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Portrait Tips

Portrait Tips: “It’s not about you!”

This is about mindset. Somehow, late in the last century, folks became worried about how they looked in photos. People my grandparents’ and parents’ ages were very concerned about how they looked. It trickled down into my generation, too.

Kids this century have less issue with the minutiae of pictures — maybe it’s because they are in so many photos shared on social media all the time. Whatever it is, we are missing pictures of certain people because they feel un-photogenic. Some are so concerned with it that they get panic attacks thinking about being in a family portrait.

I wish I could say something inspiring and have these people instantly change their minds, but it’s harder than that. You and I need to respect their feelings. If you can empathize with those feelings, then you can share some stories about how you’re overcoming your aversion to being in pictures. And you’d better be overcoming it! How can you ask your clients to do something you won’t do yourself?

Here’s one thing I’m working on, and I think it’d be helpful for you, too.

“Family portraits aren’t about you”

We make family portraits so that our kids and grandkids can see what we all looked like together. We’ll look back and laugh at fashions, but we’ll also look back and see similarities. I’d love to see pictures of my grandfather at my age — people say I look just like him, but I’d like to see it for myself. In fact, photos of my grandparents and great grandparents would be very valuable to me and to my clients.

Lumix G9, 42.5mm f/1.2 lens, f2.0, 1/2000s, ISO 400, white reflector up front.

I’d show an aged photo to my client and say:

“I don’t know what my grandmother thought of this picture — I don’t know if she loved that dress, or if she was having a bad hair day. I do know that seeing her now, and seeing my father standing next to her as a child, is priceless to me. I’m glad she made the effort to be photographed, despite the stresses it involves. I look at photos of myself and I see the ‘flaws’ first of all. But I now know that the pictures aren’t about me, but they are about giving the next generation a touchstone for memories. I’m glad you’re making the effort to be photographed, and I know your kids and grandkids will appreciate it, too.”

I hope this kind of dialogue can help you with your clients, and I hope it can help you, too. You owe it to your friends and family to be in at least as many photos as you make of others. I promise it’ll be worth it.

Portrait Tips come out each week, and you can see them all right here.

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