Three Photography Tips on A Day in Dumbo

I love taking photos of people I admire, and that’s exactly why I reached out to my darling friend, Megan, musician extraordinaire, and asked her if she’d let me take some pictures of her. What resulted was a fun, creative, and inspiring day of laughter, great conversations, and plenty of photos. (Also some french fries, but that’s a story for another blog post!)

Throughout all the time I’ve spent taking photos of other people, both those I’m comfortable with and those I barely know, I have learned how to make the experience more fun and fulfilling for both myself and my subject. The goal of portrait photography is to capture the moments when your subject looks and feels their absolute best, and with Megan I felt like I was really able to do that.

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Start The Shoot Laughing

The way a shoot begins will set the tone and mood for the rest of it. Almost always, if the shoot begins on a negative or awkward note, the photos will reflect that and not be as carefree and honest feeling as they could be. I met Megan at a coffee shop and before even going out to shoot, we chatted about life and about how we’ve been doing. I hadn’t seen her in a long time, so we were able to catch up and relax instead of worrying about jumping right into the photo taking. Even if you’re just taking photos of your friends, they may not be super comfortable in front of the camera right away, so a bit of unrelated chatter beforehand, or as you’re getting your camera ready can make a world of difference. If I’m shooting clients or people I don’t know as well, I like to ask questions relating to the reason we’re taking pictures. If I’m shooting a couple, I ask them the story of how they met, or for senior photos, I ask about what they studied. Anything works, as long as it’s engaging and fun, so that your subject won’t be overwhelmed by the fact that all eyes (and lens) are on them.

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Be a Hype (Wo)man

It’s so easy to be self conscious in front of the camera, it doesn’t matter whether or not you’re used to being in front of a lens or whether you’re more comfortable with the photographer than any other person in the world. Nerves are bound to be there, and the whole interaction can feel awkward if it isn’t approached correctly, and as the photographer, it’s your job to avoid that awkward/nervous/uncomfortable feeling. My favorite way to do that is to hype up my subject. If they feel like an absolute badass, or totally gorgeous, or like they’re on top of the world, that feeling will translate onto their face and make the photos that much more radiant, so reminding your subject that they look amazing as you’re snapping photos is a sure fire way to boost their confidence (and if you’re lucky, some candid laughing shots will come out of the exchange as well!)

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Avoid Auto Pilot

It goes without saying that photographers learn through experience. The more we shoot, the more equipped we are to improve and refine our craft, and the better our work is because of it. However, there is nothing more dangerous to a photographer than getting stuck in the same routine of poses and angles that they tend to rotate through on every shoot. Every subject is unique and has their own story to tell, so while it’s okay to pull from your arsenal of poses and shots that you’ve learned through your time taking photos, being creative on your feet and looking for unique ways to tell a unique story will make your photos stand out.

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Sabrina Polkowski