Harder Than Working

August 25, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

It could be the recent heat wave in New York City or maybe I’m pushing harder to get better results but I seem to be receiving more comments from clients about how posing and appearing relaxed for photographs is hard work. More than a couple of times in the last month someone has said “Wow! This photography thing is harder than working!”

Don’t get me wrong – nobody has actually complained and in fact they’re happy to be challenged and seem pleased with the final results. However, several of my recent clients, both professional actors and corporate executives, have noted that it requires significant effort in terms of thought, application and time to get the ‘look’ they are after.

I don’t want to make my photo-shoots sound scary or tougher than they are but it is interesting that many people arrive thinking that all they have to do is brush their hair, straighten their clothing and I’ll perform photographic magic to do the rest. A few days ago I photographed a management consultant who, after five frames said, ‘Thanks, I know you use Photoshop so if you could just make my eyes less squinty and make the smile look a little more genuine that’ll be great”. He was slightly incredulous when I asked him to step back into the light and told him it doesn’t work that way.

I try very hard to build trust and provide a safe environment for people to experiment and become less aware of their inhibitions without being embarrassed, while encouraging them to push themselves to perform and get a result they didn’t think was possible. The actors have said it’s an interesting and useful experience because they get to role-play and be directed by someone new who takes them outside their comfort zone.

The general feeling among the business people is that it’s a slightly unexpected challenge but that it translates to many working scenarios where they find themselves in new territory. Often, they are also heartened that someone is giving some thought and making the effort to get a great photograph of them – even though many of them say they have limited time and interest when they first arrive for the shoot.

Hopefully, everyone finds the experience interesting and enjoyable – if only in the same way that physical exercise or being challenged by a puzzle can be engaging and satisfying. Photographing people really is a team effort. I am responsible for coordinating those efforts but a lot of what is required has to come from the person being photographed.

The truth is that as a pro I am expected, and rightly so, to get ‘the picture’ and deliver a great result. That means I’ll do whatever is required to get that result and sometimes I have to draw on my technical skills with the equipment but it always requires my experience of working with people.


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