Updated: Sep 3, 2021
I hear this a great deal when I am talking to people about having their photo taken. Its seems that so many people have had a bad experience surrounding portrait photography, that I am not surprised that they don't relish the idea of having their portrait made.
The answer to this is:- "when was the last time you had your photo taken by a professional photographer?
I see a great many people take an awful selfie, use it on their Facebook page and still decline a proper photo. I expect there is no simple answer to this.
My job as a portrait photographer is to get the very best image of you that I possibly can. This is a multi faceted issue, so many different things all combining together. Firstly I have to get you in-front of my camera! This requires me to get you to trust me in the very first instance. Thousands of people have trusted me with their life, letting me take your photo should be easy! Once we are ready "in principle" for me to make your image, I have to get you into the right mindset for the process to take place. For this to happen, you need to feel confident, and relaxed. That bit might be more difficult! You need to know that you won't feel awkward, uncomfortable, embarrassed or any other difficult things.
The process for all this, is for you to know that I, the photographer, will tell you where and how to stand, where to put your hands, how to hold your head etc, etc.
There are two words in this that are of particular importance here;- "directing" and "posing"
Director (of photography) :- controls everything that affects what the camera is able to capture, ie, composition, exposure, lighting, camera movements, etc. Also directing :- a person who supervises the actors and other staff in a play, film or similar production.
Posing:- assume a particular position in order to be photographed, painted or drawn.
(definitions from the Oxford English dictionary)
It would seem that one of the biggest reasons people tell me that they are not photogenic, is because they are not sure what to do, when in front of the camera. How to hold themselves, what to do with their hands and so forth. This is so important, important for the sitters confidence, their appearance and in the end the quality of the photograph. Part of my job then, is to get you the sitter, to feel confident and relaxed so that I can the "direct you into the correct poses"
There seem to be an almost infinite number of poses that a human can position themselves into, depending on the context. We, together must choose the best ones for the image we are trying to create.
This is a photo of my Mum, probably taken some time in the 1950s before i was born. She was strikingly beautiful, not just because she was my mum though! The photographer used a pose that is one of the very best to this day! Its quite easy to get the sitter into this position.
She has "Mona Lisa" eyes in this shot!
The pose has the best of everything, her face is positioned perfectly in relation to the camera, the shadow on her face and hair is perfect. The lighting was positioned just so to get this effect. Mum was only a little over 5 feet tall, You could not guess that from this image.
This then is a classic, and one of my favorite poses.
This is a photo of my Dad, who was also a quite stunning looking bloke! I think this photo predates the one above and I have no idea where it was taken (probably at RAF Leuchars, in Scotland). It's much more of a snapshot than a carefully posed shot, as there is all sorts of detritus in the background. However, its still a great shot and a beautifully lit image. Dad is using his pipe as a prop for his hands. He was wearing a cravat, he loved these, right up to the end of his life. A cup or glass etc, work very well as props for hands when we can't find the right position for them. By cropping the image quite tight around his upper body, his other hand and the rest of him, are excluded, perhaps enabling him to feel more confident.
This image of Lynn uses her glasses as a hand prop and the seating position to make her legs look comfortable. Lynn gradually became more and more comfortable as our shoot progressed. I think she looks really fabulous in this shot. This was about an hour into the shoot. To an extent the longer the shoot goes on the happier the sitter becomes. Although, we would all be tired after a couple of hours - time for more coffee!
There was lots of stuff in the room, this all had to be moved. I placed a black backdrop in behind her to mask the wall and corner of the room. She is then lit by a large reflector and strobe light
This shot of Georgia shows how I used the wall to position her, her ballet stance holds her hands and head in a beautiful pose and then her legs naturally find a comfortable stance. I used an on-camera flash to just add a bit of light to the winter afternoon. All this added up to a great photo. We had the entire afternoon to do this shoot. Which we broke into sections and venues. Unfortunately, the lockdown meant that there were not cake/coffee shops open. I learn a lot from posing Georgia, she has a natural ability to get into the right position/pose at the right moment. The challenge for me is to remember it all!
In this shot I got Georgia to brush her hand through her hair as if she was trying to brush it out of her face. It works rather well I think. I have used several different lights in this shot. One to light the back wall. One to light her hair, from the side. And finally a large "beauty dish" which gives a lovely soft light, to light her face.
In this photo, I have used a chair to position myself. To get me in a comfortable pose, by sitting on the chair. Having the chair backwards enables me to put my arms onto the backrest, almost like a prop. I am also holding my phone, which I was using to fire my camera. My large umbrella and strobe are used to light this. Unlike to pose with Mum, I am square on to the camera, a slightly different pose to get a different effect.
Getting someone to pose in-front of my camera is sometimes quite difficult. A good number of people say "Oh yes, I'd love too" and away we go. I arrange a date and a venue, and it all seems quite straight forward. Sometimes, I get an outright "no" mostly that is irreversible!
When its a doubtful no, I can usually try a bit of magic and turn that into a yes. The idea of this blog, is for you to read and to feel much more assured and confident in having your portrait made.