Note my trendy hat.
So I was down on the beach the other night, just loitering around, and there’s this guy shooting portraits. Now this isn’t an uncommon theme at the beach at sunset, but I don’t often go there, so watching someone else work was interesting for me.
But something odd happened. After every image, the photographer would “chimp,” or look at the back of his camera, something I can’t imagine doing, at least not after every single frame.
It’s tempting to do this, but it sure does break up any kind of connection you have with the people you are photographing.
Just as they get involved, you stop and stare at your camera? Then they get involved again and you stop and look at the camera.
The idea of connecting with the people seemed lost as the photographer kept staring at his equipment, then moving slightly, then shooting one frame, and then stopping, again and again.
I guess, in theory, the image preview is supposed to assist the photographer in making decisions, but I sure don’t see it working that way. I think it shows the photographer what they did wrong, then instead of adapting, they tend to quickly make a slight move then “try again.”
As someone posing for a photographer, I would be wondering what in the heck was going on.
But then it got even stranger. After every fourth or fifth image, the photographer would walk up and show the client the images he was making.
Again, I can’t imagine doing this. How anticlimactic can you be?
Is it insecurity? Is it because you are getting images you think are beyond fantastic and it is critical they see them? Or is THIS the attempt to get the client involved?
All of this is foreign to me.
For me, once I’ve seen the image, the magic is gone, at least that initial magic, and not just for me, but the client as well.
I like to live without seeing the image, to leave a little mystery, so I can then edit, and then present in a way that best represents the images, laying out those one or two photographs that are impossible to look away from.
If the client has already seen everything you shot, then where is the excitement level? Where is the mystery?
When I shoot digital I get plenty of people saying, “Can I see it?” My response is always, “No.” “What fun would that be?”
It’s not just portrait photography. I’ve been on set when photographers are shooting advertising, tethered, and the client is sitting there behind the monitor looking at the images. It isn’t photography, it’s just supplying content, and it contains little to no real visual power. “Great, got it, move on,” kinda thing.
And last year in New York I watched three guys shooting a fashion spread, tethered, with a laptop, and watched how disinterested and detached the model was. After each pop of the strobes, all three guys would huddle around the laptop and try to correct what they had just created. The model would make faces to her friends in the back.
I guess this is where we are today, and perhaps I’m just seeing it in a strange way, or perhaps I’m misinterpreting something?
It appears, in some ways, like this equipment has created a slight barrier between us and what we are trying to photograph.
For me, photography is still about moments, the unknown and the edit, and less about immediate “satisfaction” and looking at every frame I shoot.
Watching these folks work has made me realize I need to watch myself when I use this equipment and make sure I’m not doing these same things.
As I moved off the beach I took a seat at a park bench and watched the sunset unfold. Got into a conversation with this old guy about my bicycle, as he told me about riding from Fairfax to Palos Verdes back in the day, fifty miles, and how tired he was.
I watched as another photographer made pictures of a couple. Shoot one frame. Chimp. Shoot one frame. Chimp.