Posts Tagged ‘relationship’
There are various kinds of staged or setup photographs. There are the ones that families treasure and frame and put on Christmas cards. And then there’s the kind that newspaper photographers get fired for. That’s a big range.
Newspaper and magazine photographers are photojournalists. That means their pictures need credibility. They are being presented as truth. Despite the best intentions of the photographer, a posed picture is always going to be someone’s idea of what reality is or what they want it to be, but it is not reality. When The New York Times fires a photographer for manipulating a real life situation and passing it off as a found moment, they are doing the right thing—The New York Times needs credibility. A photographer who has lost his of hers cannot represent them without it. But…
They are trying to photograph the world as they wish it were and there is nothing wrong with that. (Sadly, there are moms who should be fired, but not for staging photographs.)
When I’m photographing two people who love each other I have a standard approach. Whether it’s a grandmother and a grandchild or a husband and a wife I often do the same thing. I ask them to put their heads together until they’re touching and put their arms over each others shoulders. I will often position their hands and fingers to get it exactly the way I want it. Sometimes I will tell them that this may feel a little artificial or odd but, trust me, it’s going to look great. (It usually does, if I do say so myself.) It’s a completely faked, posed situation and yet, I believe, represents at least part of their world as it really is. They love each other and that’s what the photograph says.
So if you need to create or even recreate a scene to capture something precious for posterity, I say go for it—unless you work for The New York Times. I’ve found the best way to make posed shots look natural is to set it up, step back and let reality takes it course. Viewers can smell an over-directed posed photograph a mile away.
Overall shots are usually about place. You should always be asking yourself what showing the location will contribute to the viewers response. Sometimes a picture of a person isn’t really a picture of a person; it’s a picture of a person in a place and their relationship to it and the person doesn’t need to visually dominate the picture to make that work.
And sometimes putting space around a subject simple creates a mood. Lots of emptiness enhances a feeling of loneliness, for example.
If you’re creating a set of photographs it’s almost mandatory that you mix it up with close ups and overalls. Visual variety is the spice of photographic thinking. An extreme close-up of a bright red maple leaf is always going to look good next to an overall shot of the forest.
If I had to give most amateurs one photo tip it would be get closer to your subjects. It’s the biggest mistake they make—they just don’t fill the frame with their subjects.
But it’s a related skill to keep your eyes open for overall shots. It’s a wise photographer that can do both in the same situation.
When you’re shooting a photograph of someone looking into the camera, there’s almost always a little bit of direction required from the photographer. I have my own little bag of stock comments that I say to people when I try to get them to look the way I want them to look and exude whatever it is that I think they should be exuding in my photograph. Even though you’re shooting still photographs there’s a little bit of movie-director-thinking required here. Some of my direction is practical and necessary like “fix your collar” and some of my comments are an attempt to lighten the moment and hopefully relaxing everyone, myself included.
The point is this: think for a moment about what you’re going to say to your subjects and how you’re going to behave as the person behind the camera.
I often start with a completely deadpan “This shouldn’t take more than three or four hours.” This seems to get a reaction.
I tell them that I’m going to stare at them for a while and they should do their best to ignore me which is, of course, silly and impossible. I mean, come on, there’s a six-foot-two-bald guy ten feet away staring at them. But this comment actually has a practical application. I really am dealing with my own internal anxiety driven by a desire to create a great photo. I find that small talk is simply going to keep me from doing what everyone wants me to do—take a great photo. So for a while, I absorb the situation and decide what I’m going to do. Most people seem to appreciate the artist at work vibration this creates. I’ve considered wearing a cape and a beret for this act but that would be a little much.
I want to get a little body language of some kind and this is a great place to start.
I tell them what to do with their hands. This is obviously related to body language, but what I’m trying to avoid here is the obvious discomfort of someone who is trying to figure out what to do with their hands. That’s photo death.
I tell them I’m going to push them around like their a sack of potatoes. Granted, there is a certain body type that I wouldn’t recommend using this line with—the one that looks like a sack of potatoes, that is—but I have found that most people appreciate me cutting right to the chase. I’m fussy about how they’re juxtaposed against the background and if I want them to literally move two inches to the right, I have found the best way to get them there is to gently nudge them by the shoulders and coax them over. (If you ask the average human to move two inches to the right, you generally get something in the 18 to 24 inches range. This does not work with photographers fussy about backgrounds.)
I’m not a joke teller but I do try to make quirky, unexpected, entertaining comments hoping to make people at least smile. I tell them this is going to feel stupid, but it’s going to look great.
And as risky as this sounds, I tell most of my subjects this is going to be one of the best photographs anyone will ever take of them. I believe it and it seems to relax them. I assume that most people will only be photographed a handful of times by someone giving it their all as much as I am and I want them to know it.
There’s a short, intense relationship that exists between a photographer and a photo subject. You want them to be as into it as you are.