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Lesson 6 from: The Business of Photography

Nigel Barker

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Lesson Info

6. Confidence

Next Lesson: Personal Work

Lesson Info


Confidence. Lights, camera, action! Those can be terrifying words. But they're also the words of our business. And I've talked about how knowledge is power and how you have to learn every aspect of the business. But researching what you're doing is key. Now, whenever I meet someone, or I'm about to shoot that person, I do as much research as I possibly can. Who are they? What do they do? What are they like? What music are they into? If I can find that out. I'll even ask in advance. So that the moment that person walks to set, they come to the set and the music is playing that they like, it's amazing how that is a really easy trick. So people go, they're walking, hey yeah, I like this. Sets the tone. I may not love the music. That happens, the older you get. But it's not always about me, right? Researching all these different things helps you to create those stories. You're looking for that narrative, you're looking for inspiration. When you find out as much as you can about a person, y...

ou can get inspired by their career. And you could also think, where do they want to go next? And by asking these sorts of questions, when you're taking pictures of those people, they feel extra special 'cause you've bothered to know who they are, but also, I actually try and put that into, I'm like, okay, this person has done X, Y, and Z in their career, and I'll even mention elements of it as I'm photographing them to make them feel proud of what they've done or for them to think back on things. Do they have children? I've already worked that out, yes you've got two kids. So when you have those kids, what do those kids mean to you? All of a sudden they think about it, and the thought process, it comes into their eyes, and it makes those pictures come alive. So by learning all those things, it means otherwise, of course you can just ask the question at the time. Do you have kids? Yes, I do. And then you can go from there. But the more you know in advance, the more you walk in and you have all of that, and even with businesses I'm going to, brands I'm working for, I'll talk a bit more about that in a moment. Coco, who's completely crazy and one of my favorite people to shoot. Loving what you do gives you the opportunity to do things like this, where you sort of do crazy things, but have fun with it, but also make your pictures come to life. She has the kind of confidence to do that kind of thing. You also, too, if you give that person that confidence, you create that atmosphere like I said, they walk in and they, all of a sudden, do things for you that they wouldn't do for other people. And that's the special thing, too, by the way. You wonder how you're gonna make your picture look different from the next. Because you've created this atmosphere, this environment, you're giving your subject the tools to release themself as well. And spontaneity is the magic. How do you make something spontaneous? Because that person feels so free in this environment that all of a sudden they're like, they'll do something kind of silly like bunny ears, whatever it might be, and sometimes it's not the bunny ears. I even ask people to shout out and to scream and to really push themselves, not because I want the shout or the scream, but right after it and right before it, sometimes, the magic is right there. When their person is so in the moment and after they're suddenly like, whew, whoa, what happened? And they've shaken that all out. Boom. There's the magic. This is a very powerful image. Now. This is a whole series of pregnant pictures that I took. And. I say to people, constantly, there are things that are scary out there in the world, but you have to face fear. And really the scariest thing is the fear itself. And that once you get past it and you push yourself through, you can do anything. And it was interesting, shooting this whole series of pictures was hard for people, was hard for everyone, really, at the time, because it's a series of nudes, shots are not easy. People are uncomfortable being nude. But I shot 80 women for this whole series. They're all nudes, and every single, almost, I would say, not every single one, probably 95% had never been photographed nude before, 50% probably never been photographed professionally before. And it took a lot of courage. But I noticed that every single woman I photographed wanted to be there and was trying to tell their story and was proud of that moment in their life and felt empowered that they had this baby growing inside of them, and this was one of those most extraordinary photographs. As she smiles and looks so relaxed at camera with a double mastectomy and hair loss from chemo, proud and fearless. And I'm thinking to myself, that's how I need to approach everything, too. Every photograph, I need to, however scary the scenario, the scene, the shoot, how many people, how daunting it might seem, the budget, whatever it might be, just go for it. Trust in yourself, like this lady did, and inspire many. Now, I talk about the narrative all the time. There's a couple of things I'm gonna say here. It's really about, are you telling the story or are you reading the story? And you can do both. But I like to be in control of my pictures. And I say that because I'm paid to do a job, I have to go in, I have to shoot it, and I have to leave. I'm not a wildlife photographer who's necessarily waiting for the rabbit to come out of the hole or something. And that's