One of the keys to successful portrait photography is learning that the most important buttons you can push are not on your camera.

On the eve of the 2006 NBA finals, I got a call to shoot Miami Heat All-Star guard Dwyane Wade for People Magazine. Dwyane was sick as a dog with a 103 degree fever, yet he was happy to give it his best shot.

Im often asked what I say to bring out the expression I want when photographing a portrait. The truth is there is no magic phrase but there is a method.

Rather than telling someone to smile or look confident, you plant a thought to put them in their mind to get the expression you want.

I handed Wade a basketball that I’d painted gold and as he held the gold ball in his hands I told him it looked like the top of the NBA Championship trophy. Suddenly he wasn’t thinking about the shoot.

Wade’s confidence overtook his fever as he pictured his first championship.

Exactly two weeks later, Wade was hoisting the NBA Championship trophy with the gold basketball on top.

I’m certainly not saying that was because of me…but maybe just a little

It’s all about pushing the right buttons.