For years I've said the best thing about this industry has absolutely nothing to do with photography, but the friendships that come out of everyone's mutual love for the craft. This guest post is part of a trifecta with an incredible portrait artist and relatively new friend, Brian Smith. In the podcast Brian talks about one of the secrets of great images - it's all about expression and it comes out of building a relationship with your subject. You'll also find a wonderful short video with Brian, thanks to X-Rite and Coloratti.
I love trifectas, because they give you a chance to get to know an artist from three different perspectives and Brian is definitely somebody who should be on your radar. He's sure on mine! Follow Brian on his blog and you'll find him on Facebook and Twitter, always with great images and info! Skip Cohen
Nothing is more important to portrait photography than connecting with the person you’re photographing—it’s the foundation of an extraordinary portrait.
Establishing your subject’s trust always takes some time. Anything you can do to speed up that process will make you a better photographer. A good portrait photographer is a 15-second psychoanalyst. That’s generally how long you have to size up your subjects and decide how to best approach them.
When I collaborated with The Creative Coalition and Sony to photograph a cross-section of artists for the book Art & Soul: Stars Unite to Celebrate the Arts I generally had 10-15 minutes to photograph each artist. Not much time to make a meaningful connection.
Celebrities get asked the same questions over and over again, so I try to do a bit of research looking for something other than their filmography. If you want to really break the ice, ask them something they haven’t been asked a million times already.
When I photographed Dulé Hill, I’d gotten plenty of perfectly acceptable images - all with exactly the same expression you see in every one of his headshots. I’d read in his bio that he loves tap dance. So to loosen him up a bit, I asked him about it. He told me that Gregory Hines was his hero while growing up, and his greatest honor was being asked to tap dance at Hines’ funeral. Without further ado, he began tap dancing…on carpet…in his sneakers....
After that, he really started to open up, pretending to shout into the camera. I never would have thought to ask him to do it. He was simply “in the moment” enjoying the shoot. Getting your subjects to think about anything besides the shoot almost always leads to the best portraits.
Becoming comfortable photographing strangers and learning how to putting them at ease, pays off time and again. Whether the person you’re photographing is a Hollywood star or someone you meet in your travels, give everyone you shoot the star treatment.
Looking to get to know Brian even more? Check out Secrets of Great Portrait Photography. Then wander over to his galleries to see more of his work.