Just last week I got a call from a very nice professional who, like many of my clients, needed a portrait done for her company’s website. Unfortunately, her reluctance was off the charts. She was extremely nervous at the prospect of having her picture taken and who could blame her? Truth be told, most human beings feel buck naked in front of camera. Not all the long ago, some primitive people believed that photographers were stealing souls. I am not so sure they were wrong.
So, I tried a little humor to calm her down a bit. “So, it sounds like you would rather have a root canal?”
She chuckled. Which was a good sign.
“George, from the earliest that I can remember, I hated having my photograph taken. You see, my dad was a photographer.”
“And he was constantly taking pictures of me!”
Guilty as charged. I have been photographing my own daughter when she was still in the womb.
“I look at those shots he took. Agh. I hate them. I am just not photogenic.”
Now, just hold the presses there, madam.
“Can I tell you something? You and my daughter, who is now thirty-one years old, have an awful lot in common. The last time I tried to take her picture she stuck her finger right up her nose at me. My daughter is so sick and tired me sticking a camera in her face that she has even banned my cameras from her house.”
“Smart girl,” she laughed this time. We were getting somewhere now.
“I know it’s easy for me to say but I do understand how you feel. But when I work with my clients, we are in this soup together. You won’t have to worry about the clock. We will take as many shots as we need. There won’t be any pressure or posing stuff you see in the Hollywood movies or some magazine. Every shot will go into the computer. So you can forget about blotchy skin, double-chins and even crooked noses.”
“How about root canals?”
“Welllll….you are going to have to see my sister, the dentist, for that. I know I have her card around here somewhere. Let me see….”
“O.K,” she said, taking a deep breath, meaning it. “O.K.”
What she would soon discover is that I know what I am talking about. Over the past forty years, I have taken over 20,000 portraits – which is not too bad for a guy who has seen the heights of celebrity fame and the lows of dog-dirty, Skid Row sidewalks. Throughout these years of seeking to be the best in my field, I have learned what great portrait photographers – like Gordon Parks, Yosef Karsh and George Hurrell – knew very well.
And it is this.
To achieve great portraits takes more than talent and life experience. You have to also understand the underlying dynamics of human nature and the vulnerability inherent in portraiture. Knowing how human beings think and feel, Parks, Karsh and Hurrell became masters in their craft, because, above all their natural gifts and technical skills, they also had the ability to make their subjects laugh, feel safe and take down the masks that we all hide behind.
So it is with me.
I am a creative artist who works with his clients to create a timeless image of their beauty, dignity, personality and unique selves. Doesn’t matter if the shot is for the web, some brochure or headshot, I guarantee that the process will be what I have promised — warm, friendly, without pressure and even enjoyable.
Such is the joy of my life. Few things come close to hearing the words, “George, I have never had a good picture taken of myself until now.”
Accomplish that and you are at a higher end of portraiture. You have found a photographer – and a friend — into whose hands you can entrust yourself.