Believe it or not, one of the most valuable lessons I learned about shooting people came from a photo school class called “Intro to Still-Life.” We were asked to photograph a bunch of objects and make them look like they were randomly placed on a set. This is easy – dump things on a table (1 minute). But that looked messy and didn’t make your eyes very happy. I could arrange the objects in a pleasing way (15 minutes), but then the still life looked forced and deliberate. Lesson of the Assignment? The hardest shot to create is one where elements appear to occur naturally and make your eyes happy.
Here’s how that applies to photographing people. You can pose people, but then they look contrived. You can let subjects run amok, but then the photos look like chaos. Our challenge for this lifestyle shoot: how to create natural yet appealing imagery.
Another issue: you can take hours to carefully arrange objects on a table. But anyone who has been nudged about by a photographer knows that people don’t have the patience of inanimate objects. Kids especially so.
Who to use for the shoot? Most professional models can make a practiced pose seem natural, but a family of models smacks of being a little too perfect. Instead of going the model route, we chose a local multi-generational family with great chemistry.
The idea behind this shoot was to create a library of authentic lifestyle images that captured a great day in a family’s life. We didn’t have a shot list, but we had a playground of sorts to romp in. We were very fortunate that our friends, Beth and Chuck Welch, hosted the shoot. Their home is stately and comfortable, with beautiful artwork and books filling every available wall surface.
There were loud action moments as well as intimate moments between family members. Instead of directing the family, I let them enjoy activities they would normally do on a weekend and then captured it in a non-invasive editorial way. Using all natural light, we constructed scenarios on the fly. We tried things that didn’t work (a “must” for any successful shoot, IMHO) and got fantastic images we hadn’t planned for.
A great way to spend a day.
Wardrobe styling by Cynthia August and makeup/hair by Lynne Avallone.