A couple months ago I received an email regarding a portrait session. Keisha had always wanted "professional photos" of herself, but was quick to admit that she neither liked having her photo taken nor, even worse, the thought of people watching her have her photo taken. So where did we decide to have our session? Why, Central Park of course!
I told her not to worry. All she needed to do was show up, and I would make sure she felt comfortable in front of the lens. That is, after all, my job!
Upon meeting her one especially hot Saturday morning at the West 72nd street entrance of the park, with eyes darting quickly around, she timidly reiterated her discomfort with "being on display". So off we went retreating to the nearest refuge, a quiet wooden covering. Within minutes she was smiling, though nervously at first with a look on her face that boldly read "What do I do? Is this right?". That's when I hit the pause button to ask "What kind of photos do you really want?" Without any hesitation she replied, "I really just want photos of myself... images that almost look caught in the moment. Like you're following me around catching me being me."
I now knew we were aiming for loose and casual portraits (which are fortunately my favourite!)... and we had to get there fast! With both the thermometer and hygrometer levels rising quickly, I knew it wouldn't be long before we were both exhausted and glistening (and not in a good way!). We could barrel through the discomfort, but I knew they wouldn't be great photos.
So off we went, venturing further and further into the park. And before long Keisha was busting out her true smile and filling my frame with beautiful bouts of laughter (inspired by nothing other than my spontaneous acts of stupidity). And does she have a gorgeous smile! Once I saw her laugh, I was hooked! And I did everything I could to keep it coming... in my weaker moment I even went so far as to whip out a technique I use when photographing children - that is, until I remembered I was photographing an adult. But hey, it still worked! (I think that one was more of a sympathy laugh*). Before long she seemed completely unaware of the weekend picnickers and tourists bustling around us everywhere we went.
* Side note: I've been known to act pretty ridiculous on shoots, all for the sake of inspiring an authentic moment - and, let's face it, to boost their confidence... because surely, no matter what they do they couldn't possibly look as stupid as me!
But it was all worth it when the very next day I received an email thanking me for making her feel so comfortable during the photo session. In that moment, it didn't even matter if the photos turned out great because I had already accomplished my job. Ok, that's not true - I still wanted great photos ;)