I somehow managed to get a cold at the end of September. Nothing major but still unpleasant when one needs to be outdoors and shoot creatively. Not nice to be coughing, sweating and feverish when meeting a client. But somehow I forget about everything when shooting, so, in truth, the cold wasn’t that much in the way.
Robert told me beforehand he is never comfortable when having his picture taken and that he generally avoids being photographed. We were a bit unsure about the weather but eventually decided on a less ‘risky’ day (which means ‘no rain’ in Manchester), and tried our best.
As I did with clients before, I asked Robert to tell me a few things about himself, to have an idea about who I was going to meet, and to see in what way I can portray that in my photos. It is not an easy task and might seem totally irrelevant (after all, as a photographer, you only have to press the shutter and think technically and compositionally) but I still believe that a certain mood can be created if you know more about your subject, and these infos are important not only for me as a photographer, but also for my clients: they feel they are not only “bodies and facial expressions” but also personalities, character, stories.
And this is what I try to reveal in all my portraits sessions.
Robert is a Doctor who works with the Accidents and Emergency department; he recently moved to Manchester; he tells me he loves electronic music. I love electronic music, too, but somehow didn’t find any inspiration to talk about it, probably considering that the subject is so vast!
So we focused on ... shooting. The light wasn’t bad but not great either.
Eventually, I decided for an ‘autumnal’ look in the final edit.
I always like to check with the clients during the shoot. Their comments are extremely helpful on the spot, and they make a huge difference in the result. Robert wanted more head shots, so I focused on that as well - trying different things, and aiming at highlighting different sides of his personality.
Although it was predominantly a dull day, at times the sun was a bit too harsh (sometimes you have no other choice but shooting in the middle of the day), so I tried to use that to our advantage . Robert proved to be extremely patient and trusting my decisions which made everything easier. But I knew I shouldn’t take anything for granted and moved quickly nonetheless. I was particularly happy with the photos around the bridges in Castlefield where I could use the background to integrate with the portraits and to add a bit more dynamic and interest to them.
“I don’t want for the photos to look as if you took them”, Robert said, and I knew exactly what it meant: more natural poses, as if taken by a friend, on a regular day out. So we went to have a coffee on a terrace nearby. I enjoyed seeing Robert relaxing, I tried to stop shooting (especially because the light became completely dull) but I couldn’t really, so I took a few more with the coffee or relaxing on the bench.
And that is also when I got Robert’s smile. He said he hates to see himself smiling in photos, and I thought that’s because he hasn’t seen a good photo of him smiling. I thought his smile illuminated his face and showed his kindness and open nature. As a photographer, I feel I have to respect clients’ opinions and wishes but, at the same time, to find ways and show their own beauty, as much as possible, and reflect it back at them, with confidence and good pics.
Perhaps not today but I hope that in time Robet will grow to love this photo:
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