I gave a lecture in San Francisco last week about editorial photographyfor ASMP. I was asked to present on corporate magazine portrait assignments – what skills are helpful in this field?
One of the main things I touched on was observation – bluntly put, noticing stuff. If I’m in a CEO’s office, I’ll notice the large american car from the 70s in a picture with her kids, or the hand drawn artwork by a child. As I scout, walking around, I keep a mental record of these things, tidbits about the person, keys that may help later. I want my images to show a connection with the subject – I’m not a fan of the expressionless stare. With a limited amount of time, having a means by which to engage someone right from the start is imperative.
In my lecture I described a shoot with a young female IT executive. Being one of very few women in her field, and less than 30 years old to boot, she was very cold and defensive when she arrived. She immediately told me she doesn’t smile – something the magazine specifically requested. Rather than protest and try to coerce an ingenuous smile, I asked her instead about her bracelet. I asked if she had anything to do with the art work in the office. Instantly her expression changed, warming up, she said rather emphatically that much of it was hers. I told her that I noticed a painting on the floor below hers that had the same color palette of the bracelet she was wearing. Indeed the painting was hers and the colors were her favorites.
An intern who was working with me at the time later asked, “How did you know that?” I didn’t, I responded, I just notice stuff. [business portfolio]
Shooting on location in San Francisco last week, I told a guy after he had said only one sentence that he grew up 13 miles from Revere, Massachusetts – I was right. Good guess – helped that I’m from MA. Instantly we had something to talk about.
Same goes for people – on assignment for an annual report we were to do a portrait of a specific scientist. While photographing him, I had noticed this woman working in his lab, and asked her to pose in the background. I later shot images and video of her through this lab shelf. [healthcare portfolio]
Portrait of a scientist at a San Francisco area pharmaceutical company