary to take into consideration in every shoot, regardless of how different the subjects are.
1. Make Your Subject Comfortable
One of the things I’ve noticed and continue to become increasingly more aware of as I shoot, is that the person on the other side of the lens and their overall level of comfort is going to be completely visible in the outcome of the shoot. Whether the subject is an experienced model, or the subject isn’t necessarily crazy about the idea of having their picture taken, the dynamic created from the moment I meet them until I feel like we’ve gotten the shot, is probably one of the most important parts.
Building the relationship with my subject is one of my favorite parts of the process. When I meet the person I’m shooting, I feel that it is necessary to create a space that makes the other person feel comfortable and completely at-ease. I typically initiate conversation or make a joke, or ask them a personal question to off-set any nervousness or stress. Emotion is probably most visible in images of people, and I find that it’s worth the extra few minutes to make sure that the person in front of me is having just as much fun as I am, or is at least willing to let their guard down so that they aren’t thinking about how they look, and are able to relax and have fun throughout the shoot.
Whether it be a full-blown photoshoot, or a documentary lifestyle shoot, I find that preparation feels like 70% of the work, in comparison to the shooting time itself. Styling, direction, location and timing should all be pre-meditated, down to the assignment of each particular component. I don’t think this can be too detailed. Once all components are in place, the shoot is able to take on a natural speed and momentum, and the ease that comes with having everything planned ahead of time is noticeable in the images, as they don’t feel rushed or random. Shots are thought out, poses are ready, and the overall lack of stress creates space for spontaneity and opportunities in front of the lens that are difficult to create when either me or the subject is in a noticeable hurry.
3. Real-Time Hurdles/Breaking the Rule
This is actually my absolute favorite part of the whole shoot. The reactionary aspect of shooting people is both the greatest challenge to me, as well as the most exciting. The preparation and the initial meeting are vastly important, as they set the tone for the moments when the shots are being taken. But after that, there is a constant stream of components that change; lighting, body-language in real life vs. research and ideas, wardrobe malfunction, weather, and countless other things that come up in real-time. Reacting to this stream of events and details becomes the formula behind creating images. The improvisation and fluidity of going from research/idea to being in the present moment and doing what feels right always keeps me on my toes and always stretches me. I would definitely say that this is the most essential component when shooting images of people.
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