Do you daydream about taking amazing photos like the ones you see in magazines, galleries or social media/ The ones that stop you in your tracks and make you gasp in wonder and green with envy at the same time? What do these photographers have that’s missing in your images?
Is it the gear they use? Is it the locations or talent they work with? Is it technical knowledge or postproduction skills?
What if I told you all these photographers have in common has nothing to do with the factors listed above.
What if I were to tell you that technique, talent or gear has very little to do with greatness and that one of the main reasons you have not achieved your goals comes down to one person – Dave. That’s right, I said Dave is the reason you haven’t reached your goals yet.
Who the hell is Dave? I’m glad you asked, let me explain.
Dave has been living with you your entire life, you just didn’t know it. I’m not sure how to say this politely, so I’m . . .
When I was a kid and someone asked me “and what do you want to do when you grow up Gina?” my answer was always the same.
“I’m going to be an artist.”
I always got the same response, a small knowing smile, that I interpreted as “wow, how cool. Everyone should be an artist. It’s like, the best thing ever!”
It wasn’t until I was in my mid-late teens that well-meaning friends and family started to comment on my career choice.
“Yes, but what are you going to do to make money dear? Art isn’t a real job. It’s a hobby.”
“Don’t become an artist, you’ll end up starving in a garret.” This confused me because I didn’t know what a garret was (it’s small living space, like an attic).
Luckily for me, I’m a rebel by nature and pretty much ignored all the advice I was given. That was over 30 years ago now and I know everyone just had my best interests in mind, but I do wonder how different my life would have . . .
“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”
“Authenticity starts in the heart.” —Brian D’Angelo
When I was a few years into my photography career, I discovered the lighting, posing and directing formula for shooting portraits that gave me consistent results. Finally, I could relax on my shoots and stop stressing about my exposure and awkward looking images. I was 100% convinced I had mastered photography and spent the next couple of years shooting on autopilot.
Hack (definition): a person, as an artist or writer, who exploits, for money, his or her creative ability or training in the production of dull, unimaginative, and trite work; one who produces banal and mediocre job in the hope of gaining commercial success
The problem with getting comfortable with the formula is that my work became boring, clinical and lacked depth. The lights were on, but nobody was home.
“A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there.”
There is no “one size fits all” approach to portrait photography. I thought I’d discovered the secret formula to success, but the reality was I was just lazy. I looked back . . .
“I don’t think it hurts, sometimes, to remember where you came from…They call it ‘9 to 5.’ It’s never 9 to 5… And what hurts is the steadily diminishing humanity of those fighting to hold jobs they don’t want but fear the alternative worse. People simply empty out. They are bodies with fearful and obedient minds. The colour leaves the eye. The voice becomes ugly. And the body. The hair. The fingernails. The shoes. Everything does. As a young man, I could not believe that people could give their lives over to those conditions. As an old man, I still can’t believe it. What do they do it for? … An automobile on monthly payments? Or children? Children who are just going to do the same things that they did? … Now in industry, there are vast layoffs…They are layed off by the hundreds of thousands and their faces are stunned: ‘I put in 35 years…It ain’t right…I don’t know what to do…’ They never pay the slaves enough so they can get free, just enough so they can stay alive and come . . .
If I’m showing my model how to stand, where to look and what to think about while I take their portrait then how much is the portrait about them and how much is it about me?
I believe a great portrait is a collaboration between the photographer and their model. A great portrait photographer has the ability to reveal a side of their model that nobody else will see in quite the same way.
You only have to look at portraits of the very famous to see just how different they look when they are photographed by different photographers. Have a look at this selection of images of Marilyn Monroe, one of the most iconic women in history. Three different photographers show three completely different sides of Marilyn. Yes, they are all images of Marilyn but the mood and feel of the images are directly influenced by the photographer.
How we see the world and others is what makes us unique. We as photographers tell stories with images and those images . . .
“As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.” Fuji x100f +Godox AD200 and @garyfong Lightsphere
Ep 252 is out!
This week @valeriekhoo and I discuss techniques you can use to take more meaningful, authentic and memorable photos.
A great portrait is so much more than nailing the lighting and focus. If you want to take your portraits next level then you want your images to have the x-factor or soul. The stuff nobody really talks about much.
How many images have you seen once and still think about years later? Why is that?
I can guarantee it had nothing to do with the lighting, pose or model.
Some of the topics discussed include
* Remember that one size doesn’t fit all.
* Photograph the person, not the style
* Find a background that supports what you are trying to say
* Light in a style that flatters or brings out the features of the person you are photographing
* Pose the person in a way that suits their body type and personality.
* Learn the art of natural posting and give your model the confidence to “own’ the pose
* Learn the art of posing different body types
* inauthentic poses
* Keep poses simple
* Learn to read non-verbal cues
* Matching energy
* Master one go-to set up you can do confidently as a starting point.
* Be decisive and confident.
* Connect and be authentic, talk open up be authentic
* Watch out for the moments between frames
* Learn how to get rid of photo face
Want to improve your photography? I'd love to work with you. Check out my Gold Membership, I've created hundreds of tutorials which share all my lighting, posing and editing techniques. We also have a members forum, video photo critiques each month and a live "Ask me anything”
Gina Milicia is one of the most widely known and respected photographers in Australia. She is the master of capturing that ‘magical moment’...