I have spent the last 20 years photographing families, children, and babies and creating maternity portraits. This has been my passion and I have enjoyed much success over the years. I also have a passion for teaching and have been fortunate enough to photograph professional models that have been trained to stand a certain way and have a look that can sell anything, except maybe for some real emotion. I have challenged myself when teaching my students, to find the real person underneath that model stance so that I can create magic by finding out who they really are and also help my students learn how to disarm their subjects in order to capture what truly makes for a good storytelling image, true emotion.
There are so many different elements that make for a great image.
I have already discussed how lighting impacts our images and the use of good lighting to create drama in your imagery. Now we’re going to talk about how emotion can make or break an image. Even with great lighting, if the expression isn’t there, it just doesn’t work. Learning how to create a safe environment for your subject is the key to getting a real emotion that can be captured. This element will help to separate that snap shot look to more of a professional look. So, how is that accomplished?
When I first set up a session, I’m looking at my subject and trying to see what their best angles are, where my light is coming from and what kind of scenery I have. How can I take all those variables and combine them to make a good story for my audience or viewers. Understand that if you are photographing with just one person and let’s say you are in a studio with just a plain background, your subject’s expression is EVERYTHING. So is their body language. How they stand, how they look at something, what they do with their hands and how they hold their head. You can create an amazing portrait of someone simply by turning him or her around so their back is facing you capturing their body language. I will sometimes do this while photographing children who love to run away from me.
These images of Melissa were photographed on a Cruise ship in the middle of a pretty big storm called Sandy. It was raining and the doors to the outside were locked, so we decided to head up to the 14th floor. Using the bay windows as a source of light, or as a soft box, I placed Melissa up against the window and decided to use it also as a backdrop. The point here is to notice how a small change in where she was looking can also change the whole feel of the image. When you close someone’s eye’s, your portrait suddenly becomes very intimate almost private. It allows the viewer to wonder what she’s thinking. With her eyes open, you now question her look. What does it say to you? It creates mystery.
Although I have changed the background on one of these images, I’m still trying to find out who Melissa is and get an expression that says something about her. Both images were created in between my setups. I asked her to sit down while I got ready for my next session. When she was unaware of my camera and while listening to a conversation, I started to photograph her again. These are some of my favorite images of her and much more true to my signature style.
In these images, with just a slight tilt of the head, changing an angle and blowing out the background, I have created an ethereal kind of look. The light is very soft and the mood introspective. My overall style is calm and serene. I use body language as an additional, if not, specifically, to tell my story. You can’t see her eyes, but you can still see that she is wondering “Something.”
In this final comparison of images, I’ve asked Melissa to close her eyes and put her head back. Once more I want to create an image of mystery. A private moment that may speak volumes to my viewer. I’m using the graphics to create a more painterly look to the overall image taking it one step further to complete the storytelling aspect.
All images in this blog were processed using PhotoShop CS6.