This is Keith, a local web developer and friend of mine. He’s spent one night a week for the past couple of months meeting to teach me HTML/CSS coding, so when he asked if I’d be willing to do some portraits for him, I couldn’t have been happier.
Keith is a bit of a character, and he wanted his photos to convey that – nothing stuffy. Something different. Something fun. So we setup the studio and grabbed a few shots.
You might recognize him from my NetDriven Christmas photos the past two years [LINK], as he appeared in several of those shots as well, and I’m pretty sure he recycled a few of those poses for his portrait session.
We may do another set in the near future, with more of a business-casual feel. But in the meantime, this is a good reminder that portraits don’t have to be serious. We don’t all have to look like a power-suit on the cover of Forbes. Sometimes, it’s fun to just have fun.
This is Mandy, my lovely, brilliant, talented wife. Mandy hates having her photo taken and is visibly uncomfortable in front of the camera, despite excelling as an actor. After eight years together, I know better than to ask her to model for me, and she rarely volunteers.
But this spring, Mandy asked me to shoot some new portraits for her, for professional use. And so began the day-long agony of a photo shoot that seemed doomed from the start.
The funny thing is, most people are a lot like Mandy. No exaggeration, almost every single time I shoot portraits for a client, the client – who hired me in the first place! – will begin by telling me how much they dislike having their photo taken, and how bad they are at being photographed. For real, if I had a dollar for every time someone says that to me, I wouldn’t need to keep working as a photographer.
Such statements are rubbish, of course. The vast majority of people are actually just fine at having their photo taken, and many people even get into it, hamming it up a little, once the get comfortable. And that’s the key, right there – comfort. When I start a photo shoot with someone, I know that the first entire pose, the first 20-30 photos, are all throw aways. Their only purpose is to let the subject become comfortable in front of the camera so they can act naturally.
Unfortunately, Mandy isn’t a part of that vast majority, and after several hours of shooting in the studio, she still wasn’t happy with the photos. She was becoming frustrated and soured on the idea, and it was harder and harder to even try and help her relax.
So we switched it up. Sometimes the studio just isn’t the right setting. It may be too confining or too sterile, or it may be too intimidating to the subject. So we threw some gear in a bag and took the show on the road, to Marywood University, where she was both a student and is now an adjunct professor. It was her home turf, and there’s a definite sense of comfort that comes from being in a setting where you are familiar and in control.
She ended up like the Marywood photos better than the studio shots overall, although we ultimately agreed on a few of each as her final selection. Including the one below, which she doesn’t like, but I love.
I love shooting portraits, but not everyone loves being a model/subject. It’s my goal to make sure my subjects become comfortable with the process so we can make some great photos, and I offer up Mandy as proof that it’s possible.
A flashback to autumn, when it was still warm before the snow began flying. I met up with Kimmy down in the Back Mountain for a senior portrait session, where she simply rocked the camera like a pro!
We began with a couple of setups around her home – she wanted all outdoor shots – including some great shots of her sitting in a rope swing under a maple tree.
There are moments like this where a photographer couldn’t ask for more – and a full Hollywood design team couldn’t create a better setup. A maple tree aflame with fall color, the lawn behind thick with leaves, an overcast day with perfect, soft light – it doesn’t get any better than this! (Although we did have to run and stop Kimmy’s dad from using the lawnmower to clean up the leaves until we’d finished our shoot!)
From there, we make a short drive down to The Lands at Hillside Farms and took advantage of the beautiful grounds there for a few more setups. We stopped in the barn and grabbed the hay bale shot above, then worked our way along the creek and finally ended up inside the greenhouse for a few last, bright portraits.
There are folks who step in front of the camera and need a lot of coaching to feel – and look – comfortable for portraits. And that’s fine, it’s part of the job and I’m always more than happy to help them get just the right pose, just the right expression. It’s a fun challenge for both of us to overcome. But then there are others like Kimmy, who step in front of the camera like the own it, and I spend the whole session yelling, “Don’t move, that’s perfect!” They make my job easy.
Here’s to you, Kimmy – may your senior year be great!
The absolute best reason to make a portrait is out of love. Whether it’s the love one person has for another, or the passion someone has for a cause, or the sheer love of creating great images for a team.
The photos here feature my beautiful fiancee Mandy and they are portraits of love. But not only because she – my love – is featured in them, but even more so because she agreed to work with me to make them. Mandy doesn’t really enjoy having her photo taken, she doesn’t really enjoy modeling. But when I needed a model so I could try out some new lighting ideas, she did her hair and put on a dress and stepped in front of the camera for me.
Now that’s love!Read More...
Thought we’d step back in time this week and look at an older photo of mine that has persisted as a favorite over the years. This was taken of my cousin-to-be, Joey, during a photography meet-up that I organized in 2010. A bunch of photographers, most of us friends from an online community, met in White Haven and spent the day working with models and lights, practicing and learning portraiture from each other. Needless to say, it was a great day!
This photo was made near the end of the session. We’d been working inside with traditional studio setups, but knew that there was a sunny late-winter afternoon outside, so a group of us broke off and wandered out of our conference room and out the back doors of the hotel onto the loading dock. There was a good view of the sky, and next thing you know we had Joey standing up on the top of a dumpster, on the lid, and posing. A single light source, held by someone in the group, against a lovely blue sky, and it was clear that we had a great shot. We took turns making images and holding the light, and later on grabbed some of the other models and got them up there with Joey.
Such a simple setup, really, and such a solid (and fun) result. Just goes to show that you don’t need a fancy studio filled with tons of equipment – sometimes all you need is a dumpster!
A little over a year ago I did an outdoor session with my brother, Nick, while back in Vermont. Nick is an outdoor kind of guy: a wildlife management major, avid archer, member of the local rod and gun club. At the time we did a Daniel Boone-themed shoot , complete with coonskin cap, bow, and arrows. The results were pretty darn cool and Nick loved them. Which is saying a lot for a kid who has never liked having his photo taken.Read More...
Had a great time working with Sara again a little while back. She’s a wonderful model who is always cheerful and willing to try out just about anything. We met up at McDade Park just before sunset and shot through to twilight, a whole mix of different looks: natural light and flash, in the sun and in the shade. And as always, it rocked!Read More...
Nick is a freshman Wildlife Management major. He’s also an avid rock climber, a competition archer, and an all-around nature lover who is definitely at home in the outdoors. He can start a fire and setup a tent and, I think, knows something about hatchet throwing. Without a doubt the sort of guy you want along on your next camping trip. He’s also my brother, which is probably the only reason that he agreed to don his coonskin cap, grab his bow, and trek out into the woods for a portrait shoot.Read More...
This is my great friend Alli, who stepped in front of the camera a couple of weeks back for a glamour portrait session. Alli is giving some real thought to modeling, it not as a career than at least as a side-project. The first thing that any aspiring model needs is, of course, a portfolio – so we set out to start building one. Read More...
The day after finishing Kristen’s senior session, I was able to shoot part two with Lauren. Time was tight and we ended up having a few last shots to finish up at a later date, but what we were able to accomplish was just excellent! Lauren hammed it up for the camera as usual and really rocked the country vibe – since we were shooting on her grandparent’s ranch, it was easy to pull it all together and come away with some great stuff.Read More...