July 25, 2011

Pancake Session: Shooting

It had been a while since we’ve been on the other side of the camera. The last head shots we had taken are a couple of years old now, and we were in the market for something a little more tres 2011. Plus, we were bored. I mean there are only so many Michael J. Fox movies you can watch in a day before you really just need to get out of the house. So we grabbed our cameras and headed down to the Lighthouse, and we shot each other. Y’know with our cameras….definitely not with guns.

That would be illegal.

See, there’s that law school education paying off. Habeas Corpus. Ipso facto.

And since it had been a long time since we had been on that side of the camera, I’m going to be honest it was a really great reminder of what our clients go through. Of what we ask of them. And just how nerve-wracking it can be. Throughout the shoot, we made a mental note of some of the things we realized and want to remember moving forward to make our shoots the best experience possible for our clients. To make them feel not just comfortable, but calm & confident too. To evoke trust. And to just make sure the whole thing is a lot more fun. We came home and wrote everything down, and I thought I would share it here too. If you’re interested, feel free to read on.

1. Keep talkin’, whoa keep talkin’
It doesn’t matter if everything they’re doing is absolutely perfect and you wouldn’t change a thing, keep talking anyway. Period. You’ve got about 10 seconds tops before I start to feel silly, like I’m doing something wrong, or more to the point like I feel like I’m in this alone. If you want me to connect with the camera, connect with me first. I think this is one of those common knowledge but not common practice things. Ask yourself how much you actually talk to your clients during a shoot. Then up it. Since I tend to be the yapper in our dynamic duo, this is one Justin really had to work on yesterday.

2. Be specific.
Tell me exactly where you want me to look. Tell me smile or no smile. Don’t say give me a little twist, tell me which way to twist. The less confused I am, the more fun I’m going to have and the more I’m going to like you.

3. Be a swan.
This is one of the first things new medical residents are taught. That even if you are thrashing & flailing and paddling like crazy underneath, you need to look calm, collected and graceful on the surface. The same is true for photographers. So if the light, location or camera are not working at the moment, take a deep breath and keep it together. As your client, if you’re upset I’m upset. If you’re frustrated, I’m frustrated. If you’re calm, I’m calm. That’s just how it works.

4. If you’re going to look at the back of the camera, smile no matter what
Ok, we all do this. Us included. We’re checking the back of the camera to make sure we’re getting what we want. But what we don’t realize is that when we’re grimacing at a bad exposure or too much flare, all our clients think is that they did something wrong. I am a photographer and I knew what he was doing, and I still felt that way when J checked the back of the camera. And this also made me realize, of all the things on this list this is the one I am most guilty of. And I need to fix it right away.

5. Simplify
We put our clients in some pretty complicated poses. I knew that. What I didn’t realize is how darn uncomfortable they can be. I was listening to myself direct Justin and I may as well have been calling out a game of Twister. Right hand yellow, left knee green. Honestly, I’ve been in yoga poses that were less intense. If you want your clients to look relaxed and comfortable, put them in poses that actually feel relaxed and comfortable. And guess what, none of us is ever going to know that unless we actually try the poses ourselves first.

6. Slow down, think it through
I’m guilty of this all the time and it was especially true yesterday as the light was fading fast. I just kept frantically changing poses and locations, instead of just slowing down, taking a deep breath and seeing if there is one thing I could change that would make this one shot really rock. Instead of constantly changing it up and coming away with just a bunch of mediocre shots in different locations.

7. Ask yourself Why
So at the end of the shoot I started to posed J in front of this cool door, and he hesitated at first but then went ahead and obliged. Later as we were walking back, I asked him what was up. He asked me if I had noticed the graffiti and padlocks on the door. I had not. See point number 6 above. I had been shooting and moving so fast that I was looking but not really seeing. And even though I thought it was a ‘cool’ door, if I was really thinking about it I would know that this door wouldn’t say anything about the person I was actually photographing. Another person, perhaps. But J is just not down with graffiti. Or gritty. Or trespassing. :) And if I’m really trying to get images that showcase my clients for who they are, then I have to ask myself the Why with every single choice I make on how I shoot them. Not just what looks cool to me.

So there it is. Seven things we are really going to be focusing on in our shoots moving forward. I hope it helps, and if you have any follow up questions be sure to leave them in the comments below!

Happy Monday!

  1. Gail

    What a GREAT shoot! Love all the coaching tips on working with clients too.

    PS – I heart stripes. Like, WHOA. So loving your top!

  2. Damaris Mia

    Love this! Such a great points :) Cute pictures too! Loving your shirt :)

  3. Abby Grace

    Oh this is SUPER helpful. I’m printing this out and tacking it on my wall. Thanks for taking the time to write this- I really appreciate it! It’s so easy as a photographer to forget how your subjects feel, and doing something like this is so healthy. Awesome post!

