I generally photograph ‘real’ people, not actors. That means that my subjects simply don’t know how to fake feelings and emotions. Shoot after shoot, I have to somehow draw those real feelings out of people and then capture it at the right moment. When I started out, that was the most intimidating part of photographing people to me. It’s not intimidating anymore. So, how do I go about drawing feeling out of people?..
Rule #1: Don’t be a jerk.
I’d estimate that 95% of getting people to let their guard down and display something genuine is in the approach of the photographer. Think about it – if a subject feels uncomfortable with their photographer it’s going to be nearly impossible to relax and get out of their own heads. If the photographer is pushy or demeaning the subject will be so busy thinking ‘they are such a jerk’ that nothing good is going to happen. You can have great light and location, but if the subjects hate you, you can just forget about it. So, don’t be a jerk.
Rule #2: Work with scenes, not poses.
This was something I learned from my buddy Ezra early on. While my clients love the candid, unplanned feel for their images, we do have to do some planning. Unless I hide in the bushes like a spy and take them by surprise we are going to find ourselves in the situation where they are standing in front of my camera wondering what to do. The solution? I set up a scene that they are part of, but have some freedom of movement in. Then, it’s waiting for the right moment and capturing it. It takes patience and a good eye. You can develop both by practicing. It’s actually pretty easy once you learn to slow down, breath and wait for something to happen rather than force it.
Rule #3: Ask questions.
In the image above I spent a good ten minutes or so asking questions of the couple. I set up the scene, tweaked their pose, and then just had them focus on each other and answer questions about their relationship. When people get out of their heads and forget about the camera, that’s when you can capture genuine, unguarded moments. When they are thinking about how they make each other feel, those feelings start to surface and are ready to be captured. This is very different from the ‘kiss and capture’ approach. Sure, it’s easy and quick to have a couple kiss each other and smile, but the depth is missing. It takes patience, trust and effort to pull real feelings out of people. You have to talk and ask questions.
If you have any questions feel free to leave them below! Thanks for spending a few minutes here today.