Connection is Key

A New Space!

New studio. New client. I am so excited! While setting up for our first in-person meeting I am reminded of what people often think of when being photographed for their high school pictures. My model is supposed to pose. I, the Photographer, hold a black camera to my face and say “great” a lot while my camera makes shutter noises. She poses. I crouch. We know the routine: “Can you move a little to the left?” “Take a deep breath then smile again.” “Sit a little straighter and throw those shoulders back and relax.”

That is the expectation (or lack of it) for senior photos. Really, any “passing on to the next phase” type of photography runs the same way.  A tried and true formula: pose, smile, shoot, correct, repeat as necessary. We have all been there more than once as models.

Keeping it Real

That “shoot and burn” type of photography is not for me. I do not want to just make photocopies of a person’s face and hand over a flash drive of images. When I show the end result of the process, I want my client, my model, to see themselves, their real selves: vibrant, exciting, full of life! Seeing themselves in a beautiful wall portrait I created for them is what I do. For the high school seniors, we capture the moment with an eye into the future. Who will you be? It is very exciting.

For me, as a photographer, the moment of connection is really palpable. The camera is a mediator, it is a crystal ball of sorts. It captures things our eyes usually cannot. Magic happens right there. On my end, I know I have the right camera, the right settings, the right light, and I feel comfortable talking with the model and can tell that me getting into “the zone” is working both ways. We connect, and the real person is emerging in between us.

My collaborative work with a recent client, Ellie, was amazing. At the pre-shooting consultation, she was a confident, quirky, and fun type of girl. She smiles all the time and has a really cool vibe. The clothing she brought for us to look at was a wonderful melange of thrift store finds and contemporary pieces, all in throwback styles–1960’s, 70’s, 80’s–you name it! I could immediately see that working with this multifaceted young woman was going to be exciting, fun, creative, and real. 

As I explained my process to Ellie, mentioning that she would be getting her hair and makeup professionally done right before the photo shoot, I could see the excitement building in her. This was going to be a special day, just for her. I wanted to make sure of it.

I knew with certainty: That’s It! That was the beginning of a magical moment.

We were chatting about things she liked to do, her friends, places she likes to go, the usual–but in the back of my mind, I was already thinking about context. How do I help set up the context for this beautiful and expressive young woman, Ellie, to be her true self in front of a camera-wielding audience?  How can I help express with my own personality, camera, and skills so that she can remember this moment forever? How?

Then she said “Skating. I love roller skating.”

Oh my! “Let’s do that! We have to totally do that!” 

I knew with certainty: That’s It! That was the beginning of a magical moment. We talked more and discussed ideas for getting a time and location that would work, what to wear, and on and on. But from that moment we were in a collaboration. We had bridged the gap between the photographer and model using the camera as a bridge. The three of us would do this. 

On the day of the shoot, Ellie was really enthusiastic. That sort of thing is hard to describe. She was actually looking forward to doing the shoot and not worried about the end result. But first, we had makeup and hair to get done.  

Check back next week for more about Ellie and the wondrous magic of senior photography!

An Idea and a Vision