Portraits & Trust

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We are indeed our own worst critics. I know I am guilty of it as well. Compound that with a few incidents of people speaking ugliness into your life and you start to believe those lies about yourself. It makes me so sad when friends and clients tell me they are not photogenic. My response is always the same: let me try.

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Ok, I know not everyone is a super model, but hear me on this. If you tell yourself the photo will be awful before it’s even snapped then your inner thoughts will be all over your face. Half of the equation for a good portrait, selfie or otherwise, is being hopeful that your inner super model will shine.

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The other half is the photographer. Let’s face it, there are bad portrait photographers. Not every professional photographer should work in portraiture. We all have our strengths. I for one, am not a landscape photographer – I want to put people in that field! So, what makes a good portrait photographer? Skills, obviously, but beyond that it is the ability to capture that inner beauty we all have. Seriously, no matter what you have been told or think of yourself, you are beautiful, or handsome as the case maybe.

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It is our job as photographers to make our subjects feel comfortable and trust us. It is on us to ask questions and listen to the answers as we get to know them, and then hone in on what makes them light up.

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Lindy-Ann and I are blessed with the ability to be self-depreciating and goofy for the sake of our clients. There is no silly song, word, face, or conversation we won’t try to engage our subject from behind the lens. I’m talking about our grown up subjects too, not just children!

There is a triangular relationship between the subject, the photographer, and the camera. It is normal for my boys to talk to me through the camera, but that is not everyone’s reality. Therefore photographers have to help their subjects see and hear them between snaps, poses, and faces, and build that trust.

View More: http://dgdesignsphotography.pass.us/jankord-family-2015

Here are a couple of our tips for capturing a portrait that says more than just a face.

  1. Pre-Session chat – We recommend meeting, emailing, and/or calling your clients beforehand if you don’t know them. {This is even easier if you have an existing relationship, yay for coffee dates!} Ask them questions that will help you to get a sense of who they are and what they are about.
  2. Night before prep – Go back over those prep notes and communications. A person’s name is important to them, so if you are like me and are horrible with names, then the night before is the best to double check that list of the family member’s names. It also gives you a chance to make sure you pack any props or other items you discussed with them. This will go along way for them to trust you have their best interest at heart.
  3. Names – We are going to hammer this in: USE THEIR NAMES! Saying,  “You, with the blue shirt, move over to the right” will cause them to withdraw from you. Engage them by using their names and those things you learned about them. Now, we must have a little grace with ourselves, because in the midst of shooting even I still get a little confused and call people the wrong names, but I make up for by saying, “I’m so sorry I know your name (INSERT CORRECT NAME HERE).” Again, they will trust you are focused (literally and figuratively) on them.
  4. One-on-One – at some point each session you will be focusing on one member of the group and it is those moments you have to up your trust game. Remember the things they like and ask how they are doing. Talk and help them relax.
  5. Art Direction – This maybe one of the toughest and most intuitive parts of photography. Art direction is taking in scene and eliminating and adding to the scene as well as directing the subjects poses and body placement, all to make the photograph. Thanks to mirrors and selfies, most people have practiced their  “best looks” so allow them to be a part of the art direction. To be clear, a part of the art direction, not the director. You must remain in charge, which also lends to the client trusting you know what you are doing.
  6. Pause – There are a few stages in a session that we recommend you pause. When you start out, instead of ducking behind the camera right away (Guilty!), pause and engage them in conversation. Another moment to take pause is just before snapping, to see them, really see them, through your view finder. Pause on their face and appreciate, as an artist, their unique characteristics. SEE THEM. I’m reminded of that scene in Hook when the littlest lost boy smushes Robin Williams face around and then says, “Oh, there you are Peter.” He saw him.
  7. Be goofy – Be ridiculous, laugh, make fun of the awkwardness – all of this will help them let you in and let down their defenses. Instead of the stiff fake smiles you will capture the genuine joy and laughter.

Next time someone you care about says they are not photogenic, we challenge you to try and capture what you see in them. We guarantee that if you are thoughtful about it, the photo you take will make them smile.

Keep snappin’-

kdg

The Maraska Family in Jaffa

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A few months after I first met Keturah at a Diplomatic Spouses of Israel event I taught her photography, and we have been creative buddies ever since. Funnily enough, her younger son was taking photography class at school, so they were sharing one camera, and he almost took it to school that day! Side note: He has done some amazing work this year – it is really inspiring to see how our high schoolers capture the world around them!

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Keturah has been a great boy mom mentor to me as well as my creative adventurer friend. We have shared a few walkabouts and my favorite time was when she accompanied me on a recce to Jaffa Port, Tel Aviv, Israel before a client session. A recce is a term I learned from Lindy-Ann, as it is mostly used in the places where they speak the Queen’s English to describe a fact finding mission coming from the term reconnaissance.

 

We had so much fun finding the most picturesque nooks, crannies, graffiti, and doors in the old city and chatting over coffee. Jaffa is definitely one of my favorite locations to shoot and one of their family’s go to spots, so it was the perfect location choice when she decided to trust me with her family’s first photography session ever!

Location: Old City Jaffa Port, Tel Aviv, Israel

Date and time: May 9:00am

Weather: Bright & Sunny – cool in the shade of the buildings

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As this was their first professional family session, we talked about what she wanted from the session a bit beforehand and I was challenged by a comment she had made about not looking good in photos. It was my mission to prove her wrong!

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We had such a great time and we joked and laughed our way from graffiti wall to colored door. It was really fun for me to shoot “big boys” and get a glimpse of my future – a tall and skinny big brother and a cheeky little brother. When I say cheeky, I mean he was hiding his signature thumbs-up pose behind his parents backs in every photo! It was hilarious.

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The lesson learned for this session would be that a ladder would have been helpful to capture those tall boys and some overhead shots that I visualized – I couldn’t climb high enough. Short girl problems, right? As I mentioned earlier, there is such huge benefits to doing recces of new locations prior to the session. It can make all the difference to know where you want to lead your subjects and planning ahead will never fail to make you more confident.

 

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This session is special to me of course because of our friendship, but more than that, it was about trust. As a photographer, it is an honor when someone trusts you to let you into their lives, to capture their family, and to truly see them. We must never take that for granted, because trust is not freely given.

Here’s to trusting and to bringing out the best others!

Cheers,
kdg

PS –  Look for Keturah’s upcoming guest post on It’s a Colo{u}rful World, sharing her trip to Ein Hod Artist Village. She really is a fantastic and inspiring explorer, mom, wife, and friend!