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The most frequent question I get during a head shot or portrait session is, "You can Photoshop that out, right?" The usual response is, "Yes, but... ."
The art of editing and retouching images has gotten a lot of attention (both positive and negative), and I must admit that I tend to lean toward the less-is-more approach. I agree that fashion magazines abuse the technology of digital imagery and I prefer to make my edits more subtle: removing a blemish, lightening up dark circles under the eyes, and adding a touch of shading to the chin and jawline are all standard touch ups. That scar on your forehead that you got after falling off the jungle gym when you were six? I'm going to ask you before I remove it. The braces on the gorgeous woman in this image? She wanted them to stay and I bet you barely noticed them.
Is photo editing an art? Of course it is. It is part of the process by which I create an artistic representation of you. You have complete control over that process and it starts with how you prepare for your shoot. My simple guidelines include
Being in front of the camera is an intimate experience, and for some that can be cause for anxiety. Whether I'm shooting a boudoir image or a corporate head shot, my goal is to put you at ease and make it fun. I'm going to talk to you, pose you, adjust your hair and clothing, and find the perfect mix that brings out your personality and makes it shine through the camera lens. For me, this part of the process is more important that what happens once I load your images onto my computer.
So yes, I've had my share of editing requests! I've been asked to tighten a woman's upper arm, remove a double chin, and eliminate crow's feet and laugh lines. I've had to make a blouse that clearly didn't fit look as if it had been custom tailored. I've digitally plucked hairs from brows, ears, and noses--in the end creating images that I'm proud of and, more importantly, my clients have been very happy to purchase.
A fairly new marketing concept being used by photographers is to encourage our clients to "exist in pictures." Yes, we all have fun with the occasional selfie or snapshot taken during a family gathering, but when was the last time you thought, "I want to capture this time in my life in an heirloom-quality photograph?" Probably not since you were married or experienced some other major event.
Portrait photography is not a luxury. It isn't narcissistic. It is an investment in your future, so that those who see it in the years to come can also remember that moment, see the family resemblance, or share in the joy. Too often I hear, "I don't look good in pictures" or "I need to lose ten pounds first," and to that I say, "Let me photograph you." My task as the photographer is to watch for the details, to pose you in ways that flatter your face and body, and to create images that reflect who you are. Whether you have a photo session with me or someone else--even if it is a casual family pic taken at an upcoming holiday event--here are a few tips to remember when posing in a picture.
Your chin. The most common thing I say during a photo session is, "Chin down." So many people raise their chin as soon as they see a camera, and all this does is make them look haughty. Try this, right now while you're reading this page. Look straight ahead, bring your chin down, and push it slightly forward. While it may not be the most comfortable position, this movement elongates your neck and reduces the double-chin effect when you smile.
Your shoulders and spine. Being tense at the thought of posing often causes our shoulders go up to our ears. Relax them, open up your collarbones, and gently pull your shoulders blades back. Now pull up from your waist as if an invisible string is straightening your spine. Unless you're going for a high-fashion slouch, proper posture will make you look slimmer in a picture if you're standing or seated.
Your eyes. This is the most important element in a good picture. America's Next Top Model creator Tyra Banks calls it "smizing" (smiling with your eyes) and famed head shot photographer Peter Hurley believes in the "squinch," but it's all about making a connection with the camera. Sure, you can look in the direction of the photographer, but it's when we make that intimate connection that the final image has an impact on its viewer. Practice in the mirror. Look at yourself, and then really look. Feel your eyes working as they go from relaxed to focused. Every other element in a picture is meaningless if your eyes seem vacant.
Other quick tips when posing include turning your body to the side, putting your weight on your back foot if you're standing, and using your hands to draw attention to your face or to cover a bump or bulge.
To exist in pictures is to give a gift to the future--yours and the future of those who love you. Let's create an album, a framed print, or a slideshow set to your favorite music. You deserve it.
Someone asked me recently why I photograph people. "Wouldn't it be easier to shoot flowers or landscapes?" she said.
Of course it would be easier! Landscapes don't talk back, refuse to pose, or have bad hair days. Flowers stay put. However, neither flowers nor landscapes twirl spontaneously in front of my camera, give hugs at the end of a shoot, or get teary when they see their images. For as challenging as it can be to photograph people, it's also an extremely rewarding experience. With each new client I want to not only reflect their personality, but also create an image that lets them see themselves in a new light.
For some, the idea of a professional portrait shoot conjures up thoughts of stiff poses, dark backdrops, and hot lights. When I rented my studio, I looked forward to shooting in a cozy barn with beautiful late afternoon sun or outside on the 14-acre farm. I had visions of incorporating a horse into a portrait, or posing someone under an ancient oak tree. I bought an inflatable mattress with the intention of using it for boudoir-style shots, and instead it turned into a bouncing play place the resulted in the picture of these adorable sisters. I know that many priceless images will be created in my studio--not because I'm an awesome photographer, but because I have a unique space where people can be comfortable, have fun, feel vulnerable, and know that I only want to give them something that they'll treasure.
I photograph people because no one is the same. Each shoot is as different as the person in front of my camera. From LinkedIn profile pictures to a family portrait for the grandparents to an album of sexy lingerie images for the new groom--every experience makes me a better photographer and enriches me as a person.
It is my hope that in my new studio, memories will be made and precious moments captured. I can't wait to see what the next few months bring!