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Tip Tuesdays

Updated: Apr 17

April 17, 2024

The Third Tuesday Tip

It’s Not About You!

When you take a really good portrait, it is all about the subject; your goal should always be to let them be 120% themselves. They shouldn’t have to perform for you, seduce you, or do anything for you at all except be willing to strip down the artifice they wear for the world and show you their soul (not an easy ask.) It is very similar to writing a great profile of someone - you might nod, you might ask questions, but what you really need to focus on is listening. As a photographer, you also nod and ask questions while you and your camera listen and wait for the true person to emerge. You have to allow a lot of time for that - it takes a lot of trust for people to let down their guard and really let you see them.

This week I am going to focus on children, and what it means to let them be 120 percent themselves (next week I will talk about teens and adults.) For some children, especially very young children, this means a lot of waiting. I never schedule less than 2 hours for a session for a child - you basically just need to wait them out.

For little ones, I will basically bore them into authenticity. I will have them sit or lay down in front of a backdrop, and tell them (and by that, I usually mean tell the parents) that I need to adjust my lights. I will play with my lights until the subject practically forgets that I am there. Sometimes I will give them a prop/toy to play with while I “adjust my lights” and this often yields great pictures. For more outgoing kids, I will ask them all kinds of questions – not typical questions that adults ask kids, but genuinely open-ended “could go anywhere” questions… questions to which I don’t have an answer or any expectation that I know how they will answer. The goal is to get them thinking and get them to explain something of interest to them to me - the more animated and involved they get, the better the pictures.

When adults try to project their desires onto the shoot, it is an exercise in frustration. We have all seen miserable-looking little boys dressed like Daddy Mini-Me’s with pained “free me please!” smiles, or little girls with their hair pulled back so tight that no matter how perfect they might be dressed, all the viewer can think is “Ouch!” We should all refuse to take these kinds of shots - no one will look at them later with any kind of fondness or happy memories.

Free the little ones, and you will have pictures and memories worthy of archival paper and pretty frames.


April 9, 2024

Embrace the unexpected! There is a lot of planning that goes into a photoshoot, both on the photographer’s end and also the clients end, and this is true of people taking pictures on a more relaxed basis.

Everyone wants to take “good” pictures, and everyone wants to look “good” in pictures - that’s just the way it is. But the best pictures - the ones we remember forever - are usually taken when the unexpected happens!

Sometimes things go wrong — kids cry or are in bad moods, dogs don’t stay still, wardrobes malfunction - so many things can happen that deviate from the original plan. Seize those moments and capture them.

As a professional photographer one of the things I love most is being let into people’s personal and real lives… the house is messy, the kid is cranky, the dog doesn’t listen. I can relate - that is 100 percent my life too. When you take pictures anyway, it usually turns out that those are the pictures that people treasure, because they capture a REAL moment in time, and although it doesn’t seem it at the time, it can bring people right back to that point in their lives in a way a perfect picture (with perfect hair, perfect makeup, and a poised expression) never will.

When you tell a dog to sit and instead, true to his curious personality, it comes up to you and tries to lick your camera lens, take a picture! When the one year old tries to eat the props at her one year old portrait session, take a picture! When the toddler can’t get away from you fast enough and tries a running leap over the carefully selected chair you thought she would love, take the picture. And when you think you have set up a romantic vignette to capture a couple’s love before their baby is born and their first child quickly slides in to photobomb the session, take a picture. These wind up being the most cherished pictures that people have, because they are real!


April 2, 2024

The first Tip Tuesday is here!

It’s all about the eyes. All of my shoots focus on the eyes - for children, couples, dogs - anyone I shoot.

I use props (hats, glasses pushed back on the head to contain hair, hair accessories, even props held up by my subject) to bring attention to the eyes. When I edit pictures, I try to steer all attention to the eyes; even when I crop a subject, my main aim is to crop the picture in such a way that the main thing you see is the subject’s eyes.

I’m not unique in this - I think artists and writers have focused on eyes forever. But even with your iphone, if you spend 15 seconds when you compose your shot of a person or an animal and consciously think “What can I do to draw the viewers attention to my subjects eyes?” you will infinitely up your photography game…

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