Taking a portrait of someone can in fact be a difficult task to do at times. When it comes to a family member, they always try play down the picture saying, “it just doesn’t look nice.” Whilst on the other extreme its very nerve wracking taking a picture of someone you don’t know, as you have no idea how they will react at all.
In the past, I have taken photos of my family so many times that they have become used to it (with the odd moan here and there) it’s no longer become a challenge for me to show them off. So taking a picture of someone I know well, I wanted to mix it up a bit.
SO I decided to focus on taking portraits of my housemates for this year. These are the people I have agreed a legal binding contract with, and whom I have to live with for the next year. So it would be wise to say that getting to know them well enough is a very important aspect.
I decided to take two different approaches to the pictures in order to give some variety. Firstly, as a group we have watched films and shows late at night as bonding sessions as well as chilling out.
So I wanted to get the television lighting to show up in the picture as a way of highlighting Lee. Secondly, I wanted to show off the other little bits and pieces that are floating around in the area as well; as a university students, we all have chargers, glasses etc lying around, so to not include them is almost as if they are trying to be hidden on purpose. Finally, I wanted to get that relaxed body position as well; having Lee sitting up straight and stiff would of seemed to unnatural for someone sitting on a sofa by themselves, where most people would be sprawled out. The key for this shot was really, getting Lee to just do what he has done every night.
The second picture is simpler, yet is focuses more on the actions of what goes on in the house as well. We are continuously in and out of the kitchen, so I captured the moment in which Will would be entering from one doorway to another, with the light difference acting as that transition.
These two pictures were much easier to take as I felt more comfortable in getting my camera out and taking the pictures, with no questions asked at all. For portraitists, having the confidence to take those shots is key to making it look right.
And on that point, we move onto the picture of someone we don’t know. This is where building that confidence is key to achieving what you want. And I found that actually, the best way to do this wasn’t by stopping in front of someone, ask him or her for a picture and run away. Rather, I followed a similar technique that Humans of New York uses; talk to them first. Hold a conversation for a bit and talk about what they do, their life and so on.
And by that, you begin to build up a quick acquaintanceship with that person, hence allowing you and them to more comfortable around the camera. As in just one picture, you can tell if the subject is putting on a false bravado or if they don’t want to be there at all.
So for my portrait I had gone around Coventry Market talking to some of the stall members; working with my Dad in Covent Garden Fruit Market in the past has already given me the facts of how things work there, so striking up conversations were quite easy, yet interesting still as it is a completely different lifestyle. And with this chap, he was more then happy for me to take his picture in the end, providing that it was good looking enough!