by Jamie Rae, Contributing Editor
Do you ever get tired of seeing the same poses? The redundant hand on the hip, “smizing” (smile with eyes!), and tilted head? Same pose, same emotion, same lens, different subject. I know this may sound a little like an info-mercial, but you hear me…image exhaustion and even boredom can set in!
To my dismay I realized my images were tending to this same pattern. I wanted to infuse them with energy and life! I wanted to create something fresh, different, powerful. Over the past several years I have started using what l call “story telling photography”. I use this power of story to bring in that energy and vibrancy that I craved.
Below I will share with you my take on story telling photography, and the three ways it greatly enhances my photography.
Story posing describes the process of infusing an image with emotion and narrative. In a traditional image, the subject is engaged with the camera, usually smiling, getting ready for their portrait. There is nothing wrong with this, in fact traditional portraits, coupled with the right lighting, can be stunning. We all like variety however, and that is where narrative comes in.
To engage my subject in a narrative type of photography, I will “pretend” with them. I keep this very light. I will use phrases like “pretend like your boyfriend just called your name, and you are looking over your shoulder at him.” Or, “Pretend like you are pulling your shoes on and lacing them up.” Or, “Pretend like you are freezing cold in the middle of a snowstorm and trying to warm up” (that one was easy!).
I try to keep emotionally tuned into my subject to gauge how they respond to this type of direction. I will often throw in a silly comment as well, to lighten the mood and let them know we are just having fun. If I want more serious images from my clients, I will give them a story that elicits an emotional response. I might say, “Pretend that you are a little bit worried about a school test, and play with them hem of your dress.” If I want a dreamier expression, I might ask them to think of the thing they most look forward to in life and then look away.
I love working with my clients in this way because it does three things:
- It distracts them from the fact they are getting their picture taken. The pressure is off a little bit from just staring at me and smiling, and they can relax as they concentrate on the task I gave them.
- I can see their beauty in a different way. Seeing their varied expressions and the way that they move in different situations allows me to quickly find those angles and expressions that are the most flattering to them. This is always unique to the individual.
- The third benefit, of course, is that I walk away with unique images from each session that are more likely to captivate. These story telling images allow the viewer to linger over the story and emotion as they are drawn into the movement and mystery of your subject.
Entering your shoot with a narrative approach can be intimidating at first, but I know if you incorporate even a little bit of story posing and direction into your shoots you will walk away refreshed and inspired.
Jamie Rae is a natural light photographer in Portland, Oregon.
She loves helping women tell their unique story of beauty through photographs and does so through portrait and wedding photography.
She lives for learning, lovely light, and the occasional daily chocolate.
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