Note: Photographers’ Friday is a weekly blog series directed toward professional photographers, and in some instances, serious amateur photographers. All Photographers’ Friday blog posts will assume that readers have a basic working knowledge of digital SLR cameras, but if you’re left with questions or don’t understand any of the information, don’t hesitate to ask. We love e-mails!
Last week I promised a peek into the gear we use at each wedding — but that had to go on hold until next week. Please forgive me! Things have simply been too busy around here to get that post put together. In the meantime, I wanted to share a few previews from yesterday’s lifestyle newborn session with Nikole and Arun and their sweet baby Alani, and share a few tips about capturing really real moments during a photo shoot.
While I was
hanging out with Nikole hard at work photographing Alani’s frilly and fierce nursery yesterday, Nikole said something that struck a chord with me. She explained how she wanted photographs that were absolutely honest to their everyday experience. In everyday life, babies don’t sit in a bucket or hang from a sling. It sure looks adorable in [carefully orchestrated!] photographs, but what Nikole wanted was to preserve the sweetness and awe and gentleness of the beginning of her daughter’s life. To capture what life is like for them this first breathless week as a family.Right now, I’m not a newborn or family photographer — I’m a wedding photographer who occasionally does lifestyle photography of newborns and families in their natural environments. But I’ve learned an awful lot about capturing reality — and making that reality as beautiful as I can. I’ve also learned a lot about capturing emotion — and how to elicit real, non-forced emotion from the people in front of my camera. Here’s how:
Make everyone feel comfortable.
Body language and vocal tone are key; if you sound flustered or nervous, your subjects will get flustered or nervous; if you’re confident, calm, and outwardly having a great time, your subjects will follow your lead. This is especially important for children and babies (I encouraged Nikole to do whatever Alani needed, at any time during our shoot, regardless of whether I was in the middle of photographing them), but it’s also important for adults who feel nervous. Give them something to do. Let them know they’re doing great.
Start with great light.
You can’t start shooting just anywhere and expect camera magic to happen, regardless of how truly emotion your subjects are. In bad light, your subjects might be producing plenty of great emotion, but your photograph as a whole will not. So you need great directional light, whether you create that light yourself with an off-camera flash setup or utilize the natural light around you. Put your subjects in great light before you set up your first shot. For Alani’s newborn shoot, we did several pictures on their family room couch, with soft light pouring in through a large window about eight feet in front and to the side of them, then we moved to Alani’s nursery, where there was another large window beside the bed. I positioned them so the light would fall on them attractively no matter how they moved as long as I was positioned well, and voila! Classic, clean, softly lit photographs.
Keep the conversation flowing.
I keep up a steady stream of banter with my subjects. That way they never feel awkward — because, let’s be honest, do many of us enjoy sitting in silence with people we don’t know extremely well? Conversation also gives older subjects something to focus on besides whether or not they’re looking good . . . and it can help them end up looking exactly the way you want. . . .
Help your subjects tap into their emotions.
Almost everyone is emotional. But it can be hard to release those emotions in front of a camera. So help your subjects along. Ask them questions that will make them think about some of their most emotionally stirring experiences — for couples, I usually ask them to tell me what they love most about each other, what moment they’re most anticipating on their wedding day, and how they knew the other person was “the one;” with Nikole and Arun yesterday, I asked them to tell me what was going through their minds when they first saw Alani after she was born and how having her in their house has changed the dynamic of their marriage, and I asked them to just stare into their baby’s eyes, too. I don’t at all consider this making my clients fake their emotions — I consider it helping them relive moments, and even create new moments, that are near and dear to them. And the results in photographs are amazing.Stay tuned for more of Alani in the next couple weeks — and hopefully I’ll have that blog post about our wedding gear ready to go next Friday!
Happy weekend, everyone.