What tips do you have for posing families and kids to get candid shots that don't look posed?
When I first started shooting portrait sessions with clients I found that one of the most difficult things for me was being able to direct my subject to get the kind of photo I wanted. It can be really challenging to think about how you want your subject to move and interact all while deciding what settings your camera should be at and how you want to compose the image. Here are a few tips I have for achieving this candid style:
1) PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE!
The more you go out and practice with you camera, the easier it will be not to think about where your settings are on your camera. Form a relationship with the settings and control buttons on your camera where you feel like changing settings (ISO, shutter speed, aperture) is like second nature to you. You should get to a point where you don't have to think about the controls on your camera so you can focus 100% on directing the client. I feel like my camera is an extension of my own hand now and this helps me to act quickly to get those candid images.
2) Learn to anticipate a moment
Often times I'll put a family or couple together in a pose and then ask them to hold it for a few shots. After taking a few of those images I'll tell them I'm done shooting that certain pose and then I may blurt out a silly joke or do something awkward only for the purpose of making the subject laugh, then...click, click, click. THIS moment is what I'm actually trying to set up and THIS moment is when I'll get the best and most natural images. The moment when the client thinks you're no longer shooting is when they'll let their guard down and give you a natural expression. I'm a sneaky ninja.
3) Build trust
When working with kids the very first thing I do is get down to their height and just talk to them. I don't take pictures for the first few minutes. I just start a conversation so they feel comfortable with me. Then I may take a photo of them and show them the photo I took. Sometimes I even let them take a photo with my camera if they're old enough. If THAT doesn't work, I often resort to lies and tell them their favorite cartoon character or Disney princess is hiding in my camera and they have to look really close and be still if they want to see it. Unethical? Maybe. Do I get great shots of them? Always.
4) Have a formula of poses that work for you
It's so important to study poses that appeal to you and your style and to use those poses during your sessions. I like to start with a simple walking towards me pose as a warm up, then I may move into another few sets of poses that I like. Having a formula helps the session to go smoothly and also makes the client feel at ease because you're constantly directing them so they don't ever feel awkward in front of the camera.
5) Make it fun
I always try to make the tone of a shoot feel carefree and fun. People typically feel uneasy in front of a camera so having the ability to help your subject feel comfortable can be very important. Play music, dance around, run, jump, play...these are all great techniques for getting fun and candid shots.
If you had the chance to capture the "perfect" photo, would you rather have a more meaningful subject or an interesting and visually correct composition?
While I think good composition in an image is very important, I would definitely say I am more attracted to images of interesting subjects. There's something about a person's face that attracts me to an image. The story behind their eyes, the lines on their face, their body language, their smile...these are all things that inspire me and light me up. Photographing a beautifully composed landscape or architectural image is also awesome but it doesn't speak to me in the same way people do. My main goal, however, and something I always strive for in my images is to merge the two. When I can take a well composed photo of an interesting subject I know I have done my job right.
What is your biggest fear?
My fellow photogs really know how to ask the hard hitting questions! Fear is such a huge and important topic, not only for me, but also for other creatives. Fear is something we all struggle with and must learn to make peace with as it is always going to be part of the creative process. We're afraid we're not good enough, we're afraid we'll never be as good as those we admire, we're afraid we're not worth success, we're afraid we are. Whatever your reason for feeling fear, it is so important to know that it is not real. Fear is a made up thing in your mind and we do not have to let it control our lives. Fear is self doubt, it is an excuse for not being vulnerable, and it can hold us back from living our truth. Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat Pray Love, talks a lot about fear in her new book Big Magic. I haven't personally read it yet but I've listened to a lot of her talks on the subject. Like this one.
On a professional level, I'd have to say my biggest fear is losing my passion for photography. There isn't a day that goes by that I don't feel immense gratitude for this gift. Photography is what drives me, it's what I live for, wake up for...it's who I am. I am afraid that one day I will no longer feel excited about it anymore. It's very possible this may happen in my lifetime. As I continue to grow and evolve as a person, my personal interests and passion may also grow and evolve. When this love of mine starts to feel like "work" I'll know it's time to follow my curiosity to new adventures beyond, new challenges, and new possibilities. Until then, I'm savoring every moment I have and continuing to challenge myself and find inspiration.