friend of mine, who is my ideal client (over 30, with a large gap between what they think they look like and what they really look like, and the resulting fear of having their photo taken), after some gentle persuasion, decided to do a short photo session with me.
In the beginning she was very nervous, which is only to be expected if you don’t like having your photo taken and have someone in front of you with a large camera and lens.
I started shooting, we started chatting and slowly she started to relax. At the beginning of the session my main aim was to make things as comfortable as possible for the sitter: lots of eye contact, small talk and reassurance. Then, I moved on to posing and changing the background but always maintaining the conversation so as not to abandon my subject to her thoughts and lose the advantage, it’s not difficult to talk and adjust lights (yes, I needed some extra fill) or reflectors – if I can do it, anyone can! In the end I took nearly 400 photos of her and there is a world of difference between the first and the final ones. In the film era I would have used the camera without any film loaded in the beginning but with digital that’s not so much of a problem. The sitter needs time to get used to the studio environment, being in front of the lens and the fact that the photographer’s face disappears behind camera leaving them alone.
I selected 12 images for post processing and showed her the finished items a few days later. This is the part I love – the reveal. The moment my client can almost see themselves as others see them. I say almost because we tend to focus on our negative points while ignoring the positive ones. When we do this in the mirror, the effect is total, whereas, when we are shown a photo of ourselves, it is easier to compare our image with the photos we see of others (it is not often we get to see other people in the mirror). There is always an element of disbelief: ‘You must have used a lot of Photoshop!’ or ‘Do I really look like that?’, but the reality is that the client’s self-esteem is given a boost and that gap between our perception of ourselves and how others see us is reduced. That is why I began photographing people, to show them that they don’t have to be a supermodel to be attractive – they just have to be themselves.
After the reveal of the photos there is one last thing, the final test. I ask to do another shoot in the future. In this case, my friend’s braces are coming off in just over six months, and this time, I have a hunch that it won’t take much persuading to get her in to come back to my studio for another photo session.