People: Building Trust & Classic Portrait
One of the hard things is when somebody just doesn't want you to take their photo. And if they don't want me to take their photo, that's fine, I'm not gonna take their photo. In Morocco, traveling with Kenna, who is one of the world's greatest at getting connected with people and talking to them and having a fun conversation, even she couldn't crack these kids. (audience laughs) There were some kids, and this was shot after the fact, 'cause I wasn't shooting photos of people who didn't want their picture taken, but originally they did not wanna have their picture taken. Every time somebody in our group pointed a camera in their general direction, no, no, no, no, no, no, no! And nobody wanted their photo taken, and so I told our group don't shoot their photos. We're gonna move on, we're gonna go down to the river, and we're gonna photograph the sunset. And there was no sunset. But these kids thought that our little photo tour group which was just a small group as we sometimes split up, ...
we just had a group of about four or five of us, we were the most interesting thing going on town. And these kids were followin' us around everywhere they went but they didn't want their photographs taken. And we got down to the river and there is nothing to shoot, nothing going on, and I'm looking at these kids, who are right here, won't have their picture taken. I took my camera off my neck, and I put it around one of their necks, and I told her to take a photograph of her friend. And she thought that was really cool. She's not a very good photographer yet. (audience laughs) I had her take a picture of me. She's getting better, but the fact that I would put my camera around her neck and let her play with it, completely broke the ice. Two minutes later she's posing with her friend for a perfect photograph in my mind. And it absolutely changed everything. And then they're sharing high-fives, they're changing hair pins. (audience laughs) They can't have enough of their photographs taken. And then they say, come back to our house. You have to come back to our house and so they invite us back to their house. And there's Kenna, and we're playin' patty-cake, and she's shootin' videos and we're havin' a grande ole time in their house having a really intimate, thorough, original experience in this land. Her parents are there, they're havin' fun, we're havin' fun. Everybody's havin' a good time. But that photo wouldn't have come about if I couldn't break the ice somehow. And you're not always gonna be able to break the ice with somebody, but having fun, showing how much you appreciate them, their country, paying a compliment to them, can do it for many different people. So if you wanna build trust, be happy, be easy going, try to speak in their native language if you can. It's more important to establish a relationship and walk away without a photograph, than getting photograph where you ruin that relationship. So work on that relationship and so sometimes I just tell people, everybody, just keep your cameras down. Do not take photos. Let's get in, let's talk, let's have a good time, let's get comfortable with each other. And then I'll ask you if I can take your photograph, and I think that is better for everybody involved. If you can laugh that helps out so much. And of course thank them when you're done. Alright the classic portrait. This is more of your head and shoulders-type shot and this is of course where you've used your building trust techniques to talk to somebody, to get permission to photograph them. These are still often situations where you have seconds in which to get the shot. And so there's a very good technique that works in a lot of situations. The simple side of the technique is avoid direct sunshine alright? Middle of the day, bright sunshine on the face is what you wanna avoid. A situation that works really good is an open doorway. You have all this light from the outside coming in, illuminating him, and you're cropping it out, and you're framing without the doorway right here. And you end up with this background that's kind of nice and soft and a little bit darker than your subject, and so your subject can really stand out in that environment. And so using these doorways which are all over the place, are places how I get a lot of these shots. I'm being very conscious about where my background is. Sometimes I'm choosing my background before my subject. Working with early light, or late light, so it's not bright sun, middle of the day light. You're not gonna see any photos in here that are shot in the bright middle sunny day. It's just very, very difficult to do. Alright I just lied to you. This was taken in the middle of a bright sunny day, but it's inside with window light. And this gives us a very nice light. I'm usually shooting with lenses no faster than aperture of F4. And so you think wow that's great shallow depth-of-field. It's not really that fast a lens. Even light on the face. So figure out where you want them to be, just tell 'em to stand there, talk to them if you can, try to keep them at ease, and get your shots and get out. I particularly like the blue background 'cause that blue and yellow. I like those combos. Now my favorite portrait of all is this little boy in Jordan. It's not this shot, but we were having lunch with the family, he had this turban on when I got there and then he took it off 'cause he's a four year old boy. And then I (laughs) was like (sighs) boy he really looked good with the turban so I asked his mom, could you put the turban back on? And he put the turban back on and he was just so concerned about drinking tea. Wasn't really interested in me. And so he, he's like what are you doing? And then he was very distracted back and forth. I like this shot here 'cause you see his lips right through the glass but my favorite one is where he kinda turns his head a little bit and just glances his gigantic eyes right at me, and he's looking directly into the lens and then, like a four year old boy he's lookin' someplace else. Just a moment later and so there is that one moment where you can get that glance. And that's what you're trying to really hone in on. Get everything else setup so you can concentrate on that one moment that makes it a little bit better then everything else. So get all this set ahead of time. Don't waste their time with it. Something that I think is a very important rule, is that you do not shoot over another photographer's shoulder when they are shooting a portrait. It is very intimidating to a subject. They don't know where to look and nobody's gonna get a good photograph. And so anybody on one of my tours, if somebody's photographing, if somebody else wants to get a photograph, you ask everybody if you can step in and do the next one. But the whole paparazzi photo shoot, I do not like to be a part of. Avoiding the bright sunlight as we mentioned numerous times. Typically I'm using a short telephoto lens. For me most often it's a 70 to 200 F4 lens. Not the fanciest lens but it does a very good job right here. And focus on the nearest eye, that's what we want in focus.