Portrait Photography: 3 things I learned during a walk in the park

In early December I headed out for a long overdue photo shoot with my friend Ross.  Ross is a science communicator by day but moonlights as an actor and model.  You may have seen him checking out new places to live while standing by a bus stop in the S1 Homes “Good Looking, Bad Looking” advert.

We’d been meaning to meet up and do this for years.  Practice for me, portfolio shots for him. After a few false starts we finally decided on a date and hoped for good weather.  The morning was overcast but held the promise of light so off we went.

Ross is falls in to every fortune teller’s tall, dark and handsome category.  The photographs should just jump right in to my camera with a model like this…  in reality though, there were a few things I wasn’t expecting.

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1 – Directing Friends

Like many photographers, I find directing people a little bit challenging. It’s a mix of feeling a bit silly and not wanting to sound patronising. I thought that practising with friends would be easier but I’ve learned that I’m more comfortable directing people I’ve just met. With friends, especially those who have modelling experience, I often question myself and in this case the end result was a slight mismatch in expectations from each of us. The truth is, most people prefer to be directed and reassured.

Luckily with friends it’s easy to remedy this. I’m a fan of chatting and snapping as you go to get more natural results. The shots below were taken in between a catch-up and blether with a little direction thrown in.  People like to see what the shots look like and feel more confident once they do. So, we both quickly realised that posing and direction were our “uncomfortable” points and worked a way around it by trying different things and being honest about what we thought of the results.2015-12-05-Portrait-Collage1-Ross-H

2- Changing the Pose

It wasn’t until I got back to my computer that I noticed something that seems obvious when you think about it.  Everyone has a go-to-pose that they are comfortable with. Ross, at least that day, was most comfortable with his hands in his jean pockets.  To be fair, it was freezing out and he spent a lot of time with just one or two layers to my 4+.  The fix for this comes down not only to confidence directing, but also preparation.

Before the shoot I’d worked out a list of shots I was hoping to get and shared that (and example images) with Ross.  This helped us remember to change things and meant we were both on the same page.  We also tried some more stereotypical posed shots which I actually haven’t used in favour of his natural reaction to me getting him to try it.  Oftentimes the outtakes are the best results.

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3- Short Photographer vs. Tall Model

Oh yes, being petite in stature is ideal for photographing children and babies, excellent for getting yourself in to small spaces to capture shots of wildlife but for an outdoor shoot with a model who is over six foot tall, it’s a definite disadvantage.  I took a handful of shots and reviewed them quickly on my camera screen.  I noticed two recurring themes – small head and unflattering up-the-nose shots.  I hadn’t even thought about it.

I’m glad I realised though.  It would have been a waste of a great day otherwise!  Thankfully I always take the time to have a quick check and review.  It gave me the chance to explain the situation, for us both to laugh about it and then we were both thinking about it throughout the rest of the shoot.  Both constantly adjusting for the height difference and making it work.  I particularly like the middle shot below because I know Ross was squatting so he was eye-level with me which made for an awkward pose in the flesh but the shot came out as I’d hoped for (and was one of the shots I’d planned).

In future though, I’ll bring a stool… just in case!

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In short, I always learn something new in a photo shoot.  I spend hours preparing and working up ideas but there’s always something that makes me think on my feet.  That’s one of the many reasons I love it! x

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