Know Your Subject
So we did questions now the subject all right, bump bump we've talked about no your camera? No, you're lynn's right now we need to talk about knowing your subject and what I'm basically getting into, uh here is your client your client walks in the door and you have to do a photo shoot and you've got to know your subject. The number one most important thing happening at that session is that you need them to trust you. All right? You need to understand what their needs are, what their expectations are. You need to meet those needs and exceed those expectations. All right? Uh, kind of like what? Going back to that initial question you had of how how much of a creative envelope can I push? How far is too far with a client you need know your subject your subject is an actor or an actress and they need a head shot. You're not pushing a whole lot of creative boundaries there. All right? I'll talk about head shots more specifically tomorrow. Um, they're a small business owner and they're getti...
ng a profile in a magazine. They need a contributor uh, contributor writer contributor a photograph of themselves all right, so it's very conservative banking magazine, pretty conservative banking photograph it's ah, life on the bleeding edge web two point oh, tech mag that's kind all nearly underground punk and it's all about hackers wow, I have a whole new place I could go with that photo shoot kind of thing I have I have a new area I could go with that and knowing your subject is you've got to talk to your subject you've got to find out about them a lot of the jobs that I get uh there's e mails there's phone calls and the job is booked and they walk in the studio and that's my first time meeting them now I try to do my homework on my subject I look to see if they have twitter feed I see you there on facebook I look at their wall posts I andi you know, if they're band or musician I listen to their music I find out are they on tour? What cities are they going to what cities have they've been to? I'm looking for conversation points all right? And you didn't know my subject when that subject walks in and they're ready for a photo shoot unless you're working with professional models or very extroverted kind of personalities like a robin williams or someone like that, then they're usually kind of nervous, right? How many of you like being in front of the camera like any of any of you? Yeah, not bad, all right all right, so we got one extra who got a six right you'll like it at all hate it right? So let's say you're walking in and I'm sitting you down in front of my camera and you're nervous and you don't like this process right? Like earlier then let's put mia's photographer and I'm nervous and not real sure of myself that's a train wreck just about to happen right there now there were times I'm nervous before shoots and then this and I'm that I doubt myself and all that, but like I said at the beginning, like when the where you move from amateur to pro is you have all this nervousness and you walk into that shoot, you put your hand out exam, zach, I'm your photographer and we're gonna get this done today these going this will be great and in my head I'm going back uh I'm not going to go shoot a good picture today and I'm going to shoot the same picture I shoot every single point probably, you know, can I find a new picture today kind of make this happen? I don't I'm asking myself that question, which which I turned into motivation, I have to push myself today, I have to make it happen today, I've got to get something and if I don't get something on the bleeding edge of creativity, at least I've got to just make this a good experience with them I need kennedy come into the studio or meet me at location or whatever and she needs to walk in nervous and walk out laughing and just having had a great time all right, a lot of photographers pushed the experience have a great experience, make it all about the experience make it a great absolutely making a great experience but damn it show up with great camera skills and take great pictures I cringe a little bit when I hear photographers go you know I know I'm not really the best photographer in the world but my clients just have a great time, okay, good you've got part of the equation right now be a better photographer right? And I know great photographers who can't even talk say two words to their clients and and they're great photographers but they have a hard time getting anything out of them, all right? So you got to know your subject they walk in and you've got to put them at ease, all right? I don't just pull the camera right out let's start talking. So tell me about yourself. Um if you have a hard time talking to strangers, if you're kind of shy kind of quiet and it takes a lot to like get you into a conversation, the hard thing is to say is you're going to have a really hard time being a photographer every successful photographer I know is a good people person you can throw them into a room of complete strangers and they'll make some friends or at least they'll spend the whole night having conversations with people if you're shy fear the wallflower if you have a hard time just and you're kind of quiet kind of meek and kind of keep your head down and you're gonna have a hard time being a photographer, you just are it's all about your relationship it's all about your subject it's about it's all you're gonna hear me say it's all about knowing your camera, it's all about your subject it's all about knowing which lends use it's all tomorrow it's all about light it's all it's the most important thing is your life and the most important thing is your camera and their most important thing is your linens and, oh, my god subject the most important thing it's all the most important thing, right? So I was the shy guy in high school. I had like two friends and I could not you put me in a party situation and I was just like, stand in the corner and hope no one talks to me but kind of wish somebody talk