I met a fellow photographer named Marco, an Italian. His day job is as a top children's heart surgeon. His passion for photographing people takes him all over the world, seeking out that special face, interesting enough to be captured on film/file.
During this brief encounter in my brother's hairdressing salon Marco asked me if I would visit his photographic society to discuss the possibility of me giving a talk about my fashion photography.
I said to Marco, "Whatever will I talk about?" Well, he said, there is something very magical in the expressions of your models and in the atmosphere of your pictures that I would love to have in mine, He asked me how do you achieve this. I said, "No, I can't, because I don't know myself."
You have to find out he said because this is what you should talk about. We spent the next couple of hours discussing photography and the feelings and techniques of managing your subjects whilst shooting.
During my visit to his camera club, we arranged for my talk to be done nearly 9 months later, so I had time to think about my talk and to get myself prepared.
For days, I looked at my work and examined myself whilst shooting my assignments. It was maybe 6 months later whilst photographing a bridal-wear collection for one of my clients that something clicked. I had decided that I would like to start shooting with wider lenses to change the style of my bridal-wear pictures. I shoot for so many bridal-wear designers, so I have to make them look and feel different to the each other. It also helps to use a short zoom, because during most of my shoots, I can take a variety of images from full length to portrait shots from the same distance, so my client gets much more usage out of the shots.
While moving in closer to my model, I noticed a big difference in the expressions in her face and her body language - they changed, as I got closer. I experimented more and began to play with this for the rest of this shoot. Not only could I see better, it also created a much better flow of the energy and communication between my model and myself.
For years, I have been shooting fashion pictures using medium-length telephotos, at times so far away that my models could not hear me directing them. An amazing thing had happened. I could see and control so much more in my pictures. Not to say that I will never use long lenses, just that I prefer the new results that I am getting with wide lenses. In fact, most of my recent projects I have shot with a wide zoom.
I find that by doing the poses and expressions in my face that I want, my models seem to mirror mine. If I act daft, they act daft. If I laugh, they laugh. If I pull a sad face, they pull a sad face - which always makes them smile :-)
Since this experiment, I have been adapting my directions to my models in much the same way, obviously changing my energy levels to match the levels I want in my pictures. If I want a nice soft and gentle feel, I express this in my voice and my manor and my body. If I want high energy, I do high energy. If I want my model to leap, I will leap.
Think about this as if you were a conductor. The next time you attend a concert, watch him or her, and watch the orchestra. They mirror him - fast tempo, slow tempo, and medium tempo. You can do the same with your models. Fashion pictures for me have RHYTHM and TEMPO.
If you want to express high energy or tempo in a picture, the shoot has to be high energy or tempo, or visa- versa. I look at pictures and sometimes wonder how boring the shoot must have been. I love to change the tempo up and down whilst I'm shooting, I would hate it if anyone viewing my pictures did not feel this energy.
This is why I strive to make my shoots exciting for myself, my model, the other members of my team, and, most important, for my clients. As a photographer, you are the conductor, your models are your orchestra, and your clients or viewers of the pictures are the audience. So you have to direct and entertain. Your performance will reflect in your pictures.
Try a little experiment. The next time you have people over to your house or you get a moment with some people at work, pick a volunteer. Face each other, one or two feet apart, don't speak, and don't look at each other. In fact, do your best to imagine they are not there. Stay like this for 30 seconds and remember how this feels. Stay in this position but hold each other's hands, look into each other's eyes, smile at each other, don't speak. Instead of imagining they are not there, do the opposite. Try and send them all of your good energy. Stay like this for 30 seconds. Remember how this feels, and compare the feelings. Ask your friend or colleague and the others to explain how it felt for them.
The next time you are shooting pictures, remember all of these feelings.