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.
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!