I was engaging in a discussion with some other photographers about our intention when creating portraits , especially regarding commissioned work, and it suddenly dawned on me that although I have given my own intention A LOT of thought, I don’t communicate it.
I try to communicate it through my portfolio but it’s helpful to read what these intentions are. Hiring an artist is an investment and it should be my job to give you information so you know you’re making a choice that’s a good fit and ultimately worth your hard-earned money.
Any time you hire a photographer you are commissioning her to create art. And because art is subjective there is no one-size-fits-all photographer. Photographers range from studio to on-location, strobes to all-natural light, film to digital, light and airy to dark and moody and all the greys in between.
And just like you wouldn’t expect an artist to be an expert at watercolor and charcoal, you shouldn’t expect a photographer who primarily shoots beautiful weddings to also rock it for head shots. (Some do! But don’t assume 😉)
So where do I fall on the spectrum?
These are probably the things you DO see in my portfolio but it’s worth mentioning them.
I do most of my work on location, either outdoors or in-home.
I do have a backdrop rig, most often for headshots, but not a studio (although the idea is extremely intriguing, it’s not feasible at the moment.)
I always shoot with natural light at outdoor sessions and use a strobe (think the flash from school picture day) for in-home sessions that need an extra boost of light.
I am an all-film photographer who loves vibrant, warm colors but also a rich, contrasty black and white shot, so I wouldn’t label myself as either light and airy or dark and moody.
I love photographing seniors in high school, families (including maternity and newborn), and headshots. So basically I don’t do weddings ;)
Now on to the particulars you might not know about my commissioned work.
I take creating art for you very seriously and it has taken me years to refine my goals and how to achieve them at a session.
I don’t see that refining process ever being complete during my tenure as a photographer; as I change and mature and study I know it helps me hone in on what to achieve and how to approach sessions.
Headshots are their own beast so the rest of the journal will be specific to seniors and family sessions.
For these sessions I see my goals as three-pronged :
1. I want to capture the smiling, everyone-look-at-the-camera shot. It doesn’t excite me creatively but it is SO, SO IMPORTANT.
For seniors this would be the classic yearbook shot and for families this is the shot where you can see everyone’s face; it will be passed down the generations because it documents who was there and what they looked like at the time.
I don’t spend a lot of our time getting this shot, and although I might revisit this shot a few times during our session, I will only include a few of them in your gallery (more for seniors so they have a perfect yearbook option). I don’t see a need for 20 of these from a single session. To me, this shot is akin to the “vacation shot”. You know, the one where you want to make sure you document the family vacation so you hand your camera off to a stranger and cheese. It’s a super important one to have but you don’t need a lot of them and basically anyone can do it.
2. What excites me are the emotion-filled shots and these are the bulk of what I shoot and deliver.
A high school senior spinning, feeling excitement and trepidation on the precipice of adulthood. A mama smelling her new baby. Siblings fighting and laughing. A father swinging his little boy who is growing all-too-quickly. These are the shots that tell a story.
Because I am not a documentary photographer, I come into sessions already having something to say about being a family, having a newborn, being a high school senior. BUT lest you think my vision will supersede your reality, think again. I could (I don’t, but I could) have the exact same shot list in mind for every single session and no two sessions would turn out the same. At each session, I intersect with you. I bring my intentions and you provide your own dynamics and that’s where the art is made.
3. I also like to try to leave room for some experimentation.
This could involve shooting a roll specifically so that I can try a technique on it (maybe fogging it or doing film soup on it.) It could mean shooting some new double exposures or funky posing I have in mind to communicate my thoughts on family or high school. But no matter what it is, I view these as in addition to category 1 and 2. Sometimes they don’t turn out but when they do I feel reenergized as a creative, so I do my darnedest to try to fit some experimentation in.
What excites me about the second and third categories is that this is what I want to hang as a giant canvas on MY walls. The smiling shot matters but the commissioned art comes in the latter categories. I want the emotion filled, light leaked, film souped, blurry love hanging on my walls. That’s the stuff that speaks to real life, tugs on my heart, makes me think. These are the shots that can only be created when you and I come together to make art.