If you want to be a photographer, you've got to get good at a variety of technical things - understanding light, knowing how to use your equipment, and having knowledge of the principles of photography, things like aperture and shutter speed. However, there are other less tangible things you've got to master, at least that's what I believe, to make good pictures of people.
You have to know how to make people feel relaxed.
Here's what I've learned so far: most regular people, most of my clients, and me included, are not naturally comfortable having their photograph taken. In fact, I've found that some people aren't just a bit awkward - they actively dislike being photographed. Now, obviously if someone has booked me or any other photographer, they're trying to get some nice images of themselves and their family and friends. BUT they might still be nervous, and in my experience, that's generally the case for almost all clients.
As a photographer, People have to feel at ease with you. The best environment for photos is a relaxed, non-judgmental space that is familiar to the client. And as a your photographer, it's my job to make you feel like this whole photo shoot business is a piece of cake. Because it is.
Here's how I do it. I talk a lot. I have a conversation with people, because that's what people do when they get together, they shoot the breeze. So, our session will feel like we got to know each other, had a laugh, and then it will be over before you realized it had begun. Now, don't think this is me not working hard, or not doing my job as a photographer: that's definitely not the case. I'm talking with you, I'm chatting with your kids if there are kids around, and I'm concentrating on the technical and compositional details required to make excellent photographs.
Making my clients comfortable during a shoot is just as important as the resulting photographs. In fact, comfort is required for good pictures, period.
And at one of my shoots, I guarantee you'll have both!
Each person is different and therefore every portrait is different. Making a good connection with a person you photograph is THE most important part about photography, at least I think. And practice makes perfect.
Last year, and I don't remember at what point, I offered someone a 30 minute shoot in town. They didn't want a lot of images and they were interested in a sort of quick and dirty but fruitful photo shoot for their family. Almost as a joke I decided to call it a 30 in 30 because I gave them 30 images.
A year later, it's now one of my favourite things to do! These shoots are so fun, so quick, and result in dynamic, beautiful images. Honestly, I could do these forever and be thrilled about it. Below is a selection from recent shoots. Hit me up for a booking - the days are longer and the rain has stopped!
Here's what people are saying (you can also check out my Facebook reviews for more):
"Whatever you paid that person, it was worth every penny!" - Friend of client upon viewing gallery
"Liz - I keep obsessively reviewing these photos! I find new faves almost every time!" - Karen
"The photos she took really captured who we are as a family and her eye for the candid is stunning" - Amy
As I've said in a previous blog post, if you're looking for family photos where everyone is looking at the camera and wearing matching shirts - this is not going to be the shoot for you. But that's okay! There are a lot of other great photographers out there for you!
Check out the main 30 in 30 page for more information!
I answered a request for a volunteer photographer a few weeks ago. The gig was to photograph the United Way's Masquerade. I'd heard from my friend that it was a great party - and it didn't disappoint! Thanks for having me there! I'm so pleased to be a part of an evening that raised over $9,000 for local programs! The majority of the images have already been posted on the event Facebook page, but these are some of my favourites. I do love a good party!
Two blog posts in as many days is definitely odd for me, especially when there are often months between posts. Yesterday was the Women's March On Washington while that was uplifting, it has kept my thoughts firmly on the future, but in a rather bleak way.
With temperatures well above zero degrees yesterday (and today, and all week!), I am having a difficult time quelling feelings of dread. The unseasonably warm temperatures make me worried. Like many of us, I've known for years that climate change is a real, human-made emergency. Anyone who believes in reputable scientific opinion has known that this is coming. But, it's only in the last year or two (that I can remember, anyway) that I've really started to notice changes in my environment. Bizarrely hot summers with little rain and winters with almost almost no snow. And fog! Fog! I haven't seen fog or mist like this since I lived in B.C. This is coastal weather. This is the new normal?
This mist makes my once familiar home look like an alien planet. This is especially true at night. The light of the street lamps and car headlights bounces off the moisture droplets in the air; this hazy glow transforms the world into a mysterious and desolate looking place. It is evenings like last night that I feel even more uncertain of the future.
I worry so much about what's going to happen in the coming decades. I'll be 35 in April. What will Southern Ontario look like when I'm 55? Or 75? With the inauguration of Trump and the immobility of our own government on issues around fossil fuel production, I'm not feeling very optimistic. On the other hand I realize that feeling anxious about the future will not help prevent the outcomes about which I am so worried. Only real action, the start of which I witnessed yesterday, can help to change the future.
I went out to take photographs last night because I was enchanted with the way the world looked and I raced outside as soon as I got home from dinner at my parents'. But as I started making the photographs,I felt as though I was walking around a dream. A surreal place.
In surreal times, maybe this is the new normal.
