22 Jul 2013
Portraits are about People!
I know it seems a rather obvious statement, but if you are going to make portrait photography your speciality, then the most important skill is not whether you have mastered the convoluted workings of a modern camera, or if indeed you have a really great "top of the range" piece of high megapixel wizardry, or if your lens can outresolve even the best that aliens on another (more advanced) planet may or may not have. It doesn't even matter if you have the best software that money can buy, or indeed rent, and have taken all the right courses, purchased all the right plugins, and know all the right scripts that a (sometimes dodgy) education can buy. Heck, it doesn't even matter if you can ride a unicycle! What does matter is your people skills!
I love working with people, which is why I love taking portraits, shooting weddings and events, and anything else that involves being around and interacting with humans of all shapes, sizes, creeds, nationalities and eccentricities. I worked in retail, sales and other customer centric businesses for many years and loved every minute of being of service to others!
I have found in my years of photographing people that the first and best thing is to get them to calm down, relax and stop thinking of the camera as an assault weapon bent on their destruction. I know they feel that way because that is exactly how I feel every time the roles are reversed and I find myself on the wrong end of the photo capturing device.
Spend time talking about what they do, what their hopes and aspirations are, how it's going at work, where they went to school, how many languages they speak... etc. etc. Really just become their new, and trusted, friend. As quickly as possible. And it doesn't help to try and fake it either! It has to come from the heart or they will see right through your facade and you will never get the best out of them. Ever.
So really what I have to say is this. If you are not a "people person" then probably portrait photography is not for you. If you are not sure if you are, well then maybe you aren't and a career in landscapes would be more your cup of tea. How do you know for sure? Well, do some soul searching, ask yourself if you genuinely care about people, be honest with yourself. If you do, then brush up on those communication skills because they will set you apart from the rest and your clients will keep coming back as well.
Anybody can learn how to use a camera, but very few photographers know how to get the best out of their subjects. The ones that do are already known to us because it's this one skill that makes their portraits stand out from the crowd.
The pic above is of an up and coming young singer songwriter in Southern Sweden called Fatima Al Atar. Look out for her soon to be released CD, judging by her voice I think she could be the real deal!