Cultivating Connection

Jacob & Hannah

Not everyone knows how to be a supermodel.  And that is ok.  My philosophy is that everyone's life moments are worth beholding.  Knowing how to tell that story can give some people anxiety and telling that story in front of a camera is almost an impossible task.  But the desire to immortalize their special and unique stories is strong, nonetheless.  That's where I come in.  I'm a storyteller.  I understand the camera-shy and awkward modesty that one can feel when standing bare souled in front of my lens.  In these experiences, I have found 3 keys that seem to unlock those hesitant hearts into unfolding their beautiful true selves for the camera.  

1.  Connecting with Clients

Complete strangers coming together on an unfamiliar location and trying to create portraits that portray something so vital and vulnerable to everyone.  Love.  We barely know each other.  It's normally never said, but it's awkward and weird.  "Hi, I don't know you and you don't know me but it's time to get really cuddly and kiss while I stand and watch.  Ready?  Go!" Yeah.......that's what it is, really.  It's not easy for me to open up, so why should I expect it's easy for them?  This is why, during the consult and time between the consult and session date, my job is to get to know first time clients as well as I can.  During the consultation, for instance, it's more about beginning a common conversation than signing the client agreement.  Asking who your clients are and being interested in their story, how they met, what their favorite tv show is, inside jokes, who is the better cook, these are all windows into their souls and lives together that are vital for making sure the portraits you create are true and genuine reflections of them.  They feel like you are interested in them, not just as clients, but as people.  

2.  Connecting with Each Other

You've laid the foundation for the clients and have a great start to understanding the goals of their session.  You've made yourself available for questions, concerns and ideas that they might have in the time before your session.  You've prepared them to be open and excited about celebrating their moment and sharing it with their loved ones.  They are ready for the camera!  Still, when you ask for his hand to be placed on her waist and her hand to be placed on his neck, there can still be some awkwardness and uncomfortableness.  It's not everyday that they interact with each other like this, especially in front of people.  Being receptive of this and reassuring them in these moments is so important to maintaining the connection between them that you are trying to convey.  I always explain to the clients that I understand how weird it feels but the camera is seeing something very different than the awkwardness that they're feeling.  I show them a few back of camera shots to reassure them that we are going in the right direction. This usually inspires them to become more open and free.  Sometimes they even start doing their own thing and I just click away!  I try to avoid still posing.  I believe that moments require movement.  So instead of having the clients attempt to connect in a still pose, I suggest several poses at once that they can move back and forth into.  They begin to have fun, make it their own and create such a story of unique depth with each frame.  

3.  Connecting With Camera

It's not everyday our clients get to enjoy a moment that is soaked in appreciation for each other's love. Usually, there's not a camera poking in their face when those moments happen.  When they understand that the camera is revealing something beautiful....their hearts for each other...they give it, and you more to work with.  When they see the camera as a tool that is crafting their story, it's easier to stand in front of.  From the first moments at your consultation to meeting at location, to all the peeks at the back of camera shots, making your clients comfortable with your camera is another key to creating sincere images.  

As photographers, understanding how to make connections can make or break our sessions and our images.  I hope these insights assist in deeper more meaningful portraits for your clients.  Please leave a comment below and join in the conversation if you have any other tips to help guide clients into connecting and creating their story.