Chit Chat 101: The best posing and directing hack I’ve ever learnt

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Above: Takaatsu Nishimura Shihan, 7th Dan black belt and his student from the Japan Karate Association (JKA) photographed using 1DX and 70-200mm IS L11 series lens @f2.8

Before I started my formal education, I spent three years at an exclusive alternative school for girls. It’s here that I learnt the most useful posing and directing hack that I still use to this day.

I loved my time at this school. Most of the curriculum was completely unorthodox. I was taught how to grow strawberries, how to change a flat tyre, the secret of a perfect pizza dough, how to speak fluent Italian and how to graft a pear tree to a peach tree. Cool huh?

My teacher’s name was Frank and he was awesome. I loved learning all of these practical skills, but it was watching how Frank engaged with every single person that he met, that was the most valuable lesson he taught me.

Frank was a master at the art of chit chat. The chit chat artist can engage a complete stranger in a conversation that flows in a relaxed, comfortable, non-threatening manner.

I was three years old and Frank was my father. He loved to chat with anyone and everyone and so do I.

The first few times I watched Frank demonstrate the art of chit chat, I thought he knew the person because he had that comfortable ease and energy that friends have when they are together.

The art of chit chat
I didn’t know this at the time, but learning the art of chit chat has made me a better photographer, and I rate knowing the art of chit chat equally as important as knowing how to pose, expose and compose an image.

A good portrait is beautifully lit and posed. A great image, one that goes to the next level where the model is connected, will only be achieved if the model is completely comfortable and relaxed.

The best way to put your model at ease and relax them is to know how to engage in non-threatening small talk or chit chat.

Here are my top 3 techniques to learn how to engage with anyone

1 . Ask non-personal questions

People love talking about themselves so ask lots of questions that aren’t too personal like:

“That’s a beautiful ring, where did you get it?”

“Did you drive here or take the train?”

Try and avoid personal questions like:

“What do you do for work?”

“Are you married?”

“Do you have children?”

These types of questions can put people on guard.

2 . Look for common ground

People who have something in common with another person or can identify with them will connect a lot quicker. I’m like you, so I like your kind of thinking. Questions like:

“Did you get that coffee from Joe’s Cafe? I love Joe’s, it’s the best!”

Or you can bond in a united dislike of something:

“Did you drive in on the M1? Oh my god, the M1 is the slowest road ever!”

3 . Take the chit chat challenge every day

The chit chat challenge is where you try and engage every stranger you interact with throughout the day with chit chat.

  • The lady who sells you your newspaper
  • The man sitting next to you on the train
  • The woman walking her dog

Start with the easy ones until you build your confidence; extroverts – people who make eye contact and smile. These people are very comfortable with chit chat and are probably doing their own chit chat challenge.

Then test yourself with a few introverted, shy or socially awkward people.

The chit chat challenge is like a squat challenge. At first, you will feel sore and a little inept, but bit by bit, day by day, you will get better.

4 Responses
  1. Chit chat is something I struggle with when I’m talking to people I don’t know. Thanks for the tips to help me get started talking to strangers.

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