Saturday, 12 February 2011

Studio photography relationships

So you are all set, you budgeted for travel and your setup time, you have taken your meter readings so now all that is left to take some images.
You get your first subject at the big a corporate job you nailed sitting comfortably but their body language suggests that they are far from comfortable. You fire off a few shots to get things going and to check the lighting and find the lighting is perfect, but your model is rigid and giving the classic cheesy grin. This won't give you a warm, friendly and natural shot the company has specified they need so what do you do?

Everyone has their own approach to making a subject relax, I am sure I am not alone when I say have come across many a photographers in my childhood or at weddings that have seemed to have the worst repertoire of jokes I have ever encountered! Or ones that definitely been very cringe worthy! Now that I am in the profession myself I look back and can completely understand what they were trying to achieve; something natural or different. We as human beings completely change as soon as we have a camera pointed in our faces and if you don't know what I mean you can do one of two things. Firstly log on to a well know social networking site and find that friend who always has a compact when they are out drinking in town. Now take a few moments to look at the same type of shots that are taken week after week. Full of Cheesy grins, drunken faces and guitar strumming poses to Child of mine??? Thought so!  Secondly did you or a sibling ever have a brace (train tracks) when they were at school? Well find one of their old school photos from that period……can't find it as you can't see their teeth? Thought not. The subject didn't smile naturally exposing their teeth as didn't want mum plastering her hall of fame with one of the worst type of pictures for a 15/16 year old!

So assuming the subjects you are about to take a photos of are not wearing braces or intoxicated how are you going to get some natural poses? One way is to have another person in the room that they know or at least have an assistant there, just someone that takes the focus off of you and the camera. Having someone they know in the same room is very distracting for them so they may pay less attention to you and forget to look at the camera however if you can get the two colleagues chatting and build up a rapport then the jokes and laughter (along with the natural smiles and poses) will flow easily.

But what if there is no assistant or colleague to take the attention off you, well a trick I have always used comes from when I had a short term position in a sales company. Find common ground, ask the subject what their job title is, if they had a good weekend perhaps? Is it cold or hot outside, make comment on the weather, just anything to get them talking and once you have found the common ground you will be on your way to the natural pictures you need. On the side of caution do be careful on the questions you ask, try and keep them very general and avoid direct personal questions. If you ask a general question and the subject offers more personal information for example "oh I just spent time with my three children at the weekend, we went to the park" you can then judge for yourself the direction of the conversation and what is appropriate.

Of course with any subject you will get the odd person who will not play ball, but what I would say here is unless you can clearly see them getting agitated with your attempts to build a rapport don't give up. Even the words ‘ok I think we are pretty much done" might put a smile on their face so make sure you are ready to capture the shot!

Thanks for reading and good luck out there!

Michael J Leather


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