There’s a little thing I do that many folks out there can attest to.
Each time I take someone on a photo-shoot with me I ask the question (at the end) “What did you learn”
Ok I ask it more like “What did you learn, observe, re-learn, figure out etc etc” because I don’t want to tie them down to thinking that what they gained from the experience had to come from me… or that it even had to be something brand new or earth shattering.
But I do want them to internalize what they took part in so that it’s not just an hour with a fun photographer. I don’t perceive much of what I do, or teach, to be hit you over the head type stuff… more thoughtful and observant… so I don’t want the experience to be lost on them.
I know that over the years much of what I learned has kinda just been by just seeping in slowly but surely. I spend all day long every day with photography and so it’s OK (for me) but when someone is with me it’s only for a few hours maybe a full day and so I want that time to be more efficient for them so they learn bunches. (I have high expectations)
More recently (like this year) I’ve been changing the slow and steady approach a bit and I myself have been more observant of what I’m learning and putting it into thoughts and words as well. I do it here often on the blog as well… hopefully for your benefit. (The client and the photographers)
So this was a fun little experiment tonight as I had a “for fun” sort of shoot.
First off what do you call: the people that you did a wedding for but aren’t really clients so much as they are now good friends who used to come over so much to play board and card games but now actually live in the same house but not really roommates because the house is so big they live downstairs and we can go days without seeing each other and they’re married and I’m single and so roommates doesn’t seem right besides it’s not even my house as I rent it and I just happen to be the one that interacts with the rental agency and what not and we don’t really use the term housemates and they really are more than just downstairs neighbors which just seems to imply that they just happened to move in downstairs… she’s a photographer and she came over for a portion of a summer to come learn about editing and what not and came to a couple shoots but really she learned from lots of photographers and took off on her own and knows so much and learned so much on her own I can hardly classify her in the realm of past intern either? I could just use the typical “My Good Friends” but it seems a situation needing a more unique title than that.
I guess I’ll just keep using my past title The couple that I did wedding photography for and helped a little bit with photography one summer and who is now an amazing full time photographer who we play games with and who happen to live down stairs in the big house I rent.
Anyway back to what I learned.
Well let me tell you I wondered what the shoot would be like, I was a bit bored, a little tired, not motivated. But my philosophy has always been you commit to it you do it and you can just forget how you’re feeling because the truth is you’ll be out there shooting and that will make you happy so you can just ignore your present feelings and stick with what you said you’d do or just go take pictures when given the chance.
We decided to not even go very far from home… I loved this. They said: “being photographers we know that the location isn’t that important.” Which is pretty funny because try explaining that to a typical couple… that you’re just gonna drive a block from your own home and see what comes up. That you’re gonna have two pretty swell spots in mind (that are close by) and in the end not do either of them.
Well we did stick close so that we could come back and change at home in between spots.
OK so the first spot we parked and I just left my trunk open because we never went far enough away I could just look over and see the car.
I decided to use only lenses I don’t use often on shoots. (It stretches you to impose a few limitations so that you know how to act and re-act when you find yourself imposed with actual limitations.) and also so that you learn to more fully utilize what you do end up using.
Ergo I used the new Nikon 85mm f/1.4 which I don’t even own which Whitney bought from pictureline when I told her I had one set aside for me at the store but it wasn’t really in the budget… so this was my first time with the lens and I figured since I was shooting them that they’d be AOK with the using. And they were and I really like the lens… and I’ll buy it eventually. Or someone can buy it for me… tell you what I’ll even do it as a trade for pictures. hahaha (no… but really)
I also wanted to try the 14-24 2.8 which I use plenty for certain types of shot but maybe not a ton for portraits. I did use it some but of course stuck with the 85 most of the time as it was new and I wanted to get a feel for it.
So you might think that I would act differently with a couple that I’ve known for a while and done pictures for several times before and who live with me and who I’m good friends with and who the wife is a really good photographer… well you are correct. Because here’s the thing what ever our interaction would be in the “real world” plays a part when taking pictures… It totally bleeds into what we do and how we interact when taking pictures. We are totally chill and I don’t worry about things… I show off a few times playing around with things I wanna try. I ignore them from time to time as I play with the lens. I let them goof off and do whatever… I say random commands that really have no meaning just saying them to see if they react differently and wait for the action-reaction.
