By Allen McEachern.
I recently had the experience of working with non-professional models to create advertising for a national brand. The reason was that the client wanted to use their real employees to show the face of their company. This is an increasing trend in advertising photography. I believe that in this case it was a great approach to being transparent with the bigger message. The campaign has the goal of recruiting new employees. The message is that it is not just a job, but a career - highlighting the possibility for advancement with in the company.
The challenge for photographers, in this case me, is to be selective and honest with the candidates to be photographed. Without the intent of hurting feelings…not all people photograph well. The client is expecting a specific result and it starts by choosing the “right” people available at the time. When I am involved in the selection process I try to get the most visual information from the subject as quickly as I can. I try to see a range of expressions, looking at them from different perspectives. I start by getting them comfortable with me, making them laugh, or asking about them. I also want to start and build a raport with them as quickly as possible, make them feel at ease, relaxed.
Once we have a selection of staff to be photographed, I like to put them in context of their work. Place them or leave them in a place that is familiar to them. I ask the subject to show me something specific to their work, or tell me something about what they do. I ask questions and get engaged. Reading this back to myself I know this sounds obvious, but it really is a skill that has to be developed over time and delivered with ease, naturally.
I explain what I will be doing. How many shots will I be looking to make. What my goal is. “I am looking to make three strong portraits of you in three different poses. These images will be used for…….It should take us about so much time.” You get the picture. I explain briefly the settings of the camera and how they impact what I am creating - depth of field, lighting, sometimes describing a mood that I want to create. Most people are curious about photography and explaining what I am doing helps them focus on something else. I will even show them an image or two (beauty of digital). This can really help put people at ease once they see how they look. (* Use caution here - I won’t show images to someone that I sense as being self conscious or over nervous, or controlling - it could turn negative fast.)
Once the raport is established and the shooting starts, I am reading the subject’s body language. Are they engaging? How do they look? Am I getting both sides, different positions, changing the positions of the hands, the head, looking for details, making sure they look their best. I try to create as many options as I can. Horizontal, vertical, close up, medium, full length. Different placement in the frame, different lenses (two cameras) different d.o.f. settings, slight lighting adjustments. I am also very attentive to how the subject is feeling. Are they really nervous? Are they bored or distracted? Are they laughing for no reason?
My goal is to create the most value for the client. I also want to make the person being photographed feel proud about the images we create. If I can do these two as a base then I know it will work out for all of us.
How do you handle photographing everyday people for advertising? I think this is something that we will see more of. What are your thoughts.