“If a photographer cares about the people before the lens and is compassionate, much is given. It is the photographer, not the camera, that is the instrument.”
In my experience as a photographer I have come to believe that great work is achieved when the photographer has an understanding of his or her subject. A good camera does not produce a good photo. Rather it is the photographer’s ability to understand their subject, see through them, extract and showcase the subject’s unique and interesting qualities.
When photographing people, the photographer needs to be able to connect with the person on the other side of the lens. It is important that your subject trusts you, this way you, the photographer can see your subject for who and what they are inside and outside. Only when this sense of trust is achieved will the subject unveil and allow you to extract the unique and amazing qualities that they offer the world.
Sometimes as photographers we get into shooting mode and we forget to establish that trust and comfort level with our subject. The truth is, that being in front of the camera is a scary place for many people, and even seasoned models can feel the strange pressure that the camera can put on you. It isn’t easy. Being in front of the camera leaves the subject open to judgment and scrutiny. As photographers, we have the ability to hide behind the lens, and being behind the scenes we can avoid the feeling of vulnerability that the camera brings out in so many people.
While working behind the scenes we can forget the heaviness on the other side of the lens, and as a result we can lose compassion for our subject. We get so consumed with getting the shot we sometimes neglect the necessary relationship we need to reach our potential.
So, how can photographers improve their shooting game and the relationship with their subjects? Well, I would actually recommend that from time to time, photographers step in front of the lens themselves. You can never understand the other perspective until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.
I was teaching a friend some camera basics this week, and it required me getting in front of their camera. I am not comfortable in front of the camera. However, I felt that it actually very beneficial because it challenged me and reminded me of the guts it takes to allow yourself to be fully seen by someone else.
Understanding and feeling the heaviness and the scrutiny that the camera can put on your subjects will make you a better photographer. It will help you learn to direct models into more natural poses in the future; it will force you to confront your own insecurities so you can later help bring your subjects out of their shell if they feel insecure. It will teach you to respect the lens, and to learn angels from a different perspective, it will force you to think about composition in a different way, but most importantly, you will gain compassion for your subjects and learn to identify with them.
As photographers, the camera is just a tool, it is our ability to see inside people and extract the interesting things we see that make us good at our job. If we shut down the trust and communication between our subjects and ourselves we may not be able to find the unique qualities that only our subject has to offer and our work will suffer. So I encourage you, get out there, get outside your comfort zone, and experience the other side of the lens. It will help you out greatly!
Feel free to leave your thoughts below, and as always, “May the wind always be at your back and the sun upon your face, and may the winds of destiny carry you aloft to dance with the stars.”