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Thread: How much of being a photographer is having 'people skills'?

  1. #1
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    How much of being a photographer is having 'people skills'?

    So I think I've got a good grasp on how to compose a photo, check lighting conditions, adjust lighting conditions, set the camera controls, and press the shutter. However an ongoing issue that I have is in dealing with the actual people that form the subjects of each photo. Whether it be weddings, children, portraits, candids... it is inevitable that some clients will just be plain difficult to deal with. Not necessarily because of their personalities but because of their stage fright once a fat lens is pointed in their direction.

    I always thought I was pretty good with people, but when I took on photography jobs involving people, I realised I had to develop a skill of making people feel comfortable... being able to ease the tension with a genuinely funny joke, maintaining tolerance with a group containing at least one rebel, making a child laugh (continuously over a long period of time), convincing parents that it is better to just "look at me" rather than disciplining their children who don't smile at the camera (so many times I finally capture that gorgeous photo of a child only to have one of their parents yelling down at them), and of course keeping a nervous and slightly vain bride from looking like a shop mannequin. It can be difficult to dedicate so much time helping a client relax and be natural in pose while staying completely on top of the technical and creative job at hand.

    One of the most important things I have learned is how important it is develop a rapport with clients prior to the photoshoot. That is, having them know me and me knowing them at a personal level. Trying to break down any barriers that might get in the way so that when the photoshoot starts, I'm already sharing stories and encouraging natural expressions. Sometimes I bring my lovely partner along who is really personable and great with people. That helps. With children, I let them see my camera and we start with funny faces and talk a lot about their favourite games and sometimes I ask them to tell a completely made-up story, and their eyes light up with invention. For adults, I've carefully tried to work out the best but least corny approach to complimenting their looks and how well they are posing, and "trying" to instil confidence.

    For many clients, it's all too easy. Some people are a dream to photograph. But others do naturally carry a lot of insecurity and self-consciousness once the shooting starts. I know I do, which is why I like being on the business end of the camera.

    So I'm just wondering, what other advice or tips to others have in dealing with people and bringing out the best in their images?
    Last edited by mcmahong; 24-04-2012 at 9:58pm.
    ____________
    Ged McMahon
    Canon 5DMk3 | Canon 50D | 24-70L f/2.8 | 70-200L f/4 IS | 18-200mm go anywhere | 50mm f/1.8 | 100mm macro | 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 | 580EX II Speedlight | Some strobes and stuff
    http://www.gedmcmahon.com
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  2. #2
    Ausphotography Regular livio's Avatar
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    So many of the things written about here are spot on. There is no substitute for getting a good brief from your client before you undertake the photo shoot. Explore things understand what they want and be flexible. Understand that not every shot is going to be perfect so you have to be able to manage groups. You need to be able to capture attention even for a split second to get that just right shot. Where possible I like to use natureal light so I don't have to give myself away with the flash. I like to mingle and move about with my finger on the trigger ready to capture the shot you are lookign for. Where a flash is necessary you need a different tactic depending on your subject. We generally get called to photograph parties, Weddings, Anniversaries, Festivals and Bands they are fun times and people want to be able remember the fun so I generally look for smiles, dancing, couples anything that captures the feeling of having a good time. If the photo you want does not work out the first time, try again a little later on you are generally there for a few hours, blend in and become part of the party then you can re-take the shot you didn't get the first time. Follow you subject for a while while always being on the lookout for that photo.

    Be open and honest, plan your shoot, is ther additional equipment I need? like fill lights and flashes. Have them ready and have a backup strategy if something should fail. The more preparation you put in before the shoot the better it normally is. Process your photos quickly don't wait for weeks even if it a first draft and run. Invite your client in to help select the photos they are wanting to keep, make them an integral part of the process and they love you for it.

    Don't stress out if you capture 90% of a good group photo you can try again if it's not 100% it still will be good enough as long as composition focus and lighting are good. If someone didn't look at the camera it won't kill the shot.

  3. #3
    Ausphotography Regular TwinII's Avatar
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    It's funny, I think it is like a lot of professions who deal with the general public. You may be the best photographer, but have poor interpersonal skills therefore the customer may not view you as appropriate or sufficient to do the job. It can work the other way too!
    View my photos at MartinCanning.com

    View my flickr

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    Administrator ricktas's Avatar
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    Good people skills get you through life, personally and professionally. They can be learned/taught. Sometimes your clients will not have any, and you will have to step up. But as long as you treat them with respect, you will get somewhere with the client.
    "It is one thing to make a picture of what a person looks like, it is another thing to make a portrait of who they are" - Paul Caponigro

    Constructive Critique of my photographs is always appreciated
    Nikon, etc!

    RICK
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    They certainly help.

    If you reach superstar status, though, people will work with you regardless.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Zeke View Post
    They certainly help.

    If you reach superstar status, though, people will work with you regardless.
    Speaking from personal experience I'm sure

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    Being a working photographer it is ALL ABOUT communications skills, as some of those on AP who have worked with me before knows it. You are pretty much a leader that ppl look towards for direction and guidance and critique - be it weddings, model in a studio, a big editorial shoot for a magazine, etc.

    Communications skills is also aided by being able to work under pressure and duress, and have leadership qualities as well. I often hear ppl say to me - I dont do weddings because I dont like it - so I ask how is your communications skills?

    Then again, I have seen some extremely good communicators use that to mask their average or poor photographic products. 'Oh his photos werent that great....but he was really nice on the day though!' - LOL

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    Member jeffde's Avatar
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    80% to me - it doesn't matter how good technically you are - if your not good at talking to people then don't do people photography- building a rapport and taking photos of families you haven't met - in an hour is fun and challenging at the same time - so is keeping your cool when the kids are running riot at a wedding .....
    Jeff - Jeff D Photography
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    http://jeffdphoto.ifp3.com/
    www.jeffdphotography.com.au


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