Sunday, May 24, 2009

Paid for Pictures

Only four hours after I bolted awake worried about all the things that could go wrong, I had my first photo shoot with a paying customer yesterday. It was a humbling experience but highly educational. And a whole lot of fun, especially when Brad pronounced himself a "satisfied customer."

"And not just because I'm easy," he promised.

Let me tell you: It's one thing for someone to say he likes your pictures. It's quite another when he hands you $200 to get copies of them.

And we got some good ones, as you can see in the slide show below. The only disclaimer I'll offer is that I compressed it to fit into the blog template so some of the images will show distortions. See the slide show at normal size here.

You can see that Brad's six-year-old daughter was the star of the show. I did take more shots of Brad and his wife than you'd guess by looking at the highlights I chose but I will have to be more cognizant about making sure I get enough shots of all the subjects.

While I'd like to think that a photogenic subject is not the sole reason I captured some good images, I was disappointed that too many of the 500 or so frames I shot were worthless. An energetic kindergartner is hard to keep up with -- and keep in focus! -- but a lot of shots had no good excuse for their soft focus or poor framing.

What a shame, too. Not only for Brad's sake -- or my portfolio's. The principal reason I started shooting photographs is because I like looking at photographs. I hate to miss a shot that I might have admired later.

That was the humbling part, as well as the educational part. I simply have to get faster and better with the camera if I'm going to expect people to pay me to use it. I also have to engage the subjects more and give them directions more than I have been.

Hanging back, staying out of the way and shooting with a long lens usually serves me well. There were a few times when I should have told them to smile or to stand in certain places. That would have yielded more good shots. I have to remember that this is not journalism. It's not cheating to tell the subjects what you want.

But my preparation paid off. I had scoured photography message boards and other photographers' sites looking for advice of all kinds, but especially about how to shoot children. "Give them something to do," was the consensus. I brought a Nerf-like ball as well as a pen and some paper and was prepared to buy some soap bubbles but Brad already had some.

The ball was a good idea but I didn't execute the shots. The bubbles gave us some good images, though this was another case when I should have offered more direction. The pen and paper saved the day. At last, our star sat still. For just long enough!

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