I was recently approached by a lovely lady called Rose, who wanted a special photoshoot to mark her (I don’t think she’ll mind me saying this) 60th Birthday. She was very clear on what she wanted – a classic Vanity Fair style shoot that would culminate in a piece of classic art she could display on her wall at home.
Importantly, she wanted the photo to be a long-lasting reminder to herself of how far she had come, and that she was definitely still feisty and not in any way old. After losing weight Rose was feeling happier in her own skin; however, felt she still needed to be pushed out of her comfort zone to really embrace the way she looked, and everything she represented.
There’s no denying it that at first she was a little uneasy, but it really didn’t take long for her to relax in to the session and start enjoying the experience. Too many people believe, through their own insecurities and perceived flaws, that they are not photogenic. I’m sure every photographer who works with models, in any capacity, wishes they could get a pound for every time they heard that.
Let me tell you something, there’s no such thing as an unphotogenic person.
Photogenic literally means “light generating”, which when you think about it is actually a little bit lovely. Everyone has the ability to shine, radiating their light and touching your world in numerous different ways. Everyone is therefore photogenic.
The beauty in people is always there, in the everyday, not caught on camera moments. When your eyes crinkle during a heartfelt smile, when your stomach hurts from laughing too much, when people are consumed by finding the joy in life or surrounded by their loved ones.
People are fundamentally beautiful.
Yet you put a camera in front of them, and something seems to go wrong. They freeze, they clam up and suddenly they’re “not photogenic”. It’s a classic cycle, one bad photo makes you think you don’t look good in photos, so you panic when there’s a camera and the resulting photo isn’t perfect.
As a photographer, it’s my job to make sure I capture you in the right moment. If you’re not comfortable, then your light is not going to shine through the way it would if you were completely at ease. There might be a number of reasons why you don’t feel comfortable, but not a single one of those reasons is your problem; they’re mine. That’s my challenge to deal with, not yours.
I think it’s my approach to photography, and the acceptance that actually it’s a very unusual social interaction between two people, that helps put people at ease. When you think about it you’ve got two people, who are most likely perfect strangers, standing in a room together. One of them is being asked to pose and stand still, while the other invades their personal space and shoves a lens in their face.
No wonder people feel uncomfortable and tense up!
Just say cheese!
Building a rapport with your model, getting to know them for who they are, and not seeing them as just another shoot or job, is vital. Talking to Rose, finding out about her and her motivations for the shoot, the journey she had come on, sharing jokes, stories and having a laugh instantly allowed her to relax, and start embracing the fun that could be had with the session.
I had no doubt how photogenic she was before the shoot, but I hope the resulting photos have allowed her to see what the rest of us always could. Happy birthday, Rose.
H&MUA – Kathy Gill
Photgrapher – Mark Wildsmith
Retoucher – Mark Wildsmith