Lessons Learned

I’m finishing up a set of portraits today from a family reunion I was privileged to have the opportunity to shoot a week ago. Over 500 shots total, of which maybe 30 are pretty good. I had no idea whether that was a good ratio or bad, but based on some conversations I’ve had with other experienced photographers I’ve had recently, it doesn’t seem like a terrible ratio.

To be honest, taking pictures of people intimidated me. Still does, to some extent.

I’ve always questioned whether I had the personality to make people really relax in front of the camera, and I also wasn’t at all sure I understood lighting well enough to give a face depth yet avoid creating harsh lines. My first real experience at portraiture was taking head shots of actors for a play I directed over the winter. I wanted the pictures to be taken under the lighting I was going to use for the stage, which was fine in theory but I didn’t have the equipment to properly soften the shadows. They weren’t horrible, and certainly benefited greatly from the assistance of a Twitter photographer friend, but stage lights were not meant for portrait photography.

At the beginning of May I dragged a couple of young friends of mine out to a park for the express purpose of giving me experience at shooting people. I wanted experience both with working with light (it was a brilliant sunny afternoon) and getting lots of expression, energy, and visual interest from the subject. They came through for me wonderfully, putting themselves completely in my hands, doing what I asked, and being patient with me in those times when I clearly didn’t know what I was doing. These two youngsters may never fully appreciate what they did for my confidence. When I created saw the results of that afternoon’s shoot, I knew for the first time I could offer my services to others.

Surprisingly, I got several offers pretty quickly. Most are still in the scheduling phase, but the family reunion is all but done and it only remains to take another small set of make up pictures of a family that couldn’t attend last week, and burn the DVD of pictures. I am pleased with the results. I learned many more things in the process. I learned new techniques, I learned new things to avoid, and I learned what to pay attention to. But I also learned that I can do this job, and be proud of the result.

The rest is up to me.

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