How to Create Authentic Feeling in Photographs | CMP’s 3 Tips for Photographers
Hi friends! I’m SO excited to be launching a new branch of the blog today: CMP’s 3 Tips for Photographers series. Every month I’ll be stepping in to share 3 easy tips on anything photo/industry related. This blog series is a response to the growing number of questions that have been arriving in my inbox via email, instagram, and Facebook over the course of the last 6 months. It has been so fun and special to hear from so many sweet faces in the industry! I encourage you all to stay tuned because there are two more exciting things coming your way next month!! One involves a monthly series tailored specifically to our brides that April has been pouring her heart into, and the second is the launch of the long awaited mentor sessions! We cannot wait to share all of this good stuff SOON! :) But for now, I present to you the first in our 3 tip series, How to Create Authentic Feeling in Photographs.
I feel I am often praised for the ability to capture what appears to be genuine emotion in photographs. This component is what I feel has really taken my work to the next level: creating art vs taking a picture. But it hasn’t always come easy. I would say I definitely had it in me–there’s something about having an eye for photography that you can’t just be taught. It has to be a part of you. But there are things you can do to help develop this piece, absolutely. I remember those early days of photographing when I would look at these amazing images on the internet only to come back to my own work and feel it was a touch stiff compared to what I had been looking at…something was different about the people I most admired on the computer screen and the work I was looking at in my own version of lightroom, and it was this idea of feeling. Emotion. There are a few simple tips that have helped me along in this process of creating emotive imagery and I’m going to do my best to share a few that I hope are helpful to you, too!
#3 –Model a relaxed posture and attitude in combination with genuine affirmation towards your client.
This seems so basic, right? But truly, it’s importance is invaluable. People can be totally comfortable, but as soon as you pull out the camera and start pointing it in their direction, something really changes. And I get it–I still feel nervous when it’s my turn! So, my first tip has two basic and straightforward components: as the photographer, stay relaxed and calm yourself. The second: compliment your client specifically about their appearance. There’s some kind of insecurity that just comes alive when a camera is around, and one of the best things you can do is look your subject(s) in the eye and give them an authentic compliment and be confident in your own skin. Simple, but it will go a long way! Trust me.
#2–Give your client a step-by-step action plan to play out rather than formal posing.
This is one of the best bits of advice I can give to take your images from photographs to storytelling. One thing I will often do, especially when things are feeling stiff, is to give my client a set of action steps to walk through as I pull back and shoot while they walk through it. For example, I will often tell my groom to kiss his bride, for both of them to then pull away, and then for him to delicately stroke a strand of his bride’s hair. It may sound silly when you’re giving them the instructions, but this is what has really made the difference in my work. Even if it feels awkward to them, that’s perfect, because likely they’ll end up with a few genuine laughs in the process (especially when what is supposed to be a delicate touch from the man ends up being more like a clawing hand–this is a common occurrence ;)). The photo below (right) is the perfect example of this type of shot and the moving from one action-step to another.
#1–Give lots of direction and feedback.
This seems counterintuitive, right? You’d think authentic feeling would mean less intervention, but it’s really not true. Unless your client is a professional model or they’re extremely experienced being in front of the camera, they are not going to know how to hold themselves or act to best represent themselves and it’s YOUR job to make sure you are getting from them what you want. If you want your bride to close her eyes for a soft, romantic look and she does and it appears stiff, tell her. It’s not going to magically look better once you’ve shot the photo–trust me. Coach them until they are able to model back to you exactly what you’re going for. During every shoot there are moments when I give instruction to my client only to completely change up a pose because once they were set, it just didn’t look comfortable or relaxed enough. And you know what? Your client is going to love all the feedback in turn because, just as we already established, being in front of the camera creates anxiety and they want to know they look good. Sometimes things as small as asking your client to bend an elbow or pull it just an inch away from their body is going to make them look 5 pounds lighter and more feminine, and how much more will that contribute to the overall beauty/storytelling of an image? The real game changer for me was when I got very particular about making sure my clients looked naturally posed and just how I wanted them before I shot my frame. Film has really taken the challenge for this a step further as I only have so many frames to shoot, and I want to make sure I’m shooting beautiful work with each shot because it’s expensive!
I so hope you’ve enjoyed the first in this series of CMP’s 3 Tips for Photographers! If you have any specific questions pertaining to this post or if you’d like to recommend a suggestion for a future post, please don’t hesitate to reach me at email@example.com or leave a comment below. I can’t wait to launch details on mentor sessions and invite you into my own journey in an even more personal way, soon, friends!