I am trying to develop an emotion or feel through my images... to be honest [my images are] – boring – uncaptivating & unemotional – I would love any direction you could give me. One things that became obvious to me – is that I need to spend more time talking to the models ... & less time shooting. Maybe also be a bit more focused in the shots I want. I almost never find out any sort of backstory about the model, find music that may change the mood or expression ... so, incorporating elements like this may be a step in the right direction.
Got an email from Justin that I've been meaning to answer for weeks now and interestingly, I was asked similar if not the same questions from a photographer at my Calumet workshop today.
Actually within this question are a series of questions that I'm just going to answer and in shotgun-fashion, hope that I hit a/the target.
Uncaptivating & unemotional - It starts at at capture and of course even in prep. The more prepared you are with a concept, the better you can realize a vision. While realizing a vision doesn't guarantee that the resulting images will automatically be captivating and emotional, it does increase the odds that the resulting images will captivate you and move you. What moves you may not move me. But moving you is more important than moving me. We're each on a journey and we need to adhere to those concepts and ideas that move us otherwise we'll fall flat.
Image selection is also critical. I always choose the images that make me do a "double-take". Or something that captures my attention. Usually the images I retouch jump off the screen and scream "Pick me damnit!!!" Of course those are the easy ones to choose. Again, you just have to choose the ones that move you.
And though I'm jumping around here, I find that the more captivated and moved I am when I'm shooting, the more often I'm captivated and moved by the images later on in post-processing. Which leads me to...
Connecting with the model - I've written about this in different forms but connecting with the model in some relatable way is paramount to getting a good shot and creating something that is both captivating and emotional. As a backstory, I recently did a private workshop with a photographer that didn't say 2 words to the model when she was doing hair and makeup. During this time the photographer would get on her computer and either do photoshop, or surf the Interwebz or chat with the wardrobe stylist. This is a prime example of what not to do.
It's bad enough we don't (often) have muses in this day and age. I think the relationship between photographer and muse is broken. I don't think those relationships exist anymore. At least not in the same way that they used to exist. So basically each time you shoot a model, you are usually just meeting her for the first time. Which means you have approximately the time it takes to do hair and makeup to build enough rapport to get some captivating and emotional images.
Yes, there are days I don't want to talk to the model. Those days are rare. And even if I don't want to talk to the model, I still talk to her enough to ensure that she believes we are going to create some incredible images. She has to trust me as a photographer. I have to believe in her as a model.
What do I say? I don't know. It depends on what I can find out about her to connect with her on some human level. Think of it as speed-dating of sorts. Or a 5-minute sell. I mean answer me this: Why should she open up to the camera and reveal parts of her personality that are vulnerable? Why should she push the limits of her expressions, her poses, and try stuff she's not sure will work?
Well if she doesn't know and trust you as a photographer, I can pretty much guarantee she won't.
Captivating and emotional are adjectives that transcend two-dimentional images. They are abstract "things" (for lack of a better word) that can be captured by images. I don't know how. Nor will I attempt to explain why. But I do have a feeling that it has something to do with the human spirit, chemistry, feeling, personality, moment, emotion, etc. So call me a mad scientist but what I think we're after as photographers is to create all the right conditions that are conducive to creating "life". Adding all the ingredients into the "primordial soup" if you will. And hoping beyond hope that life emerges from it.
It's not easy. I'm not sure what the exact ingredients are. I'm not even sure that it's necessarily possible. But we try. Because we've seen it happen. We just aren't sure exactly how and why and when it happens. But the results are addictive and we want more.
So absolutely. Understanding your model can only make it more likely that you'll create something captivating and emotional throughout your shoot!