Recently I went through a kind of…… redefining of what I want my photography and pencil art to be about. I needed a new vision. I wanted to have a grasp as to WHY I love taking pictures of couples. I mean… it’s fun but I needed more. I just NEED things to have a meaning. =D I struggle so much accomplishing tasks where I can’t see the purpose and eternal value behind it. SO, after a good amount of soul searching, I settled on my mission that I am calling the Quest Towards Funtography [It’s a working title]. When so many people spend SO MUCH TIME focusing their faces into cell phones and laptops, I hold the power to help them escape. I have a theory that deep down we don’t REALLY want to spend so much time on technology. We would much rather build real memories that last… but it’s just so much work to accomplish! It takes energy to get up and go for a walk… to plan fa fun outing. This is where I can step in!!!!! What I enjoy most about doing photography is that it can be so much fun! And not just for me! I enjoy it for sure, but my enjoyment is tenfold expounded upon when I know that the people I’m working with are having fun, too! I really do think my job has two different functions.
1. I use my artistic abilities to frame, edit, and deliver magnificent images. Everyone knows this though… I mean… if I didn’t accomplish at least that then I would need to rethink this career.
2. Through the WAY I interact with clients, I create a space where the people involved love each other and themselves MORE after they have worked with me. If I can accomplish those two things, then I consider my business a major success.
So, with that introduction, how do I create funtography?
– First, I establish an environment where it’s OKAY to be awkward. So often couples will say to me, “I’m not a model… Do you have poses in mind for us?” My answer of course is yes. When I hear this question though, I know that there is a far more fundamental, unsaid followup that hardly ever gets stated: “I am kind of awkward as a person. Is that going to be an issue?” =D I wish couples would just blatantly ask me this. Because for real for reals, awkward couples are my favorite part of this job! Remember Goal #2? I want to bring couples together, using my time with them to GROW their relationship. Couples who REALLY awkwardly like each other seem to create the most genuinely affectionate moments, and therefore, in funtography, they are the absolute best models!
A quick tip though for photographers that I learned a long time ago: Start every session but telling the couple that you understand it’s awkward, but that will only last about 20 minutes. In so doing, you acknowledge their feelings while also deterring their fears. Essentially, what you are saying is, “This is normal and happens with everyone. Did you like the images I took of that other couple last month? Well guess what? They felt awkward too and look how their images turned out?!” I do this every time. Puts people at ease and reduces the fears they may be feeling that their awkwardness somehow put them in some kind of exception.
– Carrying that point forward though, I will NEVER directly tell a couple that they are awkward. I’ve found that, although I think it’s adorable… no couple wants to be told that they look strange together. Not a hard thing to understand… Instead, I ALWAYS encourage. “James, the way you are holding her hand is PERFECT!” “Susie, go ahead and lift your chin just a little.” “James, keep being awesome, okay?” In so doing, I establish what I call the positive perimeter, where everything being said is constructive and genuinely loving. After all… who wants to hang out with negative people all the time? No one. I definitely don’t! So why would couples? Give them a place where they can be confident in how they look, and it will show through in the images.
– Third, I tell a lot of jokes… Sometimes they’re really bad… but sometimes I’m actually funny! I think the rarity of those moments makes them all the funnier. Photographers out there. If you want couples to feel confident in themselves and be able to joke with each other, they might need you to give them some cues. Here is actually a really good moment to give a QUICK lesson on how I accomplish both Goal #1 and Goal #2 at the same time! Ever seen those images where the girl is staring at the camera while it looks like the guy is taking a nap with his nose on the side of her head? Really romantic pose! Love it! So, I stick a couple in that one and give them a few other small adjustments and Goal #1 takes care of itself there. They almost always looks magnificent. BUT, I can do MORE with this moment with one simple joke, “Hey James, how does Susie’s hair smell?” It’s great! Unless the guy really doesn’t know what to say, he has a thousand options for great comebacks. “Awesome!” “Like strawberries.” “I really like this shampoo!” I give him a place to insert his own joke. And in so doing, she laughs, he smiles, I get a great image, and they fall even more in love with each other. YES!!!
– I enjoy myself. The reason I believe that people really don’t WANT to stay behind electronics all the time is because I know that I certainly don’t. I LOVE the outdoors and am almost always up for going on a walk or hike. Even right now I’m sitting on my porch writing this because I’ve been answering messages all day inside and I just needed some natural light in my life! I love dancing and reading books while sitting on a grassy hill. I love taking pictures, because it’s fun. I do this because it’s a great way to spend time. I get to build friendships with couples that inspire me and motivate me to wait until I find my awesome girl! I create an environment of fun in my sessions by having fun myself being outdoors. If you hate where you are taking pictures, it’s a million times harder to get the images you want!
– Last, give couples something to do. On a completely practical note, no one wants to stand in one position for more than 30 seconds… Well… with the exception of kissing. Some couples really like holding that pose. As much as possible though, keep things changing, and when things start to get stale, have a list of go to fun poses to change things up! In my metaphorical back pocket I keep a list: dancing together, dipping the girl, piggyback rides, eschimo kiss, jumping into his arms, etc. At ANY point when things lull and I’ve used up all the more traditional ideas of the moment, I pull one of those out. It’s golden.
All in all though, I think that people enjoy working with me so much because I make it my AIM that they have fun. It’s not about my portfolio or reputation. It’s about them. And if everything you do focuses around that, you can’t go wrong.