Last weeks blog was about the subtle art of candid photography. It was full of candid photography tips on how to get into the right mindset, how to let things evolve, tips on camera settings and the best camera for candid photography.
In the blog, I touched briefly on the point of making a connection with the people you photograph. In this months quote I would like to elaborate on that:
“It’s More Important To Click With People Than To Click The Shutter.”
– Alfred Eisenstaedt.
Be a People Person
I like the little wordplay Alfred Eisenstaedt is making here.
But it’s true. Clicking with people is the most meaningful thing you can do when you’re clicking your fellow human beings whether you know them or not.
This goes for the actual shoot itself, obviously but in general, as a people photographer, you need to be a people person. Someone that’s fascinated by the human race in all its beauty, quirkiness and realness. Who likes to make connections with people from all walks of life and is open to the things that connect us.
Possessing a certain sense of naivete when it comes to getting into new and adventurous situations is a plus. People with a childlike openness, curiosity, and wonder are the ones who make an effort to click with people before they click the shutter.
Step Away From The Camera
Photographers are often seen as the lone wolf. The person who prefers to hide behind the camera.
Well, let me tell you right now that’s a myth.
There’s no way you can take a picture of another human being that connects with your viewers when you did not connect to the human in front of your camera.
The most important thing you can do as a people photographer is stepping away from your camera and actually talk to people. This doesn’t mean you have to be this all over the place outgoing person. It does mean you need to have a genuine interest in who your subject is and what drives her or him.
Smile, make eye contact, even if it’s for a second. Everybody has a story to tell and there is nothing more valuable you can give another human being then your time and attention.
When you listen people start to trust you and they become more and more relaxed once you actually do raise your camera and click the shutter.
Break Through the Wall
But you know I do get it, it’s safe to hide behind your camera. It’s comfortable to have this thing between you and the outside world. It can be scary to break through that imaginary wall you put up. It’s a challenge to become part of the life you’re trying to capture. And to get involved in the scene you’re photographing.
I was like that for a long time. I was the fly on the wall. Observing and documenting life as it unfolded in front of me but never quite being part of it.
At the time it was the only way I knew how to be because no one had taught me otherwise. That was my role as a photographer. Or so I thought.
But honestly, it didn’t feel like a compliment when a client would tell me: ‘We never knew you were there. We didn’t see you.’ Because I didn’t like to be the fly on the wall.
I had a heartfelt desire to break through that fourth wall, step on the stage and connect with the people I was photographing. Once I did my work became so much more satisfactory and profoundly better.
Because you know in the end the photographer is a human being who thrives on the time and attention given to her by other humans as well. It’s not only about the connections you make with them. The connection they make with you is as important.
When the person in front and the person behind the camera are equally connected and at ease, you create the magic together. And that’s what it’s all about.
Only then the humans in front of the camera will feel free to share who they are at that moment. They will share their joy, their love, their struggles, and their sorrow.
As a result, you don’t take the picture. Instead, it’s given to you. It becomes the best gift you can receive as a photographer.
Show Your Face
Clicking the shutter is the easy part for me. Clicking with people is the one thing that keeps me challenged in photography. Because it’s new every single time.
So if you’re one of those photographers who hide behind the camera jump on stage and make connections.
Show your face and click with people before you click the shutter.
Because when you’re traveling the most rewarding thing you can do is to get to know the people you meet on the road.
Tell me, do you prefer hiding behind your camera? How are you gonna change that?
Alfred Eisenstaedt is the master photographer who shot the world-famous picture of the US sailor kissing a woman on Time Square in celebration of U.S. victory over Japan in 1945. If you’ve never heard of him you should definitely check him out.
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