I can’t even begin to tell you how much I love this photo of this little boy! He is one of my kindergartener’s classmates, and he is such a sweet, smart, thoughtful little boy. I could see this angelic side of him in the classroom, but the first few times I grabbed headshots, that is not the face that was looking back at me through the lens. More on that in just a second…
As a photographer and, more importantly, as a parent, I always volunteer to photograph my kids school activities. This has included field trips, art projects, class parties, playground fun and everyday life. My crafty side loves helping with the class parties, and in particular running a craft activity at the party, always including a headshot of the kids. And that brings me back to our little cutie in the image above. I seriously think he looks like a little angel in this photo, so let’s call him Angel : )
The first time I photographed the kids on the playground at the beginning of the school year, before I really knew them or they really knew me, I could immediately tell who was a bit shy, a lot silly, and everything in between. When I photographed Angel, this was almost exactly the same shot I got:
Can you see his mind working? It’s totally telling him “say cheese… cheeeeeeeese…. cheeeeeeese…”. Cute kiddo is working so hard! And trust me, this was the same expression I got the first few times I took Angel’s photo. I knew this was a great learning opportunity for me, and since I was capturing images for a Christmas ornament keepsake, I had to find a way to get a more authentic expression.
So I asked if he liked school. Click. Similar expression.
Did you notice the “Angry Birds” on his shirt? I know nothing about them, except they’re a collection of iPhone games that kids love. So I started asking him questions about Angry Birds. Click, click, click. That would be my camera clicking, and I could see his mind clicking, too.
Lightbulb! I knew right here, I had broken through! I was so happy and knew I had to keep the conversation going. Click.
I asked which one was his favorite character? Awww, that sweet face was really coming through! But truthfully, he was so eager to share about playing on his Dad’s iPhone (or was it an iPad?) that I didn’t have to ask much more.
No longer was I looking at Angel, a little boy thinking about the picture being taken, or the fact he was standing in front of the camera. I was now looking at a little boy thinking of one of his most favorite and joyful activities, playing Angry Birds.
Clearly, connecting with Angel, getting his mind off the task at hand, totally changed his go-to, camera-ready smile, and paved the way for the true him to shine through : )
So my tips to you this week are simple, but relevant.
No matter who you are photographing, or what age they may be, find a way to connect. Clothing, hobbies, music, family members, upcoming holidays or events, the weather (for pete’s sake!) – anything! Just engage and find what makes their heart sing.
2. Keep Calm
I’ll admit, finding a common ground to connect on can be challenging at times. Keep calm. Don’t let it throw you off your game. Take a minute or two and focus on your settings, your framing, your focal point. Tell your subject you’re just setting up the shot, checking your settings; they can relax until you tell ’em you’re ready. But keep snapping. Sometimes those are the most beautiful, most real, most powerful shots.
3. And Carry On!
Some of the best portrait photographers (Newman, Avedon, Karsh) have been known to throw their subjects off in order to get the shot. Telling a sad story, fumbling with their equipment, taking away a prop (or cigar in Karsh’s Churchill portrait). Don’t get flustered if you’re not getting the image you want. Keep calm, take control, guide your subject where you need ’em to go (physically, emotionally, mentally) and carry on!
What do you do to connect with your subjects? What works for you? What haven’t you tried, but you want to try next time you’re behind the lens?
Thanks for stopping by and have a joyful, creative, blessing filled day!