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Creativity: Accident Or Skill?

A Guest Post on Creativity by Kyle Miller from Photography Tips.

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Clients today are in love with creative and candid portraits. The day where you would take the same posed shots with every client is far out the window. To advance in a highly competitive market place you have to have images that pop above the rest. With that said my question to you is creativity an accident or skill? If you are shooting the same portraits with every client are you being creative?

With all of my clients:

  • I first take time to build a relationship with them
  • Feed off them during the portrait session
  • Work off their personality and add my artistic twist
  • Use photography rules and techniques to enhance images

Taking creative portraits is much more challenging. I believe if you follow a few pointers or incorporate a few of my ideas into your shoots, your pictures will improve while you and your clients will have a blast.

Interact with your clients

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I am, like most photographers out there, a wedding and portrait photographer. Being a wedding and portrait photographer I spend most of my time working with subjects that are not models. Since my subjects they will usually feel uncomfortable in front of the camera. They don’t know how to act, where to put their hands, or where to look. Do I look at you? If that is not challenging enough your subject doesn’t really know who you are, because you may have met them only once or twice before the shoot. I don’t know about you but I would find it difficult opening up to a camera when I don’t know the photographer.

You need to spend time building a relationship with your clients. When you meet with your clients don’t only talk business, spend time sharing stories, because the more you share the more they will open up to you. My photography company shot 71 wedding this year, and as you can imagine you can’t always find time to meet with every couple multiple times before the wedding day. That’s OK, before you start your portrait session spend time just talking with you clients even if its for just a little while. It will make you seem more personable. As a side note I should mention that I believe for a client to be photogenic its not based on how somebody looks its based on their emotions and interactions with the camera. Remember it’s hard to open up to a camera and photographer if you don’t know or trust them.

Feed off your client

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The hard part is over, because once you have laid the groundwork and your clients feel comfortable around you they are much more likely to play during their photo session. As a good photographer you will need to take that positive energy and feed off it. I encourage my couples to continue talking with each other and often I have a close friend of theirs poke fun at them to spice things up. By creating this fun positive environment your couples will enjoy the portrait session which is a good thing but they will be more likely to flirt with the camera. If you are constantly just posing people your pictures will become boring, and you will actually start to kill the mood you work so hard to create. I am not saying you can’t pose, just set the pose up loosely so the background and light look nice then build from their.

Work their idea then add your creativity

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Canon 5d Mark II ISO:400 Shutter:1/100th Aperture:f2.8

When the couple opens up the camera, and the groom give his bride a kiss on the cheek, try to encourage them. Play with the couple and have him dip her back, as it creates shape and is a great way to show off a vial. This is all great as you will get a good picture out of it, but the magical shot is just after that as they will giggle. If my couple is a very shy I could ask the groom to kiss her again, but to close his eyes. Its just a simple change but the message in the picture is so much different and stronger.

I tell photographers to treat your portrait sessions like it was an improv act. If you don’t follow theater let me help you out. Improv is unscripted theater, where actors feed off each other. The actors may or may not know where their skit is going but its the journey or how they get there that is a surprise. With portraits watch how your subjects behave around each other and just add your twist. When you add to the picture your subjects will start to work back and forth with you. Please keep in mind when you are working back and forth with a client you can’t pass on an idea. If your bride floats an idea and you crush it you will destroy everything. You have to take her idea and build on it even if you don’t like the idea at first, as its just a building block. Remember all creative candid pictures have to start somewhere.

Good technical background

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If you handle your portrait sessions in a cookie cutter approach where you use the same wall or background every time, technically speaking, things will become very easy. You know if you use this magical wall, that every time you should put your key light to camera left, and it should be at 1/16th power. When working with your subject(s) you need to have a strong technical background as you will never know what situation you will get your self into. I think a great example of my point is a groom I had earlier in this summer.

After our portrait session with the bride, groom and full bridal party my groom tells me he has a concealed weapon permit which he is proud of and wanted to know if I would be OK taking picture with him and his gun. I personally was against the idea but just like I mentioned earlier, you have to take the idea and build on it. So building on this idea I said we can make the photos have a Godfather feel to them. I knew if I shot with a shallow depth of field I could create a strong image with him looking down gun. I also remembered an amphitheater just down the road that would create a great monochromatic image with amazing lines. You have to take the idea and apply standard photography techniques: exposure, framing, composition etc… I say this because if you are only thinking about the idea your images could look boring. You are a great photographer use your knowledge and make the pictures amazing!

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Canon 5d Mark II ISO:400 Shutter:1/500th Aperture:f2.8

With all of my clients I flow the same system every time:

  • I first take time to build a relationship with them
  • Feed off them during the portrait session
  • Work off their personality and add my artistic twist
  • Use photography rules and techniques to enhance images

It takes a lot of energy becoming emotional involved with all of my clients, but the pictures show the hard work. Your pictures will have so much emotion and life to them, and your clients will enjoy the experience so much more. I hope this helps

Happy Shooting

Kyle Miller has been a professional wedding and portrait photographer for several years. He shares his knowledge on his blog Photography Tips where you can also download his eBook 7 Essential Photography Tips for free.

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