  4. Janet McK

    Yes, great top!! I loved that list. Great post!

  5. maren

    this is awesome! so, so true and all so easy to "forget" during an actual shoot. you guys rock! :)

  6. Lesley

    I love going out out and photographing each other cause we’re bored kind of evenings! Love the new photos, hot stuff guys!

  7. Jessica

    How fun! Great pictures and what a great reminder! I especially like #7!:)

  8. Julia R

    GREAT new photos J&M! And great job making me & Tom feel comfortable during our shoots. You rock!

  9. christine

    love the tips, and love how much you guys rock in FRONT of the camera too! :)

  10. Linda Kuo

    #3,4 6!!! You are a vision Mary. You sell yourself. Justin screams adorable…

  11. Elizabeth & Ryan | Elizabeth Ryan Photography

    You two are adorable! And I would say… you two definitely know how to make a couple feel comfortable when you shoot them! ;) <3

  12. Irina

    Wow, thanks so much for this!! It couldn’t have come at a better time :)

  13. dawn beirnes

    you guys just ooze some coolness! This post helped soooo much! what few times I have done a shoot, I notice I’m always looking down at my camera and thinking…..not talking, and then re-working my camera…not talking again. I feel giddy after this post!

  14. Paige Butcher

    Great, GREAT post! So helpful!

  15. Leslie

    first- love the new photos! second- great tips that I constantly need to be reminded of. thanks for posting them :) third- I am SO jealous that you can wear long sleeves in July! super cute outfits :))

  16. Candace

    What a great post, Mary!! Thanks so much for posting this. Great food for thought and I know I need to improve on much of that! :) Awesome pics, by the way! :)

  17. ashley barnett

    Love this! M- if you ever want a REALLY good and embarrassing gauge of how much you talk and how absolutely ridiculous you sound.. employ Justin to FILM YOU while you shoot. Since Jeremy has started doing wedding films I have the utmost pleasure of having to hear myself talk to clients over and over. I actually told a client to just "prop yourself against the hood of the car, put your left heel on the bumper and, ya know, kick it!" KICK IT?! Sheesh. Great post I definitely need to be reminded of all of these :)

  18. Jenelle

    Very pretty…love the information you gave…a great reminder to us all!

  19. ashley barnett

    Oh and for the record, you guys totally rock at making normal folks feel like rockstars on the other side of the camera :) You truly do.

  20. Susan

    This is great advice! I especially needed to hear #’s 4 & 6. Thank you!

  21. Christina- The Detailed Life

    I especially like your last point… I notice that lots of photographers call what they are doing lifestyle portraiture, when what they are doing is placing their subjects in front of random buildings- that might not even reflect the person/couples style and even if it does, is it really lifestyle? i was guilty of that too, at first. Thanks for sharing! one thing I need to do, is be more positive and helpful in my blog posts, thanks for reminding me of this also ;) love that first image!

  22. Kristin Nicole

    Such a good reminder of things we know, but forget. P.S. I love that striped top!

  23. Lydia

    Such good reminders! I need these on a sticky note plastered to my forehead before each session!

  24. Maggie

    Thank you so much for these tips! I really needed a reminder of most of the points you covered :)

  25. Carissa

    LOVE this. such great reminders, especially number 7. i gotta work on that. annnd i adore your outfit, as always :)

  26. Gabby / En Route Photography

    Ah so many great tips! Like smiling when looking at the back of the camera… I never thought of that but it makes so much sense!!! Thanks Mary! ;)


  27. Regina Marie

    LOVE this! Thank you for telling us! These are things I need to add to my ‘remember to read before a shoot’ list. And stunning new pictures!!!!!!!!!!

  28. Emily

    Loved this post! Last year I had my head shots taken and it was some of the best money I have spent on learning!! It was like going to a workshop. To feel what it is like to be IN FRONT of the camera. To remember the emotion is priceless. Great job!

  29. Nancy

    Gorgeous portraits… you both look amazing. And darn Mary, now I want your sweater! ;)

  30. Nancy

    Mary, you must confess and tell me where you got your sweater? I love that it is off shoulder. ;)

  31. MM

    @Nancy; it’s from J.Crew! I know, I know right….shocker!

  32. Mallory

    I LOVE, love this post. Thank you for inspiring us to the moon and back. And you two look as fabulous as always!

  33. bethany

    Really great post. I feel guilty about the looking at the back of the camera thing. i will be much more aware of that from now on. THANKS!

  34. Ray

    Great entry. And I LOVE the new photos of you two. Your smile is awesome, Mary. =D

  35. Kerensa

    These are such great tips to remember, I know that I get in my groove and have to remind myself to chat with my clients, plus I know I don’t enjoy being in front of the camera so I can’t expect them to just be naturals! Love your pancakes ;)

  36. Brooke Summer Photography

    Be a swan… I love that, and the way you said it! Such awesome advice. :)

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