So when it comes down to it in a way I didn’t act out of the ordinary at all, it was just another regular shoot.
We’re just friends out taking pictures a couple blocks from the house. We’re experimenting in photography, I’m not selling them on that they should hire me for a wedding… they’re already married… I already took those pictures. Heck I’m not doing it to impress their friends to have me take their pictures… for obvious reason. Just taking pictures because it’s fun and I enjoy it and they asked.
And you know what I’m not usually even analyzing them and what aspects I should bring out… we just kinda end up doing random stuff… it just all comes about. Sometimes I think of something to do… but most of the time they come up with things. OK I guess I did come up with a good amount of spots and things… but when I chose a spot they chose the pose and even if I told them how to stand for a couple pictures they chose the look on the face and the interaction with eachother and that was in the end what defined the shots anyway.
We shot at a field they knew of (2 blocks before the park I thought we’d go to)… they pointed it out so I hit the brakes… and while on the way to the big field I’ve always wanted to shoot at they mentioned a yard that was super “fally” (totally ditching my big field with mountain in the background idea) and so I drove that direction but first I wanted to check out the church building they go to (seeing as I could go to it if I wanted to give up on the whole singles ward thing) … I saw bright red bushes and as I get distracted easily we went in there.
I guess a part of me when around other photographers likes to show off and shoot in places you’ve been around a thousand times and bring out the awesome.
Also for me it seemed to match the style of clothing… see I think in moods and styles and not really colors… maybe my subconscious can analyze that sorta stuff but when someone asks me straight up I really have no idea to respond.
So the whole what color of clothing question for me is really a bad one to ask… I’m much better saying “wear your favorite clothes” and I’ll match your Pick to the right location or style of picture, either as a good match or a total juxtaposition to your choice for some good contrast.
Then we went to that house that was super “Fally” and we made Thomas go ask the 100yr old grandma (or so he says) but we see sunset so we take advantage of that for a moment or 10. Turns out to be a doozy.
Then I take pictures from the angle of the yard we first come upon (not the typical one that first we saw and makes the jaw drop) but because I’m lazy we do the first way and it really works because it’s nice and framed… then when we do go to the yard in the lengthways view I wanna lay in the ditch and make them do so too… because I think it’s funny and I wanna be able to say I laid in the ditch to take pictures. Doesn’t matter if this is the very most optimal place for the most aesthetically pleasing pictures… but hey we’re in a ditch and I know that my best method of working with people is putting them in situations that illicit personality.
When placed in the atypical spots we react in new and fun ways. Put someone in a typical situation and they’ll act in typical ways and that’s cool if you’re aiming for the every day typical kinda thing. You don’t need to give them commands for things they’d never do or posing they’d never consider… just put them in a situation that will make them act in neat or classy or fun ways.
I also reaffirmed my love for taking the cliche’ poses that people bad mouth and make them work. The lay on the stomach and look at the camera… OK maybe only some people bad mouth it… but I wanted to make it work with a photographer that knows all the tricks.
Oh as far as technically speaking… I should light the background more often… (When it’s darker and the background isn’t too far away it isn’t that difficult) because that was super rad! Then we used the LED light I recently bought to light them up. Had to switch from 1/15th of a second when I was using the flash on them to back to 1/60th or 1/80th with the continuous light because I didn’t have the liberty of the fast flashing anymore. Oh and then we even propped the LED light in a tree because I didn’t have an assistant to hold it exactly where I needed it and I didn’t want to go all the way back to the car and get another light stand… I mean that woulda taken like minutes!!
Then I held it in my hand for a few shots to light with the light in one hand with the camera trying to be steady in the other… turns out it’s easier to keep the camera still with two hands. I coulda just used another flash on them but that was all the way in the car as well and I wanted to learn how to take advantage of the new toy I had bought.
