How do you direct the romance with men who are pretty awkward with it? What kind of questions do you portray with them? What do you, how do you guide them with that?
Okay. So, actually, the romantic shots are the easiest ones with men. The hardest shots with men are the ones of them looking at the camera, to be honest. A lot of 'em wanna look at the camera all the time. You have to remind them not to, but that's hard. The way that I do it is I use a little bit of humor, but I really play up, I really play up their connection. So I will say things like, "You can go ahead and grab her butt right now, "while you're holding her, just go ahead and grab her..." I mean, I know that sounds like crazy, right guys? But I get really silly with my families. And he laughs and he usually does it. Or I'll say, "Look at your wife, she is stunning. "Your wife is absolutely beautiful. "I want you to kiss her on her neck and I just want you to hold it there for a second." And what often happens is, the...
y laugh, they make a big, they do a big laugh. But I just tell 'em what to do. To be honest, the more in control you are, the less likely they're gonna have a hard time. So, it's more your insecurity. Like, I understand that that's a weird thing to say. I host photography retreats with my friend, and every time I ask the dad to kiss the mom's neck, she says "I can't believe you would do that." But I just love it. (audience laughs) I love the results. I'm a romantic person, you know, so it just kind of is part of who I am, but I think you just have to get past your own personal feeling of uncomfortableness, and it's going to be fine.
Thank you, because that question was coming up online as well.
Yeah, I knew that picture would do it. (audience laughing)
I do it a lot, though. (laughing)
And not just that, the romance. How do you make them seem romantic, but also that concept of people feeling awkward or when you are sensing that people are awkward, and how do you overcome that? So, is it really that you're feeling awkward yourself?
Um-hm. I think it is. So, we're gonna go into this, you know, when we start talking about guiding, posing, and directing. But one of the things that I think we worry about is that the family or the clients are gonna not like what you're saying or feel uncomfortable, but the truth of the matter is that they want you to be the expert. They want you... Remember I was going back to that lifestyle photograph. They want you to tell them what to do. They don't know what you want from them. They don't understand what you are trying to do with your work, and they're coming to you because they saw this kind of stuff, and we're going to talk about that too, on your website. So they want you to make them into your art. So you have to be 100% in control. You have to be that artistic director. I mean, I will say all of those silly, intimate things to get them to open up, and usually they do. And they're usually very happy with the results. You've just got to get over your own insecurities, I think.
Awesome. Thank you for that. And I love that we are gonna see you in action later in the class, with a family, showing us in real time,
how you do this. So back on the emotions. A couple of questions about that. Do you keep the same emotion, that word that you're focused on throughout the shoot, or is it based on a certain photo that you're creating? And then, likewise, how are you deciding what that is? Is it based on the family, the day, the setting?
Such a great question! So, no, I would say that I execute multiple emotions at my shoots. I will admit that I tend to err more on the romantic, moody side. My work definitely is more that way. That will not be you necessarily. Like I said, remember, we're making the best you, not... We want you do to what feels right for you. So, I don't just use one emotion for the whole session. In the next segment, I'm gonna talk to you about how I get to know the families before I actually see them. And so I can usually tell a little bit by what they've told me what their disposition is. And, again, I talk about this in the next segment as well, when we talk about preparing for the session. I usually can feel, you can tell what a family is like right away, right when you meet them. If you meet them and, baby won't let mom put her down, and the other kid is hiding behind her leg, and dad seems a little quiet, they're going to be a little bit more quiet, and their shoot is going to be probably not as joyful and not as out there with emotions. They're going to be a little more tender, maybe. But then sometimes you show up and the kids are jumping all over the place and dad's already got one over his shoulder and mom's laughing, and so we're going to go a little more joyful with that session. So you really have to tailor it to the family. And, like I said, you've really got to be perceptive. You've gotta be relatable. You've gotta get to know them a little bit so that you can do those things for them.
So I have a question about height.
