We’ve all heard it from clients before. “I don’t like formally posed pictures of myself. I always look so stiff. Can we get pictures without being formally set up?”
Fortunately for our clients – and for us – the world of formal portrait and people photography is now coming to a new era: Portrait Photojournalism.
Stiff, unrealistic, unnatural portraiture is no longer a Photographer’s only option.
A technique used by internationally acclaimed wedding photographers of Poser Image, Jim Garnier and Jerry Ghionis, Portrait Photojournalism combines the techniques of formal portraiture and photojournalism.
The Photographer will “set up the shot” by formally posing the subject[s], to include location, poses, etc. Then, in a seeming irrational move, the Photographer will either coach the subject through expressions by pulling out emotions through dialogue, or leave them to interact with one another.
Sound too simple? Don’t take my word for it. Organize your shoot with the following steps and you’ll find a technique that will revolutionize the way you take portraits – and your results.
1. Location. Location. Location.
Just as you would in a formal shoot, find a few locations that will facilitate the look and feel you want to achieve. This location should match the subjects personality, and be creatively stimulating [Read more about finding locations here].
2. Consider your Lighting
Watch your location for the kind and quality of available light. Is it harsh and contrasty, lending to a dramatic feel? Is it soft and subdued, more conducive to a nostalgic mood? If the available light isn’t sufficient to create the portrait you want, be sure to add light with a reflector, or an off/on camera flash [Read more about using flash in on-location photography here].
3. Set up your Scene
Place your subject within the context of your entire setting. Remember, you aren’t taking only mid and detail shots of your subject; with the photojournalism aspect, you are shooting to tell a story. The story of your subject will include their place and involvement in the scene, and the mood you are creating.
4. Pose your Subject
You don’t have to pose your subject in a complicated manner. At the least, pay attention to the placement of your subjects feet, knees, and shoulders. So long as you pose to achieve variance and levels of these joints, you will be set [More on posing here].
5. “Break” the Shot
Think everything is perfect? Now is the time to make it all natural. Tell your subject to “relax”. Allow them to settle into the pose by drawing them into conversation, or allow them to interact with one another. Achieve authentic expressions, natural posing, and artistic portraits by letting go the expectation of “perfection”. After all, nothing in life is perfect. The key to perfect portrait photojournalism is controlling which elements are broken.
6. Take the Shot
Watch for that “After moment” and “Spontaneous moment”. Oftentimes the most beautiful moments happen just after you take the camera away from your eye. Allow your subject to believe you are done with that set up, and take the shot that they are most natural and relaxed – pulling a hat down, tucking hair back, the cute shoulder shrug. You truly never know what you will be able to achieve.