I still do this kinda stuff all the time… experiment with new toys and new ideas and stretch the boundaries of what I know. Heck each couple or client is a new lab rat ready to be experimented on.haha
If I’m happy and singing while I shoot how does that change up the shoot… If I’m lazy and I lay down and don’t feel much like getting back up again for a different spot what will me sticking in one spot staying on the ground a lot come up with.
Time Limits, Lighting Limitations, Even limiting what equipment I would use, location limitations… not thinking of any of these things as limitations but thinking of how they would take part in crafting great pictures.
They would all play a part in the final product but were never an issue… see the pictures are defined by what we did have and not what we didn’t.
I’ve learned from those that come with me on shoots and get hung up on how I got a certain shot to look a certain way. I learned to think “who cares” don’t get stuck… keep going… take what you do know… take the equipment you do have and make the best of the situation. See the crafty person finds answers and gets good at doing so even if it means skipping the original question and finding better answers to questions they didn’t even have in the first place … the not crafty person waits for answers and when they don’t get them they don’t move on and never get any answers to any questions whether asked or not… Either that or they become dependent on sources outside themselves.
OK so I’m well aware this is long and probably boring post to many people.
I was gonna add in the pictures to this post… but you know what? Screw it… I think there’s some benefit in the post if you wanna go for it… I know when I put the pictures in here half of the people just look quickly at the pictures and move on without reading. It takes me maybe around a minute to add the pictures but I spend like an hour writing… It’s the knowledge in the head that will make the awesome pictures. That will prep the client to be awesome and the photographer to be awesomer!
Besides I’ll put the pictures all by themselves in a post later today and you can connect. And with that effort to connect the pictures to this wordy post maybe you’ll learn a little extra too. or not.
If you’re more of the client type what do you gain from this? Well there’s plenty… I mean dang the post was a lot about interaction. You see you and me go out to do a shoot as friends… as a team! We create the pictures together… I feed off your ideas and energy and I try to set the stage so you feel comfortable being a part and creating and with total trust that the end outcome will be totally worth the while.
Yeah yeah it’s a mess of a post (Go back a couple to the one that mother wrote about her experience and that’s worded beautifully) … but maybe just look of it more like a treasure hunt… you’re out to find some hidden gems. What to do to improve on your photography (or your being photographed)… Heck I’ll probably read through the post and think of new things and learn from it. I mean what do I loose anyway if you don’t learn from me on how to be an amazing photographer? I mean seriously… I’ll write more organized in more typically accepted formats later, but even then I’m just doing this stuff cuz I feel like it.
This is a thinking man’s sport… that in the end when we’re playing the actual match is done with little thinking… meaning when I’m photographing I’m photographing… I’m just doing it… I’m doing my thinking and internalizing at other times not when I should be doing the doing and pressing the button.
Heck maybe I’m just trying to confuse your ideas just enough so that you stop thinking that there’s some special formula to getting it all down perfectly… then you go out there and just make it happen in your own special way… not the way I told you how, or how anyone else described it.
Learn and adapt… don’t repeat verbatim. It’s an art form… we do it with emotion, we do it with self awareness.
Now write your own crazy journal style blog post without worry about thesis and order… a stream of consciousness on paper as they would say. (And I know how useful section titles usually are in posts and how they allow you to jump into the spots you find most interesting… so of course I nixed them for this post)
This is like a post to future clients, assistants, aspiring photographers etc… You want something great and unique and worthy… you better work for it. You get it handed to you on a silver platter and don’t do a thing for it then woopty frickin’ do! Who cares, cuz you probably won’t in a day.
And to my future assistants it doesn’t have to be a checklist and bullet points when I ask you what you learned (it can be, but doesn’t need to be)… this is My what I learned… and I could go on. And half this stuff wasn’t even “new” stuff… but it was integrating it with other stuff and seeing the old stuff from a different angle… and finally applying what I already knew but in a situation that finally happened.
Anyway as an experiment to those that made it this far write the first letter of the last crush (or the present one) in the comment section below!
Word to your mother!