What are certain photographers doing that make them popular? Surprisingly enough, things like gear, location, social media skills and post production have very little to do with it. Believe it or not, it's something far more important and it's not often discussed. Here is the common secret all five photographers shared that makes their work stand out.
Any successful photographer will tell you the most common question they get asked is "What lens do you use?" when really they should be asked "if you can pinpoint one thing that made you successful what would it be?" Since this is not asked often enough, I decided to bring it to five photographers I think are successful.
Much to my astonishment, their answers all revolved around two things: they approach photography as a method to capture a story and they do this by communicating properly with their subjects.
I think my photography attracts attention with its simplicity. I believe that less is more. What made me successful is the fact that my pictures are due more in need of creation than observation. I invent a story in my mind and the children play the role of a hero in the scene. My pictures are mostly staged and I think the key is that I always try to tell the children the story I want to introduce.
I feel what has made me stand out and brought on the popularity of my work is the amazing, soulful, and serious expressions I capture. It's not as hard as it may seem! Patience is a virtue - take the time to get to know your subject. Talk to them, be interested, ask questions, be silly! Don't shove a camera in their face the second you meet them. Good things come to those who wait. Have [their] mom and dad wait in the car - getting the child away from their parents is so important. It allows them to relax and be more natural with you. Once you have developed a comfortable repertoire - remember, DON'T rush it. Try this little trick: have them close their eyes. The camera suddenly disappears from the scene, and any stress that it may have caused will melt away. Tell them to relax their face and think about something that makes them happy. On the count of three, have them open their eyes and look at you. THIS is when you take the shot. With a little luck, you will get a fresh, genuine expression and the perfect picture.
The hardest thing for me was getting cooperation from the children I worked with. I know it is the expression that makes a photograph. Once I learned it’s all about patience and understanding, my work took off. Additionally, capturing a story goes hand in hand with the expression. I would say it’s really smart to find inspiration from someone or something. Ironically enough, I actually get most of mine from movie/book covers with children on them. It helps put a vision in your head to spin off of. These two things are far more important than anything else if you want your work to stand out.
I can say that "this" is my secret - capturing the most amazing poses from the children. Here is how I do it: As soon as a child meets me for their portrait, I get down to their level. I squat, sit, kneel, whatever it takes to make them look into my face. I then introduce myself and ask them about themselves, what they like, their favorite joke, [things like that], to make them super comfortable with me. Then, if I can, I show them images of what the parents have already discussed and what they want to create. I show the child what we are going to do, and let them know its magic and that they have to listen to every word I say. THEY DO. I tell parents in advance not to say anything and in most cases have them stand directly behind me. I shoot from the ground so the eyes go in the right direction. That is my big secret to the best poses.
What I feel I owe my success to is the fact my top priority is capturing the right moment. The most important aspect of my images is the story it portrays. Photographing kids and shooting at very large apertures to get the creamy bokeh makes this difficult. Typically if my client isn’t cooperative I will still get keepers between poses albeit more candid or animated. I always try to capture movement for more narrative images. What I find helps is asking them to play with dirt or throw leaves etc. I shoot at six frames a second on a Canon 5D mark III to capture movement and then I select or combine the best aspects of certain scenes into one exposure. Meaning If I like the falling leaves in one shot but the expression in the other I combine the two images. I always shoot in locations that I know work best, this way I can concentrate on giving the subject the proper attention they need to capture the best possible expression.
After talking with each of the photographers, I had to take a step back in astonishment. I was amazed that all five photographers had very similar opinions regarding the "secret" to being a successful photographer. Magdalena, Lisa, Kevin, Nikki and Jake tought me that communicating with the subject to capture the perfect expression is crucial to creating mind-blowing images. It's clear that each and every one of them has a serious passion for what they do. It made me realize that when speaking with other photographers, it's important to ask questions that aren't typical or expected. You learn the most from them. The last thing to ask a photographer is "what lens do you use?"