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Q&A With a New Photographer | Tips of the Trade

I’ve got a lot to learn. For sure, no doubt about it. That being said, I’ve also learned a lot throughout the years about photography. I love it, 100% LOVE (!) and I also love imparting what I’ve learned to newer photographers. So, I asked one of the youngest photographers I mentor to interview me for my blog!

Meet Jennifer Anne: Spunky, proper, sweet, caring, and kind. Not to mention extremely intelligent and a gorgeous young lady. I’m a little biased perhaps, because she’s my cousin, but I just love her. She’s been asking me questions about my photography for years now, and has just saved up enough money to buy a great Canon SLR camera and got a reflector for Christmas! During the Christmas of 2010, I took a mini shoot of her to teach her how to use the reflector and this is what I got:

Beautiful huh? Well, she’s been taking pictures of families from her church and all her cousins and practicing everything she can. I asked her to think of a few questions that she wanted to know answers to, and that she thought other new photographers might ask. So here they are!

Jennifer Anne: “When I do a photoshoot the only thing that can be hard is starting off right. Especially when working with people of all ages. Normally when we arrive at the location there are distractions, so here is my first question…”

Q1. When you do a photoshoot how do you start it off, after you have introduced yourself and everyone is ready? Do you have a certain pose that you always start out with?

      Good question! It can be super awkward to have just met someone and then immediately ask them to start kissing for engagement photos or watch them telling the kids to behave and stop squirming. So take it slow. I usually spend about ten minutes just talking with them. If there are kids, get down on their level, make a funny face, ask them if they have a favorite color, and let them look at your camera. For adults, just chat like you normally would, leaving photography out of it. Sometimes I do this as we are all leisurely walking to the location if we have a bit of a journey. Once you’ve made everyone comfortable and smiling is coming naturally with conversation, ask them to start with something easy like leaning against a wall or sitting on a blanket and explain that you’ll be taking pictures from far off and getting your settings right on your camera. I always tell them that these photos “don’t count” so they shouldn’t bother with trying to pose or smiling at the camera, but just to talk amongst each other while I set up. Then I go away at least 30 feet, maybe hide behind a tree or a wall and shoot with that in the forefront. If they aren’t interacting, I might make an offhand joke or accuse them of talking bad about me. It usually produces a result like this:

Q2. I realize that normally when you do a photoshoot Jason always comes with you. But do you have any tips for me when I’m all by myself and how do you handle working with people that don’t exactly like smiling?

      Sure! There have been a rare occasion when I have not been able to shoot with an assistant to help with the reflector or any other lighting, and the trick is to get creative. Maybe there’s a light colored building nearby where you are planning to shoot and you can get close enough to leave it out of the picture but use the light bouncing off of it like a reflector. Or, use open shade. Open shade is a place where you are standing in shade but can look up and see the sky. Lighting in open shade is often great even without any extra lighting help. If you’re in a place that’s flat where these options won’t work, just point your subjects towards the light at a slight angle and shoot them with the sun lighting their eyes. As for people who don’t like smiling, just ask the other people in the photo for help. Usually kids can make dad laugh by trying to tickle him, or he might laugh if you get the kids doing something silly, or, you can threaten him with bad jokes if he doesn’t comply (which usually makes him laugh!). If these are kids, use the power of tickling, distraction, and little tricks like putting something on your head and sneezing it off. Kids love it when you do silly stuff.

Q3. For Christmas I told you I got a reflector that has been a great help. But what do you do when it too cloudy to use a reflector?  Also how do you still get good composition even when the weather isn’t on your side.

      People think overcast days are a bummer. I couldn’t disagree more! A cloudy day is a natural diffuser (softens the light) and light bounces everywhere! You can still use a reflector placed under the head for a close up to reflect lingering light in the clouds, or just ditch it and take advantage of the all around soft light. I did a shoot last weekend where it was an inch from rain the whole time, but it was beautiful! I just left the sky out of the photos by shooting down or underneath trees, or just cropping it out, and was able to get a vibrant image. If the sky doesn’t add to the photo, leave it out, and your composition will improve. For example:

Q4.If you could say three things that are important to keep in mind while doing a session what would they be?

     1. If you’re not having fun, neither will they, and the images won’t work.

     2. If an image isn’t working like you want it to or a pose isn’t working on the couple/family like you wanted it to, pretend it is all perfect and move on. Don’t waste time by sweating it and don’t discourage the subjects because they’ll think it’s their fault and will be self-conscious the rest of the time.

     3. Go with the flow and don’t put your camera down. Most of the best moments are the unplanned spontaneous things that happen in between posed shots.

Thanks Jennifer Anne! I really hope this helps!

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