Being a photographer means being a storyteller. And as with any good story, the characters are a driving force. Which means directing your subject is an essential skill for any photographer! So get your "main characters" to play the part—here's five tips to help you direct your subjects during a shoot.
Photo by Eric Kelley
ESTABLISH A RAPPORT
Doing this starts even before the shoot. Before your clients or models face the camera, discuss what's going to happen—you'll kick off the communication process and build trust before the shutter clicks.
If it’s their concept, welcome their ideas and allow them to share with you how they visualize their photos. You can ask them to provide inspirational images showing how they want their photos to look. If you're in charge of the concept, share your vision! When it comes to creative projects, being aligned in your understanding of the process and goals is vital. If you're working with film, this is even more important because, as Richard always says, every frame counts.
MAKE THEM COMFORTABLE & CONFIDENT
Many photographers can attest that one of the challenges when working with people is to get them to lighten up—especially when they’re at gatherings/events or in public places. While you can’t avoid having clients who aren't confident in front of a camera, you can help by not having an intrusive presence. You must instead be encouraging, gracious, and respectful.
If a person is not comfortable taking a photo alone, invite their family and friends in the shot. Crack a joke to help them put their guard down. Complimenting their smile, demeanor, or features will encourage them to show their best side to you, and eventually, overcome their camera shyness! Applauding them when they show great poses or when their expressions are on point will make them feel like they're doing it right.
Photo by Greg Finck
COMMUNICATION IS KEY
Okay, we say this one all the time as a film lab—communication between the lab and our clients is the key to successful images. Well, the same is true for you and your clients!
Those who are new to being in a studio or being photographed outdoors, or at an event, might have the image of a fashion photographer who barks out orders in their mind. And that may make working with you seem intimidating. As their photographer, let them know you will gently guide them step by step with helpful instructions that will make the whole experience easier. If possible, show them what works when movement is involved. Feel free to demonstrate the poses and help them move around comfortably. Remember to be patient and kind whenever you're speaking with the person posing in front of your camera. Take breaks if necessary to exchange ideas or build upon what you have already achieved.
CREATE THE RIGHT ATMOSPHERE
Set your subjects up for a winning moment, a glamour shot, or a favorite social media photo—you have the power to create the right atmosphere for the people you're working with! Provide your subject with lighting, setting, props, or even music. If you're in a studio, be sure that everything on set is in place and other things you might need are within reach. If you're shooting during an event or outdoors, find a space where people can freely pose and express themselves. Wherever it is, the goal is to make them feel they're in a happy place once they're posing in front of your camera. When the environment feels right, that feeling will translate into the photos.
LET THEM MOVE
Unless you're working on formal portraits, movement has the potential to make photos look livelier. To get your subjects comfortable, allow them to explore their space. If they're using props and other set pieces, motivate them to get creative with it. Walking, twirling, jumping, dancing, talking, playing music, or anything interesting will bring out the best part of your subjects’ personalities.
For those subjects who are struggling to be confident, the fun factor will ease the tension. If you’re working with subjects who are already used to being in front of the camera, encouraging them to explore new poses and movements will help them discover new sides to themselves.
Photo by ABryan Photo
Getting your subjects to look the way you envision is not as easy as it seems, but you can start by trying out these steps! This is their moment, after all! If they shine and come alive before your eyes (and lens), their wonderful personality will also come to light in your photos.