to me, but I wasn't gonna approach anyone me approaching strangers was just frightening um as I moved my ways up through photography and assisting and working at other studios, I started to learn how I could walk into a room of photographers and talk the language and be comfortable around that cause I knew what to talk about, and I felt that I had something to contribute. You put me in in in the business networking situation, I had nothing to contribute other than I take pictures, drink just keep drinking until I start talking right? And then I start talking, I'm drunk now like that's no, right? So when I quit my job at kinko's and I stepped back out into the world, I had a massive realization right away that my ability to talk to people was absolutely tied to my ability to pay my rent that if I couldn't talk to people, I couldn't pay my rent. If no one knows that you're alive and shoot pictures and do it for a living no one's gonna hire you. I can't get anyone to hire me. How many people know about? Well, my mom, my sister and a friend of hers at work and my buddy it's falling out. Okay, well, I told ten people about me last month, uh, to start, you need to tell ten more you need to tell twenty more you need to meet thirty people this month and the next month and the next month and after three months one hundred something people are going to know that you're out there and six months from now a couple hundred people from the no six hundred people a thousand people need to know one thousand people in your town need to know you're a photographer, you do it for money and you do have a job so if you're the shy, quiet person and here comes your subject and all of this stuff is intimidating to you and you don't know your reciprocal ls and you haven't studied it and you have three lenses in your bag and you don't know what they do and the guy in the business like said mike, just go off what's going on there, it gets uncomfortable, right? Yeah, yeah nothing so subject coming to sit down, I need to talk to them and what do I do? I ask questions if you're the shy, quiet person, you don't know what to say, ask questions so where you from? So so what do you do such and such? What are your hobbies? Such a such? Uh, you travel at all? What do you you have to have a way of you traveled to I'm looking for something something like, oh, I've been the alaska oh, ok, I've been to alaska so there so I can talk about what part of alaska have you been to I've been to this part well I haven't been to that part I went to this point and then you're just talking you have to get them to forget about all the cameras and lenses they need to forget about that you need to draw them into conversation and the best way to get talking is just ask questions all right just ask questions just talk and all right thank you um and just start talking to him all right? So we're gonna work on more of this tomorrow uh just talking it through and then on sunday when I put you guys to the test and I throw people that you've never met before are you talking to him and not only that but you have like five minutes gets picture so you have to talk to him you have to get him to trust you you have to have an idea for a picture in your head either one you've made are one I've given you and you have to execute it and you have to do it with a smile on your face and I tell you when I start freaking out most like let's say a piece of equipment goes down on me crap I started asking bigger questions so before you die what is it that you want to do most with your life oh, wow! And then they're like, apologies right back. I'm like, you know, their thinking and I'm sweating, but you got to do it with a smile on your face and it's not I do know what a preach fake it till you make it. I don't want to preach that attitude about it, but you will have always have your inner demons screaming at you that you have to get them to shut up and you have to say, I know I can find my exposure, I know which lends I'm going to use. I know I'm gonna like my subject well and I know I'm going to deliver this job with them and your inner demons are screaming at you and you just say, shut up! I have to get my job done because I have kids defeat in a story, so knowing your subject to is about posing them and posing sucks all right? And this is one of those there's, several things that I do, and now that I teach photography and I shoot photography and people say, how do you do this? There's certain things that I come across to you and I go, I don't know nothing replaces experience at the end of the day, nothing replaces experience you you shoot ten portrait ce in your life, you have that much experience to you know hang your hat on you she one thousand portrait's how much easier do you think susan a portrait is new fall out of bed should portrait after you shot one thousand portrait's you're like ok got this it's the whole the idea of the ten thousand hours who is that author um some guys smarter than me uh somebody chat rooms about hit you I bet you um ten thousand hours you put your ten thousand hours in and like you become a master of whatever you're doing right? So posing sucks and the people ask well, how do you pose? And I'm like I don't know I mean there's there are certain rules deposing all right and we're gonna work on this some more tomorrow but rules the posing in things like I'm typically going take a little bit higher of an angle on somebody I'm usually not shooting straight into the chest or right into the shoulder kind of thing so I like this sort of angle with mccalla fear the photographer I'm the subject I apologise um a bit of an angle, but I'll change that at times how I think opposing and I've like struggled and struggled in all week leading up to this weekend I know we got to talk about posing and there's some people who have really good posing like I watched bambi cantrell's creative live video and that girl she composed like here here here here here and she's got it in her head and she she could explain