Monday, May 28, 2012

What a difference a word makes...

Its funny, but I never thought I needed a qualifier when I said I was a photographer. For me, photography encompasses a wide range of interpretation. There are the landscape photographers, like myself. There are portrait photographers, sports photographers, etc etc... I never thought that someone thinking I was a photographer meant that I did all forms of photography. After all, there are a range of teachers... special education, physical education, arts, music, drama, math, english.... not to mention those lucky individuals in elementary education that somehow manage to incorporate a wide range of these into their curriculum. But you wouldn't necessarily expect that your P.E. teacher (the one who lectures you on the finer points of dodgeball) would also pick up the reins of your music class and teach you the best way to warm up for your solo...

 But I digress.... again... yes, I know, its a terminal condition with me.

My online "portfolio" shows landscape after landscape... broad vistas, close up shots of wildflowers and interspersed with a healthy sprinkling of farm animals.

Like these handsome beauties

As a gal who is still learning (and has masses more yet to learn!) I can often be found hauling out my camera and trying my hand at new things... a dance competition (hopelessly blurred... see the post on that mishap here) I've hauled my camera out on road trips, trying to capture some of the local "wildlife", but I always seem to click the shutter a split second too late.... catching little moments just after they happen. Oh well, I figured, I'm a nature and wildlife girl so what does it matter?

Turns out it matters a lot.

I was at my friend's house where one of her daughters was excitedly showing off the photos taken from her latest dance... photos of herself and her date that she had paid good money for.   Photos that were, in my untrained opinion, a total rip off. I then did something not entirely uncommon to me: I opened my mouth and inserted my foot so deep I was licking my kneecaps (and, if truth be told, noting that I needed a shave).

"Honestly Kitten" I heard myself say.  "I could do much better than these and I wouldn't even charge you. Let me know when your next dance is and I'll come out and take your pictures."

Wait... did I just offer to do a real photo session of sorts?

Even if it is for a girl I totally adore, what in the world was I thinking? I don't do portraits. I have no idea about proper lighting and composition. That's the great thing about flowers and fields, mountains and trees... you don't have to direct them. With nature you just keep snapping away until something comes out decent. Heck, horses are so naturally graceful that its pretty hard to not get a good shot of them and here I am offering to photograph teenagers? At least it was a darling girl I knew and loved and I told myself how hard can it be, after all, this kid is a bit of a ham in front of the camera anyway.

A few weeks went by and then here it came... the last dance of the school year. Would I please take pictures of not only my adopted teen, but of her friends and their dates as well? Now I had done it. I had to look like I knew what I was doing?

 Oh the things I am willing to do for this kid!

The big day came... I took time to change into a nice shirt and clean jeans (might as well look a bit professional). I was kicking myself for not having gotten around to sewing my new camera strap, but, since there was nothing I could do about it, I headed over with a cloud of anxiety forming around me.

7 couples.

Thankfully they all arrived in dribs and drabs and not all at once. I'd snagged Kitten's younger sister early for a couple preliminary shots in the yard and established 3 good backdrops so I took the first couple out around the yard, keeping up a patter of conversation all the while and trying to act like I knew what I was doing. 

Couples 1 and 2 were unknown to me, and, thankfully, since I was photographing each group separately, I was able to use a lot of the same jokes over.  I loosened a bit when I realized that the kids were more scared of the camera than I was and began to enjoy myself.  I was easier with my jokes and directions and found the courage to start getting the kids to smile more and to look like they were enjoying themselves instead of (at least in the guys' cases) looking like lambs being led to the slaughter.  

Couple 3 was my Kitten and her date, so that was fun, except I had to rein my girl in a time or two as she has a habit of breaking into goofy looks and gestures when she's nervous.  The next two couples were also easy, since I knew the girls (they both not only attended, but also helped out at my wedding). The last two couples were running pretty late and the light was failing fast, but we managed to get some shots before the bunch of them wandered off to a bbq before the dance.  I headed back into my friend's house tired, but very happy it was over. I would say I felt relieved, but that wouldn't happen until I had a chance to review my shots.

The next morning I downloaded my memory card and started going through the pictures. Sure enough, there were lousy shots... especially with the last two couples where we were fighting the light, but I was happy to see that each couple also had shots that looked pretty good. Good enough that I was able to edit an average of 6 pictures per couple.  Some shots were only good in black and white, and for a bunch of free photos done as a favor, they weren't bad, but I still found myself stressing and getting more and more nervous that these didn't look more pro.

When I dropped by my friend's house later that week to give them the photos they were surprised to find I had edited the images.  I thought I had mentioned that to them beforehand, but now it makes sense as to why they were confused that it took me 3 days to get through the files.  But as I explained that it takes time to go through 7 batches of photos and whiten teeth, clean up blemishes, erase random hairs floating in the breeze and, in one case, fix a great shot barely missed by doing a head swap with the image before it, I was greeted with stunned surprise.  My friend reached out and whacked me lightly, "Silly girl," she said.  "No one expected you to do any of that. You do too much."

But that's just who I am... if I am going to offer someone my photographic skills (such as they may be) you'd better be darn sure I am going to put them in their best light, so to speak.  Besides, its what you do when you care about the gal you are doing all of this for.  And anyway, I told them it was also done so I could get more experience in for when I do Kitten's senior pictures this coming fall and spring (another offer, but this one I am now looking forward to as Kitten is incredibly fun to work with).  Seeing their reactions (Kitten, her mom and my "Cowgirl" from the photoshoot all went through the files) was a nice reward as they loved the pictures and were beyond happy with how they turned out.  Guess that will teach me to waste time on worrying....

Nah, worry is a default mode with me.

So do I now consider myself a portrait photographer?  Not in the least.  In fact, this has convinced me that this is not a direction I want to go in.  Figuring out compositions, making adjustments to where you are standing, the look on your face (you'd think teens on a date would want to smile more), and all of the continual banter that goes on during the session is absolutely exhausting.  The bundle of nerves that goes on until you can actually confirm you've taken decent shots and not wasted an afternoon would drive me nuts if I was to do it on a regular basis. 

But then, I did get some really cute shots (by the way, it was a themed "matching hats" dance)...

Kitten and friends in a cute candid moment

Kitten and her date

One of the couples I met that the fedoras
 Love this shot....for not being a "Country Girl" she pulls it off well.
Another couple I met that night.... and I love the candid shots from their photoshoot

These two were cute, but then they were also pretty relaxed around each other which helped a lot

No comments: