FAQ : First Time Photography Advice

Often times I get asked by photographers what's a piece of advice I'd offer before a shoot. To be honest, I have no idea. There are so many things to take into consideration, so many unknown factors, that I simply can't offer solid feedback besides things like Have Fun! or the ever-profound Don't forget to relax! While true, they're not exactly worth their weight in gold. But things changed a couple days ago when JD asked for advice for his first solo shoot.

Sidenote: JD won't be shooting on his own anytime soon. Our dear friend, Jeremiah, asked for a favor and while I was at first nervous, I remembered Jeremiah was a chef. As in, he regularly makes us amazing meals. If my logic served me right, if JD photographed Jeremiah as a favor, we'd be pretty much guaranteed Le Cordon Bleu meals until Christmas. THEN I SIGNED HIM RIGHT UP.
End Sidenote.

When JD asked for advice for his shoot, my mind raced with everything I wanted to tell him. I felt like an over-bearing parent, teacher, and sensei all at once. And just as annoying. As I rattled off a thousand things, JD calmly held up his hand and said I needed to be logical. Logical?! LOGICAL?! He's shooting on his own for the first time and I'm supposed to be LOGICAL?!

At the end of the day, I shared my advice with him and I thought I'd share it here…

1. Find Natural Reflectors in Advance
When you get to the location, arrive early and scope out the shooting location. I'm a huge, huuuge proponent of shooting using natural reflectors (brick walls, white buildings, terracotta surfaces, anything that reflects sunlight indirectly), so it helps if you find them in advance so you know where to take your subject when he/she arrives.

2. Don't Go to the Good Spots First
People need time to warm up to the camera, and photographers need some time to warm up to shooting. Take your subject to a spot that's fine…just not where you, ultimately, want to shoot. At the beginning of every shoot, use the time to figure things out, then move along to where you want to finish.

3. Focus in Between Every Shot
Now, I know this sounds silly, but it's true. Not only focus each shot, but focus on the shot, what's going on in the frame itself. JD gets caught up in shooting, and I often remind him to see what's going on in between and anticipating moments.

4. Always Keep Your Camera Up
When engaging with your client, always keep the camera in the shooting position. In order to get candid, natural reactions to a joke or conversation, you must be ready to shoot the reaction, not the moment after. When I first started shooting, I'd laugh with my clients, instead of photographing their laugh. It's okay to maintain a bit of conversation behind the lens in order to get the type of reaction you want.

5. Change Your Lens
During a shoot, it's easy to feel stuck, or at a loss creatively. When this happens, don't stress out. Take a deep breath, then change your lens. A small, easy swap can bring new light to a situation and help you see things differently. You'd be surprised how helpful this is in a pinch!

I hope these small tips were a little helpful and when you're getting ready for a shoot, simply remind yourself to Have Fun! Breathe! Relax! Clients respond better to their photographers when they can associate emotion to the experience. If my couple walks away after an engagement session and: 1. are more in love; and 2. had a great time, then I did everything I set out to do in addition to taking photos.

Wow. I think my punctuation in that last sentence was awful.

Happy Thursday!