Recently I photographed a bridal session that I felt really excellent about. It was one of those times where you're smiling to yourself all the way home. Today I wanted to share with you some things I've incorporated to challenge myself in all areas of portrait photography and get great session after great session.
I've recently been giving myself 'goals' before every portrait session. I don't necessarily give myself different goals each time and I don't allow myself to get caught up on any goal while I'm shooting (if it's not working - it's not working). They're just guided thoughts that allow me to be more mindful about what is naturally happening in front of me. One of my biggest goals has been to really and truly connect with my subject. In the past, I had a really bad habit of using the same 10 poses on every bride I photographed. I was starting to feel like my work was really limited and becoming uninteresting.
The truth is - my work WAS becoming super boring! So I thought - What can I do to serve my subjects better and how can I create art that I feel close to and proud of?
Below are some things I have either stopped doing, or things I have started doing that have greatly influenced my work in a truly positive way.
I stopped pre-planning shoots before they happened. This is such a big one! I would literally go through all of the poses I wanted to capture based on the venue, dress and what I thought I knew about my subject prior to actually arriving. I didn't realize it then - but pre-planning my shoots was actually KILLING ME creatively. It was so limiting trying to remember and capture pre-planned poses. (I'm literally like cringing just thinking about this!) So if you feel like your stuck in a little rut or aren't feeling so hot after a shoot, do yourself a favor and TRUST YOURSELF! Don't call upon Pinterest for answers - instead use the P for inspiration on your down time. It's ok to appreciate other photography and feel inspired - but try to avoid straight up copying. You will be amazed with how your work transforms. I promise!
I stopped picking up my camera until I was actually ready to shoot. HUGE game changer! In the past, I would almost immediately take my camera out, test it, then say - "Ok! Let's get started!" (SUCH A BAD IDEA! STOP DOING THIS!) This past year, I had the grand idea of, hey what if I talked to my subjects and really connected with them before I captured them? Like REALLY connected with them. I want to know my subject. I want to know their different types of laughs, which side they prefer, are they shy? Do they like to be photographed? Do they have a favorite heirloom or fav piece of jewelry? Did I ask enough questions to learn enough about them? Talking to your subject in a genuine way also relaxes them. THEY LIKE IT! They want to know you are both humans. So basically, take your camera out when your subject is ready. You will both be super chill and ready to capture epic moments! The best part is - THIS IS SO EASY. It's actually way easier then not really listening to your subject because you're freaking out about the poses you want that aren't unique and may not even make sense in the context you are currently actually in. THINK ABOUT IT! Wake up and be present, friends!
I started LISTENING. If you truly begin to listen to your subject they will tell you how they want to be captured. That sounds nuts - but let me say that again - your subject already KNOWS how they prefer to be captured, you just have to have the skill set to read and interpret their wishes. If your subject is shy make them comfortable and start with poses that don't involve them looking straight into your camera. (Telling a shy person to look right into your lens is a death sentence, I literally don't know of a better way to make them uncomfortable.) Even if you don't keep the images, coaching your subject to look away from you will allow them to be more relaxed as you begin to capture them. If you listen to your subject, you will know if they are bubbly, shy, sexy, serious, relaxed.. you name it! When you decipher their personality you will be able to interpret their unique body language with amazing poses that compliment not only their physical appearance but also their own personal fire inside (no matter how bright that fire may be!) Some people really enjoy getting their photo taken - and that's amazing! But most of us aren't crazy about being models and that's ok! Engage with your subject - let them offer ideas (even if they aren't great ideas!) Give them a chance. Let them feel like they are a part of the shoot. Because THEY'RE A HUGE PART! They are the shoot. I find my best work is captured when my subject is truly engaged and excited with what's going on. Both the shy subject and the outgoing subject LOVE having their photo taken when they feel connected with their photographer. And that's just the honest to gosh truth!
So the next time you really want to WOW your client, step back, trust yourself, and LISTEN TO THEM. You will not be disappointed!
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Happy Friday, Everyone! Go forth and conquer!