Graduation season is one of great opportunity for the beginning photographer. The availability of willing subjects is practically limitless in this arena. Due to the low pressure that comes with Grad photography, using a friend, of family member makes gaining experience quite simple. One of the best ways to glean experience is by finding a friend who is a photographer and hopping along on one of their shoots. As for myself, I tried to remember what my photographer did for my graduation photos:
Where had she placed me?
Did I feel awkward?
What did I like the best?
These are great questions to ask yourself, before heading out with your graduate.
Many graduates head to the nearest studio they know of, or even the one that has the best price, and get their photos done sometime in the winter. However, it has come to my knowledge that many grads really wanted outdoor photos, and often are displeased with the photos that they end up with. This makes your job even easier; no studio necessary for these photos! Here is how to get started and gain some experience without totally stressing yourself out!
1. Ask a friend or family member that has already had their grad photos taken (Even better yet, choose one that doesn’t like the ones they have!)
2. Do some outdoor work, where nature becomes your greatest asset.
3. Try different poses. Remember you have nothing to lose!
Many times we take for granted what happens in a studio. Remember? Just think about your local Wal-Mart. The lights are preset for each pose. The poses are all the same; the camera takes the same photo, just a different subject. Props don’t really change all that much between models, just the same old photo taken the same old way. Being an outdoor photographer is actually the more challenging job. Using the outdoors makes for a more realistic pose, beside gives you the experience without having to buy all the equipment that you would need in a studio. This job comes with many benefits, as well as challenges. As the photographer, you have to come up with your own poses, but each one is unique and personally designed by you; Lighting changes, but you gain the experience of working in many different situations; the subject changes, but so do your ideas. Through this you learn to flow with your subject and make the photo a photo of them, not a pre-made, pre-designed look that ‘Joey down the street’ has too. This is your cutting edge.
Here are some things to keep in mind:
1. Try and remember what your subject’s personality is. Don’t put them in a situation that would make them feel of look uncomfortable.
2. Be sure to look at some of the tips in my last article on Basic Portraiture and also in Mr. Steere’s article as well.
3. Take your grad to your favorite park and shoot away.
This year my sister Carol graduated from high school (grade A student I might add!). I did take her grad photos, so I was completely ‘her photog’ for this special year! However, through taking her photos, I gained the same experience mentioned above, besides being able to give her a very special graduation present. It was total ‘sister day’, and for the fun of it, we brought along a few of her other graduating friends, and I shot some portraits of them as well. Here is the process that I went through when shooting.
When I arrived at the park, I started by:
Taking in a general ‘big picture’ of the park. What were my surroundings, and what struck me first as a potential spot.
Picking a corner and started posing.
Taking the same photo from a different angle. The first pose you choose may not be the ‘winner’. But shooting gives you confidence and also gets your mind thinking more creatively.
Here are a few examples:
Do I like this pose? Good question. But more importantly did Carol like this pose? NO! We both didn’t like it for basically one reason. Here feet seemed to ‘scrunched-up’ and she looked uncomfortable. Keep in mind that the more you shoot, the more comfortable they will look.
This was Carol's and my favorite pose. She looks comfortable. The lighting is nice-gives her a great rim light. (Rim Light = light that accents the ‘rim’ of her hair.)
Pose # 3
I liked this one, because she looks so at ease. Take a closer look at her sandal! I did not ask her to cross her feet and appear to be so nonchalant. In my opinion, it makes the photo. Key Promo here: She looks very comfortable.
Do I like this? Sure I think she looks cute. However, for her this brings back bad memories of her fear that she would tumble into the small creek that lay at the bottom of the slope she was perched on. So, that makes this photo a winner for me, but a loser for her. Using my Grandfather’s favorite saying “The customer is always right” theory; this one is a loser.
These are fun poses with her friends Theresa and Annick. Remember this is the stuff memories are made of! Don’t just take a bunch of smiley, or serious photos. Take some real snap-shots of them being themselves- Do something zany. Here’s a fun idea I have never even tried. Set up your tripod and timer, and just before the photo takes, get into the photo with them! I can guarantee it will make for a unique and fun filled photo! ( A Word of Advise: make sure you know your subject really well before doing anything that crazy. Choose your sister or something!)
Although, I don't claim to know all the tricks of the trade, I hope that some of the things I have learned were spelled out in an applicable way above.