I post this as the Women's March on Washington plays on my computer speakers. Many people, many languages, many incredibly strong voices. This morning's sister March in Kingston was equally uplifting. The turn out was high, as were the spirits. The speakers were inspiring and powerful. I feel proud to have been a part of the March on Washington - Kingston.
I've been on a real portrait kick recently. When Viara and I have done couples shoots over at Quirky Love, I've made sure to incorporate some standalone portraits of the couple, but each person individually. I also took a few of my boyfriend in December which I am personally in love with, but that could also be the subject matter ;). I am really enjoying the process of collecting these images. I also believe that a lot of people don't often have portraits of themselves, at least, like the ones I've started to take. Usually photographs are of you and family, or you and your significant other, or you at a party, but not often just you. And just your face. There can be a lot vulnerability there, and it can take a lot of courage to allow a photographer access in that way. Since I first starting photographing things and people, I have always been drawn to candid work, using principles of documentary photography to inform my practice. Confronting portraits in a more intentional way is new for me. Starting out in the last few years in wedding and family photography has really made me think about the origins of photographing people.
I'm not blazing any trails with my portraiture, that's for sure, but we'll see what develops. I'm really inspired by people like Richard Avedon, Chuck Close, and Bruce Gilden. Both Diane Arbus and Nan Goldin are close to my heart. I love these two women and their influence on me is unquantifiable. They both photograph people, but neither are what could be considered conventional portraitists. They're in a different realm, really.
Each of those artists have very different aesthetics, subjects, and, motivations. Many of my favourite of Close's work are his paintings, not his photographs. BUT they are all still portraits, for the most part, they're all just pictures of people. I love animal portraiture, too, which is a whole other wonderful sub genre. I do love taking pictures of my cats.
If you look at a lot conventional portraiture, there's often not a whole lot of difference in the basic composition. Not much has really changed from the eras when portraits were mostly painted, not photographed. A lot of the lighting is still the same, the basic poses haven't change much either. It's the faces that change from portrait to portrait and that's what makes them so interesting to look at. Of course there are objects people chose to hold, clothes they wear, the environment in which they sit; but for me it's the expressions, the wrinkles, the freckles, and intangible qualities that I enjoy the most. Many portraitists will tell you that they have different was of engaging with their subjects to tease out some essential quality of their personality. Or perhaps the photographer just waylaid them in the street and blinded them with a flash, like Gilden.
I am still exploring this process in my own practice. We'll see where it takes me.
The pictures below are from another shoot I did with my friend and very willing model, Gytha. You've definitely seen her around these parts before. I shot on both film and digital media. I have separated them under two different headings as I like to look at the differences, if there are any at all. I'm a grad student, not a billionaire, so they are scanned at the lowest (ie: cheapest) resolution at my local film place (shout out to Camera Kingston!)
Editing down to a manageable number of images is a skill I need to work on!
Get ready for a whole lotta Gytha!
I don't take enough pictures of my boyfriend JM. Here are a few from today. He's way nicer than he looks, but I love the serious ones. He's actually a goofball. Cats and me included.
After my sister's family endured two weeks of pink eye, chest colds, and running noses, the coast is finally clear. Snow tires on, I went for a visit yesterday. The weather hovered around zero, the snow melting, a mist formed, so the car ride home was pretty dodgy, but it was worth it!
I've spent the last three months doing several of these shoots and I've been really enjoying the experience. Here's a bit more information on the shoots and of course, some samples from past sessions.
If you're looking for holiday-themed mini sessions or traditional group portraits with everyone beaming at the camera - sadly this is where we'll have to part ways. That type of photography is simply not what I do.
Here's how the 30 in 30 goes: we hang out for roughly 30 minutes (don't worry, I'm not watching the clock) and about a week or two later, you receive roughly 30 really cool images. I will probably ask you to all stand together at one point and attempt to look at the camera, but inevitably, that is never the most memorable image of the bunch. If you're a family, we'll play in the back yard or gather in the living room. If you're a couple or just a bunch of friends who want some fun photos, I'll hang out with you while we listen to music and (hopefully) drink beer.
I firmly believe that this type of photography results in the most lively and dynamic imagery - stuff that you'll actually want to print and look at again, kind of like photos you'd take at a really fun party that you reminisce over later. If you've got kids, the 30 in 30 sessions require almost zero posing time, 99% fun time - so hopefully no meltdowns. Be prepared to have this shoot over before you realize it's started :)
The 30 in 30 images have an energy to them that I think just works. My longer sessions roll out in exactly the same way, there's just room for more people, more places, more things.
My aim with all of my shoots is to have fun, if that's your general ethos in life, we'll probably get along alright :)
$200 for 30 minutes • 30 images • Kingston only
Places I've been, people I've seen.