a different kind of photography, right? And even in there, you still have to have passion. But I go in, I have the story, a story in mind, it might change as we shoot, it might develop. But I go in with an idea and an angle, and I'm trying to get it to come out. And with shooting this picture of Taylor, it was an interesting kind of moment, because I'd shot her a few times already. But it was after she'd just been performing for a mini-level concert type of thing as we were shooting her with a guitar. And then she put it down. And she just looked at me, and I just went straight in at that moment, boom, and I asked her a question. And it was just that little moment where she just looked at me and was like, I'm done, kind of thing. But I got this shot of her and I've always loved it. Super tight, super close. But it was me, I feel like it's my story, as well, and I controlled this moment and I provoked it, 'cause I was constantly asking her things and so for that moment she was just like, right. So. You can just wait for things to happen. They may or they may not. But we're not paid to wait. We have to make it happen. Now, I talk about finding a cause. I'm involved with many different charities. This another one of those shoots that I shot many models, again, for Nine West. But finding a cause and shooting for charities is a great way to get your work out there as well, actually. Not just are you helping people, but you are developing your style, you are making a difference with your pictures, and there's probably nothing more rewarding than people seeing your work, reacting to it, and wanting to make a change in the world, or donate, advocate, volunteer. You really feel like you've done something kind of special. And it's also a great way for the world to see what you're about, as a brand, too. Something that you stand for. And there are so many causes out there, and every single cause, every single charity, they need storytellers. They need people to go out there and say what they're about. And there aren't enough, you'd think there are enough people out there doing it, there aren't. Every single charity I go to and work for, they're like, oh, you'll do this? They always seem surprised. So you'll be surprised if you actually go and you want to not just give back, but hone your craft, work with people that are willing, tell those stories, find stories. Going charities, for me, the number one way. And you'll feel so good about what you do. You'll feel pride in what you're doing. Sometimes people are like, oh, I don't love my work, I'm not happy about it. Go and work for a charity. You'll begin to love what you do when you see the reaction that you get from your work. Not to mention, obviously, by working with charities, and I certainly, as you can see in these two last photographs, you photograph the many, many people in these pictures, you get to meet a whole new different variety of people. And they're like-minded. And you're networking simultaneously as well as doing a great thing. And I've got work from a lot of these different chefs and things like that as well simultaneously. So there's a whole thing in life where if you don't give, you're not gonna, you have to give and give back, it's a two-way world we live in. But by putting yourself out there and working with people, for me, that's, for free. Just donating your time, donating your services. Sometimes you'll get your expenses paid. But it's been the most rewarding thing I've ever done. And I created four films as well, which really was the beginning of my film career and video career. But working with charity was the best way to do it, 'cause there were these incredible stories where you could go in and tell these remarkable stories of people, which is so inspiring that it was a great vehicle to sort of practice and hone my own eye at video and at film. And of course, these things are, people are out there, they're out in the world for people to see what you care about. And that's made a huge difference, I now partner with almost every job that I do. And I'm saying, listen, we're gonna shoot this campaign, let's have a charitable component. Let's give back. And I work with X, Y, Z, charities, can we use one of them? If not, what do you represent? And that becomes a part of the story, becomes a part of the deal. And it's a great way to encourage your clients to give back and also they can see your heart, too. And people, they book good people, if you're a nice person and they think you've got a heart, they're more likely to want to work with you, too. It's just the way it is, right?

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Raw Beauty Equipment List
Raw Beauty Light Diagram

Ratings and Reviews

Michael Spatola

This is one of my favorite Creative Live classes so far. The storytelling and human interaction parts were my favorites! The ability for Nigel to get such amazing expressions in such a brief time shooting was amazing. Everything he demonstrated seemed almost effortless, and all without a shred of ego. Great class!

Margaret Lovell

Nigel is a wonderfully engaging instructor. I like that he walks his students through his photoshoots. The set ups. How to interact with the models. Even though there are a couple of genres I'm most active in, I appreciate that Nigel says that you can have different photographic interests, so long as you brand yourself properly. I like taking photos of lots of things, although my outdoor photos generate the most interest. I highly recommend all of Nigel's classes.

a Creativelive Student

Passion, personal, inspiring! Nigel, thanks for amazing class and a lot of great advices.

Student Work