Shoot first, ask questions later?

That premise doesn’t work especially in photography.  When working with any new model, it is imperative that you communicate so that you both get what you are looking to capture.  I can’t tell you how many models have said to Jene “Oh, I don’t do nudes” .  Have you seen my website, did you look at what I shoot?  Not that all his models are nude, nor do they have to be but when he is specifically looking for someone to add to a particular project –  why do they bother responding to the casting call.   “I’ll do nudes but you can’t show my face”  (in which case you should be paying Jene not the other way around).   Jene likes to meet his models first, talk about the project, see if they are a good fit.  It’s a lot easier for him since he is in Manhattan.  I’m out in Jersey most of the time and my communication takes place via emails or phone conversations.  Having an understanding before a session is the best route to take.

My last shoot was a wanna-be model, she needed some professional shots to start her on her way.  We made contact through a site we are both on.  (MuseCube)  The images she had up were a few years old.  She liked what I did, didn’t mind driving the  50 minutes to me  and I was willing to do TFCD.  From our conversations I had an idea of what she wanted and she was willing to experiment to give me what I was looking for.  She wasn’t all that experienced with posing and I’m learning how to loosen people up a little by directing.  I got a few good headshots and then we played around with some cloth.  (she didn’t want to do nudes – no problem!)    She doesn’t like her smile and so she said she would practice smiling with her eyes before we shoot again.  A few really good pictures is all any photographer expects from a session.

The same goes for photographing children.

What is it that the parent/guardians are looking for.  Jene & I recently worked with a darling 2 year old boy. Knowing ahead of time that they were looking for head shots to jettison his modeling career gave us an idea of what to go for first.  Toddlers have a small window of opportunity, they get bored sitting still after a half hour.  This clear direction made it a lot easier to deliver the goods quickly, affording us time to click off some images that were endearing and captured his personality.

Having worked with babies/children before, my main question is always: what is the child’s “sweet time”?  (You know, the time when (s)he is happiest).  This goes back 30+ years when a photographer came to my home for my daughter’s 1st formal baby pictures.  I was given a time slot,  I had to interrupt her nap and set her on a cushioned platform.  She fussed and cried the entire 1/2 hour session.  The unhappiest baby shots EVER that I had to pay for.  I had to select from a few bad to horrible images – what a waste of money.  Her nap was cut short and she was looking for her feeding, definately not a happy camper.  Experience has proven that some kids need more time to warm up to strangers than others and we allow for that.  We were scheduled to arrive at 2:oo,  a head-ups phone call from Michele put us back half an hour because Carter had just gone down for his nap.  No problem — when we arrived, he was still sleeping so we spent a little time chatting until he was ready to join us giving Jene time to scout the neighborhood for an ideal local.    He’s a rough and tumble 2 year old boy –  some rock formations and trees in the neighborhood would make a good setting.   It didn’t take long for him to get comfortable in front of a lens and of course he liked when Jene showed him his image on the LCD screen.  A little charmer for sure.  Jene clicked off a number of shots getting the straight forward head shots as well as some cute images of Carter on his little push car.  I took a few shots of Michele and Carter and I know they will be in a family photo album.  We filled one 4 GB card (shooting in raw), had more than enough great images and were on our way home in plenty of time to get stuck in late Friday afternoon traffic.

I just emailed Michele a number of images – her response BEAUTIFUL WORK!!!!!!!!!!!!    Now that’s what I like to hear -a  more than satisfied customer.

A key element is acknowledging the individual’s personality and working with them.    It’s a knack, one that good professional photographers possess.  When I photograph my granddaughters, I allow them to emerge and I delve a little deeper.  I think both of them are naturals.  They know how to play to the camera and will always be my favorite subjects to shoot.

I like shooting alongside Jene, it’s especially nice to see him interact with kids – seeing the fatherly side of him coming out, or is it the little kid in him.  Either way,  I think being around children brings out the kid in all of us.  It’s fun to be on their level, you get to see life from a different perspective.

Mary Durante (Wehrhahn) Youtt


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Filed under children and family photography, Jene Youtt, labor of love, Mary Durante Wehrhahn, photography

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