Connection Through Photography
With your camera, you have the ability to create memories as well as capture them, building connection with others through the process. My sister-in-law told me that one thing that initially drew her to photography was the way that it allowed her to connect with her kids when they were young. They would go outside and she would get down on their level to interact and play with them as she photographed them. She was both creating and capturing beautiful moments. I love this.
There is a connection that happens when you photograph someone, or when they photograph you. This is why some people love having their photo taken, and some hate it. For in that moment you are SEEN. There’s a vulnerability required.
Most small children love to be the center of attention, so they will jump up and down or pick a flower or twirl their dress . . . whatever you ask them to do. As kids get older, though, they stop loving this so much because they become more self-conscious. In these years it’s harder to get those shots, but it’s worth fighting for. Even if they say they don’t want the photo, it may secretly make them feel special that you want one of them, and that you’ll go the extra mile to get it.
It is truly a gift to use a camera as a tool of connection. For children or adults who don’t want to be photographed, it may take a bit of finesse, a bit of sweet talking, and a bit of luck. But I truly believe that it’s worth the effort. Time keeps marching on, and it’s these moments of connection that take us back to that exact moment in time. Kids change so quickly, loved ones pass away, and the landscape of our lives is constantly shifting.
Take a moment today to connect with someone through photography. Take their photo, but be intentional about seeing them, capturing them, and interacting with them. After you take a photo, don’t just go straight to your phone and start posting your shot, missing out on the moment with them. Engage with real life in front of you. Post the shot later.
Maybe even hand your camera to someone else to let them photograph you. For some of us, it’s harder than others to do this. But don’t beat yourself up for not looking like you did a decade ago. Let yourself be captured in time as well. Let yourself be seen as you stare into that lens. Give yourself grace to see yourself as others see you. There’s beauty in this journey of life, and these moments of connection document it as we go.
Here's ten ways to build connection through portrait photography:
- Tell your subject something that is beautiful or noteworthy about them as you photograph them. Make sure you’re sincere, not just giving empty flattery.
- If you already know the person, go a little deeper and tell them a character trait that you appreciate about them (kind, wise, adventurous, fun, positive, etc.) and try to capture that throughout the session.
- If you’re photographing a family, have everyone take turns looking at each one of the kids, giving that person their full attention. Photograph this for each child.
- Focus on affirmation and lots of positive coaching, for kids and adults both. Steer away from anything perceived as negative. This will help the photo shoot become a good memory instead of bad, and will nurture joy and confidence in your subject.
- If you’re photographing a child, ask them to “help” you (find a flower, make their little sister laugh, show their brother how to write his name in the sand, etc.). Get down on their level and make them feel important.
- Wait for moments of genuine emotion and capture these candidly. (always be aware and watching for this, and quickly snap the shot when you see it).
- If you’re photographing an adult, let their personality guide you. If they’re fun and carefree, tell jokes and let them be silly. If they are reserved, try to capture a more serious, pensive, or documentary type shot of them. If possible, photograph their interaction with others in the shot for a more natural look (not their “camera smile”).
- When appropriate (with willing family or friends) hand your camera to someone else and ask them to photograph you. Ask them if they have any ideas and follow them if so. For slightly older children (that you trust with your camera!) ask them to take some photos of you from their perspective as well.
- Consider photographing a person with something that is meaningful to them (a pet, a flower, a football, a book, etc.) and maybe even in a place that is meaningful (their home, a park, a beach, etc.)
- Have fun with the person, old or young! The best photo sessions capture a moment in time, and are just as much about the experience of it all as they are about the final images. Create memories as you capture them, and the final photos will be much more meaningful.
In summary, if you are actively looking for ways to encourage, serve and bless the person or people you’re photographing, you will find them. Create a positive environment and your photos will reflect this. True connection with others can increase their joy, and yours as well, so aim for this in every portrait shoot.
My "Looking for the Light: Photography & Life" online course will launch in 2021. Are you interested in learning more about photography? Click below to view more about the course.
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