In Stage Photography as in Wedding Photography, I’m observing and recording more than creating. In a wedding situation I can set up the occasional shot as required by tradition. When photographing live performances I have no control over anything except where I’m shooting from, and if there’s an audience, not even that. So I don’t see myself as creating photographs. I can influence the outcome to a degree, but it starts from what’s in front of me. And much the same thing happens in my portrait work.
Now you may think that doesn’t sound like a surefire way to get a cracking portrait of someone, so I’d better expand on it a bit. There are many photographers that I admire who are actually creating art. They can spend weeks on elaborate set-ups, spend an age on the computer, and finish with works of great beauty. I’m the other kind. I like a plain background, a simple set-up, often a single light-source, maybe a reflector. Many of the ‘makeover’ shots in the gallery were lit by nothing more than the open door. And I like for you to end up looking like you. Incidentally, theatrical agents feel the same way about headshots. They need to look like you. Not the way you think you look, or the way you’d like to look. Not the way you could look if you had twelve hours to get ready. But the way you actually do look.
To be honest, I’m not even really trying to capture the Inner You. I’m perfectly happy getting a good shot of the Outer You, which will be much more useful.
To be clinical, your face, my face, everyone’s face, has a handful of angles and viewpoints from which it looks best. If you like I’ll find them for you. What we’ll do is take the face that Nature, diet, and lifestyle choices have given you and we’ll make the photograph that says all the best things about it.
A word about ‘rapport’. This is a posh way of saying we need to get on. In stage photography it’s not quite so vital. I’m in the fifth row back and if we’re not instant besties I just won’t laugh at the funny parts. It won’t affect the photos. Weddings are a different matter. I’m going to be with you eight or nine hours, being introduced to your family, close friends, and work-colleagues. Jeepers, we’d better have something in common or a long day’s going to be a very long day. So we meet up long beforehand and drink coffee and swap anecdotes.
With portraits or any other one-to-one photography, it’s vital. If the sitter is thinking “This man is a pillock” you will see it on their face as clearly as if they were holding up a placard. Likewise if the model/subject would rather be in a dentist’s waiting-room than on a stool in my studio. They often have to drive home so getting them drunk is a non-starter, which means we have to give a little time and thought to ways of lowering everyone’s stress levels a bit. When I look at the stuff I’ve done I like to think that for the most part, the smiles look genuine rather than stapled into place.
Now relax; this won’t hurt a bit.