it in a way that's like you put the shoulder here and clean in this but you know and click and it's like well okay but she's done a ten thousand times yeah she's done it ten thousand times right? She goes she knows and she's a woman shooting a lot of women and there's that connection that I don't have right so it's like how do I talk about it? What do I do? I don't ever think of it is posing what finally the like epiphany I had this week is and never think of it is posed how I think of it is body language that's how I posed people s o so there are posing techniques but for me it's about body language and when I think about it in body language I have a lot easier time talking about it is I'm looking at my subject I'm looking at there body language I'm looking at what they're saying all right? So I've got a subject and let's say because again you're the photographer and I'm the subject if I get a really wide stance and I square off to you and I got my shoulders up and I got my head kind of leaned up I'm about to kick your ass right this body language to you I'm confronting it I am a wall I'm a force and that's something I'm I'm trying to convey to you you're welcome down an alley at night and suddenly there's somebody who will say to you you bow up you like so right and if you know if I kicked up my face a little bit and kind of look back down at you I'm taking this lake I am a strong authority on now if I just sort of break that down a little bit and just kind of relax and just come back to you just kind of hands in pockets, eh what's up and I'm not squared off to you but I'm just kind of broken that angle I'm just hanging out just hanging out I'm just hanging out so if if I'm waiting on an interview with an art director I need to be as professionals I can possibly be right when that our director walks out of their doors his act I'm ready to see your portfolio I'm not like you know what's up, you know? But if I'm just hanging out waiting for my mates, you know, I'm just I'm just hanging out having a beer I'm waiting for the the barbecue ting warm up about the fearsome stakes on it, you know? I'm kicked back a little bit kind of thing I'm relaxed, I'm in my backyard, I'm just talking, just chatting and having a drink that's a whole different thing and I'm just sitting here looking at you like so like come on over you know? But when I stand up and square off to you that's a different look and that's what I want from my portrait um I'm looking at masculine versus feminine I like to take a feminine subject and put him in a masculine post sometimes just cause it's juxtaposition you take a petite singer songwriter and you square him off to the camera and they might not be all like this on you, but they're just squared up to you it's a strength that's a strong person there squared up to use the viewer you break that off just a little bit and you let that head just kind of come down in the hair and maybe they come up and just kind of fix their hair that's a soft, feminine kind of look so I'm looking at are they masking a famine feminine across the ankles? You know, for a guy across the ankles just kind of hanging out right? Or if you're a rock and roll you know lead singer lead guitar comes to a wider stance why you're strong like, you know, like what a power cord to heaven kind of thing it's that you don't see like you don't, you know see some do from motley crue hit the stage and go right no, they hit the stage it's like car it is huge and it's big and it's exaggerated right? And if I need someone to be big and strong and taller than life and its exaggerate and a lot of times what I'm asking someone to physically do it feels weird like a wider mind why are my feet so far apart but visually it reads visually it looks more like this sometimes with with photography you have to exaggerate it a bit there opening times I'm shooting up that a person so I'm down here on the ground shooting back up at them with a wide angle every rule of portrait photography just got broken you're shooting up that a person you don't do that you're shooting wide angle on a person you don't do that I do it all the time but I'll have them lean forward because that wide angle is distorting and if I get them to lean forward it helps counter balance that distortion and visually they don't look like they're leaning forward they feel like they're an olympic ski jump, you know, like really this much that much don't worry it's gonna look normal and I flip the camera on them and they go oh doesn't look like I'm really leaning over because the white angles making him look like this and then I'm really having lean over and it's kind of straightening them up hands, hands or one of the most difficult things to do right um so this is where I struggle the most is with hands sometimes I'll give my subject something to just hold on to all right um and I have a pretty limited number of things I do with hands there's the pockets and I usually do I don't do like all the hands on the pockets thumbs out or just thumbs in pockets all right uh there's one popular pose that called the m o pose that I try to avoid it when I can but it's this I don't know where that came from but a lot of chemo bands like you know, we're doing this and the early to mid thank you covering up the heroin tracks that you don't have right? You're just trying to look cool um uh put their hands together um on when I have people put their hands together I don't haven't just stop because it because this looks very different than this right body language this to this to this it's the same thing but it's relating different things and then just what this is I learned from djs in hip hop groups they just don't know what it is they just get out, they just put their hands together and they're just kind of do you moving like this like there's a platter in between their hands and that's kind of a it looks all right. So what? I'm having someone do that. They just stay in motion, because as soon as they stop, it freezes, all right.