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A Guest post by Scott Himelhoch of D Studio Photography
I don’t claim to have a universal definition of what makes a great portrait. In fact, my objective with portraiture is quite simple; have the portrait evoke a specific feeling or set of emotions. Ironically, the skills with the most significant impact on the quality of my portraiture were learned outside of photography. Goal Setting, Communication and Directing will help transform an every-day image into a showcase portrait.
I was recently contacted by the Marketing Director for a plastic surgeon. She needed an executive portrait to use in an advertisement for a national publication. To develop a specific and concise goal for the portrait session, I first needed to understand the business strategy of the Doctor’s plastic surgery institute. Several conversations with the Marketing Director allowed us to collaboratively crystalize a goal for the portrait session: Create a black & white image of the Doctor which conveyed warmth, confidence and professionalism.
The day of the shoot, my subject was very short on time (as he was most other days of the week). I would need to quickly adopt a communication style which he would positively respond to. There are several techniques available to improve interpersonal communication and the one I like most is DISC (www.discprofile.com). One of the cornerstones of DISC is that it teaches how to adapt your communication style to get along better with others. Although my natural communication style is very different than the Doctor’s, I aligned my style more closely to his. I was brief, specific and focused.
More than just telling a subject to dip a shoulder or raise their chin, directing is about trust and comfort. It includes sharing the goal(s) of a shoot. Because I had established effective communication with the Doctor, he was more receptive to the goal of the shoot and confident in my abilities. This trust resulted in the Doctor taking what I call ‘direction without question’. The comfort we quickly built resulted in the melting away of time constraints and I dare say that the Doctor may have even enjoyed the process.
Clearly defined goals, effective communication and a trusting subject willing to take direction are key stops along the road to dynamic portraiture. If technical proficiency is the ‘ante to play the game’, then mastering human interaction may just be the key to winning.
Scott Himelhoch is the founder of D Studio Photography located in Tampa, Florida, USA. D Studio specializes in commercial and architectural photography.