Your Camera Adapts to Your Subject, Your Subject Doesn’t Adapt to Your Camera. Great photographers are easily recognized by their photographic style, some are even hired based on that style. In my world of photographing women, I’ve been told my style comes from my photojournalistic background. Perhaps it does, but credit goes to the models too. Over the years I’ve photographed thousands of women and I never asked one of them to adapt to my camera, my camera adapted to them. Style, both from you and your subject is about consistency.
So how is this done? First, study your subject, before, during and after the shoot. Listen to what they have to say. Observe their movements and mannerisms. Build rapport. In essence, they are teaching you about themselves, which allows you to adapt to them. You must still provide direction during the shoot and that comes together with their personality, style, physique, clothing, and of course the location.
The key word here is “style.” Great photographers have it, but great models have it too. Just like photographers, models develop this with experience and consistency. The more you photograph a specific subject, the more you’ll see their style and recognize when to capture it with your camera. Combine your style with your subject’s modeling style and treat it as two styles coming together for a great photo. If you can master that, shooting the same subject with consistency will come naturally.
However, let’s take a “first-time” model for “your” camera. In this digital world of ours, hopefully you’ve exchanged each other’s social networking information and this is where you can start researching your subject’s style. Study their photos on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. Sometimes you can gain a general idea of their photographic style with preexisting photos online. Especially with “selfies.” Selfies, though a bit narcissistic at times, can tell you a lot about your subject.
Study your subject’s expressions, smiles, non-smiles, etc. You might even be able to determine your subject’s photogenic qualities from these self-portraits. Study what other people have captured, as almost everyone displays photos they’ve been captured in. Whether professional photos or candid photos, always study what other cameras captured of your subject. Later compare them with what you captured.
Observe the types of clothes your subject likes and looks best in. You can use these observations to say something like this, “Hey, I saw a photo of you in a red dress, do you think you can bring that with you?” While the best photo of your subject might not come from that red dress, it at least gives you a starting point in your photo shoot and provides your subject a level of comfort. This comfort level aids in allowing your photo shoot to “flow.” When a photo shoot is flowing, things just come naturally for you and your subject.
Take screen captures on your smart phone of what you observed in your subject’s social networks. These screen captures provide useful reference or starting points for your photo shoot. Perhaps it’s a piece of clothing, a certain facial expression or pose, but more important, it creates dialogue during your photo shoot with your subject and this is especially helpful when you get a brain fart and scratch your head trying to figure out what to shoot next.
Dialogue, or discussions with your subject are extremely beneficial for not only starting points in your photo shoot, but in building that rapport with your subject. It also helps create a working comfort zone for both of you. Again, it’s about establishing that flow and maintaining it throughout the photo shoot too.
But what if a model is new to modeling and hasn’t established her style? Like photographers, models will develop their style over time. The more they shoot, just like a photographer, the better they get and their style will evolve and improve. Perhaps if you find your muse and she is at this stage, you can help develop each other’s style by working together at it. The key here is working together to help each other achieve consistency in each profession. Recognizing where improvements are needed is essential for this to work.
Remember, it’s not your subject adapting to your camera, it’s you and your camera adapting to your subject that will result in the merging of your subject’s style with your photographic shooting style. It’s about consistent results that you both can count on and this leads to easy, fun and masterful photo shoots.