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Thursday, 4 September 2014

Professional Photographer Monthly Column July 2014



The last month has gone by in a blink of an eye.  This common turn of phrase is actually particularly appropriate because I haven’t had enough sleep at all…  The business turned 4 and my little monster continues to need feeding, in terms of energy and time, at a pace I can barely maintain. In broad terms I have to give my energy to two very different audiences – consumer clients and photographers who want knowledge.  

The consumers come in search of a product that they desire but often with a reluctance about the process of getting it – ie actually having to be photographed.  So much of the early stages of managing this relationship comes down to psychology  and people skills.  I know I’m good at this – it’s probably my greatest business asset.  I have always been overly sensitive to how people are feeling around me and I am able to instantly judge how to communicate with my clients to get what I need.  I am also a very direct and honest person so I deal with how people are feeling and make them deal with it too.  You need to knock down these barriers before you can possibly capture natural expression that reflects who a person truly is. 

Once I get an understanding of the ‘who’ I am able to make decisions about the ‘how’.  By which I mean how to photograph each individual because the way that I ‘pose’ people has got to be right for them.  For example I see a lot of wedding photography where the bride is standing with both hands on her hips, elbows swung away from the body in a stance taken straight from a fashion spread.  And it looks ridiculous because very few women ever, ever stand like that in every day life.

I come away from every shoot drained and this is mostly due to the intensity of the interaction rather than the concentration required on the technical side. It is very common for my clients to actually mention how tiring my job must be because they can feel all the benefit of that positive energy coming right at them.

I am left equally tired when I finish a training session – whether a 1to1 or with a group of 10 photographers.  Understandably they are there to extricate as much knowledge as they can and the conversation can get very technical.  I like to give a huge amount of information when I am training and it is normal for my delegates to feel exhausted by the end too – however, not just due to information overload but also because they are emotionally drained.  A big part of training involves dealing with insecurities and doubts – many photographers have confidence issues and I like to find out what they are and try to help people deal with them. 

And then of course there are the times when the two worlds collide and a photographer books me. I take it as a huge compliment but would be lying if I said it didn’t add an extra level of stress to a shoot because I find that their expectation levels are high.   On the surface the actual shoots are more relaxed – I don’t have to make small talk and can discuss light and glass quite openly which is lovely.  What doesn’t change is the effort required to put people at ease and get natural, genuine expression – most photographers don’t like being photographed either.  However, they do tend to know what they want – which is more than can be said for the average client – and I encourage photographer clients to use Pinterest leading up to the shoots to try and get inside their head as much as possible. Once the shoots begin I find them enjoyable because the added pressure of expectation tends to keep me on my toes creatively.   I stopped offering maternity shoots about 2 years ago when I streamlined the business and now only do them for photographers who specifically ask me.  This was the case with Agata (pictured) recently and I loved it because she chose me very specifically for my style and it felt totally collaborative from start to finish.   During the shoot I was showing her the odd shot on the back of the camera and she was wonderfully reassured – saying ‘that’s exactly what I wanted’.

Shoots with other photographers also leave me thinking I should really get myself in front of the camera more often too.  Who would I choose?  Hmmmm – it would have to come down to the combination of a style I admire and love with the right personality and energy to capture the real Kate on camera.

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