Making pictures of people has been one of the best parts of my photographic career. This post comes in response to a post comment over at Strobist, “What can I do to make the subject laugh and/or have a good time?”
This is where the research before the shoot comes in handy. KNOW your subject! I would have to say that 75-80% of the shoot is just making that person feel comfortable, safe and know that you’re going to make the best picture that you can of them. Being a photographer means being a good people person, at least one that does his homework. There are a few stereotypes that photographers tell corny jokes to get smiles, along with all kinds of other things just to get laughs. Well, call me weird, but I have never used a corny joke to get a smile. In fact, many of my sessions are so relaxed, and comfortable my subject if offering up new ideas that help me make a picture of them that I know they are going to like.
I would say that the better-half of the first 15-20 minutes of the sessions are just getting to know one another and feeling each other out. (I can take that time, because my sessions are an hour or longer at a time) Some photographers don’t have that luxury, and are forced to speed it up. (I tend to work better under pressure as well). Once your subject is comfortable, then the real frames start to be made.
I like to find a common interest between the two of us and go with it, as soon as it runs dry, I’ll find another. I also tend to think about it like this: If I were going to have a picture made of me, what kind of person would I want to make it? And act according to the situation. Good photographers are good people, people. They do their research on their subject. Lets say that you know this person is a die-hard Cubs fan because you found their blog post about how let down they were because they didn’t get to the Series, and without asking too many questions to your subject, you express that you too were let down with the performance of the Cubs this year. Right there you have a connection. Photographing people is all about the CONNECTION that you as a photographer have your subject(s).