Snow White – Lesson Learned

Yesterday I posted two images from a Snow White shoot I did on Monday. I promised I would follow up with a post about lessons learned. Since that time, I have came across a recent blog post by David duChemin, a photographer who’s work I greatly admire, which talks to the exact point I wanted to make. David posted an article on Tuesday titled Better Portraits: Wait for the Soul. David shares these bits of wisdom in his post, “With all the talk about technique it’s easy to forget, or to never learn at all, that the most important skills in portraiture aren’t photographic at all… My most valued skill has become not an ability to use natural light or pose a subject, but patience, and a willingness to wait for that moment, the one Steve McCurry talks about as the moment when the walls come down and the soul comes into view.” Exactly. It’s easy to read that, nod your head in approval and say it makes total sense but it’s another thing all together to put it into practice. When it hits the fan is when you need to remember these words of wisdom. I’ve only really started into portrait work myself and I already see that I’m on two learning paths and one is easier and shorter than the other. Learning how to set up lighting equipment and control light on a set is indeed a large part of portrait photography but learning how to help the subject reveal themselves is a harder skill to master and in the end is the necessary ingredient in not just making a beautiful portrait but one that has life to it.

On Monday’s shoot, my as yet limited skills in creating an environment where my subject felt free to reveal herself were glaringly obvious. I’m finding the more I do portrait work the more thought and effort I need to devote to creating an environment through conversation, music, atmosphere etc with the personality of the subject in mind. The more I grow comfortable with the equipment and light set ups the easier it is to devote time and energy to the subject. Honestly, I started out the shoot swinging big and connecting with nothing! As the shoot went on, both myself and the model found a groove and the images improved. As David says sometimes it’s just a matter of time. It’s important to be patient. Comfort between photographer and subject sometimes happens immediately and sometimes it takes time. Be patient. Don’t force it. Work through it. What worked on this shoot? Music! Almost nothing makes a tween more comfortable than their favourite music. Music led to goofy shots which made everyone laugh when they popped up on the laptop. I won’t break trust and share the goofy stuff here but suffice to say the whole session improved and became a lot more enjoyable. Not so forced and more natural. Lesson learned – let your subject reveal herself. Creating a comfortable environment can help but in the end it’s a team effort and always pack patience in the kit bag.

Some more shots from the Snow White shoot…

© Peter Carroll

©Peter Carroll

© Peter Carroll

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