Whenever anyone asks me what I like to photograph, my answer is always the same. I love photographing people more than anything else! It doesn't matter whether it is an informal, traditional or more artistic image, I want the outcome to be expressive and meaningful. I don't want anyone to look at their pictures with a deflated expression and say unenthusiastically, "Nice photo." I want them to remember how much fun they had and ooh, ah, smile, giggle or even let out a hearty laugh!
Keeping that in mind, I just photographed a 60th birthday party last Saturday in Abbeystead, Lancashire. This was a great venue with a beautifully landscaped outdoor area, complete with shady trees for natural, even lighting! The client wanted candid pictures of their party guests, but they also wanted portraits with their family members because many of them live far away. I love working at events where people are completely engrossed in getting away from the daily grind, forgetting about their problems, and just enjoying themselves! My approach, whether it is an event or portrait session, is the same. I am always professional, but I like to allow the personality of the subject to give me my cue. My goal is to draw out the individual long enough that I get to "see" them, and then I freeze the moment. Invariably, we all end up having fun!
One example from Saturday was a trio of lovely and active ginger-haired brothers, the oldest being 11 years. Clearly, they were much more interested in continuing their game of footie on the green than they were in posing for my camera, and rightly so! Reluctantly, the youngest plopped himself under a tree with an exasperated look on his face. I knew this would not make for a good result, so I picked up a nearby twig and challenged him to a sword fight. Instantly, he broke out in laughter, saying, "you didn't learn how to sword fight in school!" To which I replied, "Oh, yes I did... en garde!" My "sword" was short-lived, but the laughter continued on throughout their session.
I really like their ginger hair and mischievous personalities!
My next subject, was a young girl who was keen on being photographed, but just shy enough that she hesitated at first. I could see sword fighting with her was out of the question! All she needed was a few calm and encouraging words. She visibly relaxed and gave me a warm smile that magically radiated from her head to her toes! Then she looked up at me with her gorgeous blue eyes, and that was it.
One look into these eyes, and anyone would melt!
I find that children are generally more comfortable in their own skin, and therefore it is often easier to get a natural expression from them. The littlest one I photographed all day was just over a year old. Her sole focus was standing up, staying up and walking everywhere! No matter how many times she fell down, she didn't cry, and she didn't look to see who was watching. She just got right back up and kept going! There's a lesson in there somewhere (grin).
I can do it!
While adults can be a bit more tricky than children, I still try to "go with the flow" of the individual in front of me. Are they relaxed, tense, jolly, quirky, shy, or the biggest extrovert I have ever met? It doesn't matter, I let their personalities lead the way. Occasionally that means being a bit more direct than some might think appropriate. How can I be direct and professional at the same time? There is definitely a fine line and you have to know where it is, but it can be done.
Here is what I mean. The next group portrait was of all four sisters. Although they have few pictures of them all together, one of the them was intent on being grumpy. Like most of us, she was simply uncomfortable having her photo taken, but was being much more obvious about it. Fair enough, but I had to pull her out of it somehow so that I could get something more than a professional snapshot. I'm afraid I did the unthinkable and called her out on her grumpiness. While her sisters were initially shocked, I was never rude. I was just honest in a way that helped her forget how uncomfortable she was, and in the end, everyone had a good laugh! Later that evening, she mentioned to me that she was surprised I had done so, but then she smiled and asked me if I would take a photo of her with her husband. How could I say no to this lovely woman?
Smiles all around!
If this doesn't say love, I don't know what does!
Sometimes the person in front of me is so shy that I instantly realise if I am too outspoken, it will only make them retreat further into themselves. I find just chatting to them in a normal, calm and friendly way is all it takes. I can see something there in their eyes, and I want to bring more of that loveliness to the surface. Nothing gives me greater pleasure than when I successfully capture a moment, no matter how subtle, so it may be enjoyed for years to come.
A tender moment worth remembering...
It is obvious that I had a fabulous time with this fun-loving family! I do love my job and I hope it is always evident in the faces of my clients when they are presented with their pictures! Perhaps in a few years some of these photos will be in an album, and the family will gather around to take a look, smiling as they remember. I certainly hope so, anyway.
I cannot believe that was us!!
If you enjoy these images, and reading my blog, consider giving me a call to photograph your next event or update your family portraits. I'd love to make you smile!
Have a great week everyone! I will see you back here again next Saturday! I welcome your feedback and comments, right here on my blog!
Shanon Leigh, aka "Red"