Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Trust Is Important In People Pictures

My main photography passion is photographing people – mostly strangers in strange lands, such as this young monk-in-training, posing in a light rain, by a dzong in the Royal Kingdom of Bhutan.

Why is this my passion? Because getting accepted into a stranger's life for a few minutes, and gaining their trust, is a totally cool feeling for me. Sure, it's a challenge, but a challenge that has a very nice reward: a photograph.

One way I try to gain acceptance and trust is to do magic tricks for the folks I encounter abroad. Here I am doing a simple coin trick for some Buddhist monks in Nepal. Take a close look at all their faces. I am trying hard to entertain them, which I did! (Eventually, I showed them how to do the trick. We all had fun before the photo session.)

So, traveling around the world and photographing people is a blast. Recently, however, I have been taking pictures of my neighbors - fun for me, important for them.

But here, too, gaining acceptance and trust as someone who is going to picture them is important. Before I start shooting, I joke around and learn more about the subject - what they want out of the photo session. I want the subject to feel important. At ease. Relaxed. This is an important step when it comes to photographing people.

Last night, I photographed my dentist, Dr. Mobilla - whose passion is making wine and sausage (and fishing, but that is another photo session). Before the sausage photo session, I learned a lot about making sausage and wine in one's basement. I did not start shooting immediately.

Last week I photographed my neighbor Peter Calo - whose passion is playing guitar. Before the session, I played a few chords for him. I wanted Peter to like me (in this case as a fellow musician), as I do all my subjects. If they like me, they trust me. Again, when it comes to photographing a person, trust is very important.

Above is a picture I took of a model on the shores of Lake Powell. Before I began shooting, I talked to the model about what it was like being a model, her family, etc. I ask here to choose a pose, rather than saying, "do this, do that."

Model Laurence G. Yang Photographed by Kade Lam
Speaking of models, their feelings and trust, one of my model friends, Laurence G. Yang, trusted photographer Kade Lam to take this beautiful portrait.

About the picture, Laurence says, "Every time I see this picture, "mesmerizing" whispers in my heart. "I'd have to say this it one of my favorites. It well defines elegance and also captivates a strong and sexy moment."

Laurence, by the way, is also the editor-in-chief of Runway Weekly.

Photo Info from Kade:
Two-light setup...300w self-contain units from Elinchrom.
7-foot black panel placed on the model's right side.
Softbox on the right side of the model for high-lighting.
Unit on the model's left side was bounced of a wall.
Camera exposure:125@F8.

• • •

When you are photographing a person, sure, think about technique, but first think about gaining the person's trust and respect.

Explore the light,

For more tips on photographing people, see my book, Face to Face:


Markio Wright said...

I love the snapshot

Ted said...

I love this post. It's one of those aspects I would easily overlook if I got caught up in the session too quickly.

Karen Kyle Ericson said...

Thank you so much! I am a student with New York Institute of Photography and I need to do my assignment photos for portraiture. This is so inspiring and actually helps me get past some of my fears in shooting people. I really like the idea of making friends and letting them be real.

Pacho said...

Loved your workshop in Kuna Yala, Panama. Love your tips about photography. They are always right on.

Bright Star said...

Amazing pictures! And a very interesting idea about trust in relation with portraits which I'd have to agree on. :)

Chetna said...

I love the first picture of the young monk. It's absolutely beautiful!!!