How do you, do you look for areas that have a log to stand on, or?
You're gonna see me do this. I'm five-two, super short. I'm wearing high heels right now. I brought flat shoes for the shoot, though, because I run around. I shoot blind a lot. Here I am, breaking rules again. But I hold it up like this, and that way that you can get away with that is that you can just switch on your live view really quick and you can see what the camera is seeing and then switch it off and shoot. So that's how I do it. I have short friends who bring a little step-stool to their sessions; I don't. I just can't imagine... I wanna just capture every emotion and every moment that I'm seeing, and so I can't imagine being like, "Wait, let me get my step-stool!" So, I generally just shoot blind over my head. When I'm in the home, I stand over them on the bed, or if they're sitting down, I'm standing over them. but, yeah, I just shoot blind. And I have some really tall dads that are like 6 feet tall, and I'm like (laughs) to make it happen. But, yeah, so.
So, a question from Donna Kern, who says, "When you refer to eye contact, "do you mean eye contact "with you, "or eye contact with the other people in the photo?"
That's a good question. So I generally was talking about with me, with the subject, or with the lens, with the camera, because I was talking about inviting in the viewer. So we're gonna talk a little bit about eye contact too, in the next segment when we go into how to prepare for the shoot and that kind of stuff. But, yeah, generally I'm talking about eye contact with me.
And a question from Ann Reed, who says, "I'm assuming Elena does not use a tripod since there's so much action involved?" Is that true?
It's true. (laughs) I have one for when I do self-portraits, like, once a year with my kids, but, yeah, no. No, I do not use a tripod; too restricting.
Great. I can't see you with a tripod. (laughs)
I'm kind of a spaz. (laughs)
Question from Marjorie, who says, "I noticed in a few of the images, "you can't see some of the faces, the expressions, "and I understand that those are not posed, "and that with lifestyle images, "it is that emotion that you're capturing. "But do you find that those images sell well too?" And I know we're going to get into that later.
So, those actually are posed. Every single shot that you see that I share with you is posed, except for the occasional... Like that one where they were on the log, that was an example. And that's... I'm glad that you asked that, because I feel like there is us, pigeonholing ourselves again into an old style of photography where the face has to be in it for it to be a valid photograph. I very often mask the face on purpose. Like the one with the mom that I want... Where I was talking about that vision. I went and I put her hair in front of her face. I wanted it to feel anonymous. The truth is, actually, when you can't see a face and you just feel what you're tapping into in those ones is that body language that I was talking about, and when you don't see a face, it actually allows you as the viewer to insert yourself in the image. So I find that, I think that that really helps actually, in booking further clients, future clients, 'cause they can kind of put themselves in there. And be like, "Ah, I know how that feels. "That's not me, but I know how that feels." So, a faceless photograph is still very posed or directed, or, I don't like the word posed, and it's still a valid portrait, even if it's just a foot. That's a portrait too; it's a part of the body. But, that's a good question. I get asked that a lot.
And of the psychology that is infused into what you're teaching us, not just about the photographing part, but how your clients are perceiving what you're creating for them as an art.
Yeah. (laughs) So, one more question, unless we have more from in-studio. Kayla says, "I have a mother with two "adult daughters coming up. "Any advise for directing them, when it's basically "three adults, and creating those connections?"
Yeah. That's a good question. So, I don't do a lot of extended family stuff, so most of my clients have children that are a little bit younger, but I would still use close body contact with adult children. So I would still get... Even with teenagers, I do that, you know. I would still put the mom and her two daughters very close together, and I would even ask mom to snuggle in to her adult daughter's cheek. This isn't gonna be for everybody. And we're gonna talk about that in the next in the next segment, but that's why this is important. If you are only showing more traditional portraiture on your website, and somebody comes with their adult children, and all of a sudden you're like, actually we're gonna get really snuggly and you're gonna... You know, that may not work, but if this is what they're expecting from you, then I would probably use the same guiding techniques for adults and adult children.