Let them know what you are doing
Be open to the client’s ideas
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I have a saying: the best job in the world is photographing people; the worst job in the world is photographing people. It might sound weird, but I truly believe that working with people, photographing them in my case, is one of the most interesting experiences life has to offer, and an ideal job for me, but it is also a source of nightmares in real life. It can be very difficult to photograph another person, especially if you don’t know them very well. It’s not always hard and it’s not always a joy, but regardless of what kind of photography you practice, be it weddings, fashion, commercial or classic portraiture, there are days when you feel like everything is wrong and you simply cannot connect with your subject, at least not in a positive way. Here are three steps to improve communication with your model, even if it’s a bridezilla or a high class fashion model.
Having a camera around is second nature for you and me. We see it as an extension of ourselves and that makes it easy to forget that it’s completely different for whomever you’re photographing. A camera can make some people so shy and frightened, it’s like you’re pointing a gun at them. I once photographed a bank CEO for one of their calendars. I remember he was the scary kind of guy, imagine the mafia boss type. However, as soon as I sat him under two large softboxes and pointed my camera at him, he softened up like a high school fresh mint. He told me it wasn’t his favorite thing in the world, taking pictures. So I said “ok, here’s what’s going to happen”. I then explained the whole process, including the editing, and the fact that I was looking to capture him with his best expression. I also told him how long I expected the shoot to last, roughly about 20 minutes if everything went well. All this talking on my part helped him loosen up and give me the expression I wanted to capture. The same goes for a bride or any other client. Explain your actions while you perform them.
Great portraits are the result of successful collaborations with the model. Having the right attitude can work miracles in this case. Make sure to lower your guard and temper your awesome photographer ego. You might be incredibly talented and creative, but the truth is two minds think better than one. Your client could have a good idea about posing or the concept, one that could benefit him in a way you haven’t thought of. Have an open attitude and enjoy working with the model like you would with a partner.
3. Expectation management
No portrait photographer ever has worked without having at least one client (yeah, one, sure!) who wasn’t happy with the photos although they were absolutely amazing in everyone else’s opinion. The truth is, it has a lot less to do with the photos or you as a photographer than it does with the client’s expectations. The photos could be amazing, but just different from what the client was expecting. Before you manage the expectations, make sure to ask as many questions as possible so that you know who you’re dealing with. You will then be able to adopt the right tone of voice according to who they are. Remember, it might be another day at the office for you, but to your subject it could be a once in a lifetime experience. Make sure to let them know that it is a creative process and not open heart surgery or microchip assembling. In other words, the results may vary according to each new perspective. It doesn’t mean that if they see one of your bad photos but they still like it, they should have it, nor should they feel bad if the best photos are not their favorite.
Image credit: nyul / 123RF Stock Photo