We live in a world of sorely in need of more personal connection, where mobile devices have taken society by storm. Distracted and disconnected, our eyes are increasingly glued to screens, while attention spans plummet and groups of people share space but barely interact. By focusing on genuine connections and basic human interaction, you can produce more compelling, powerful images, and I want to share some of my tips on how to do this.
Connect with Your Subject
Let’s imagine you are working with a subject on a simple portrait or headshot, and you have a limited amount of time to photograph this person. You have limited time to break down any walls, get through any of the subject’s insecurities, and create something with maximum impact.
Start with a simple conversation. What things do you have in common with this person? I always try to learn as much as I can about someone before photographing them, and I focus on starting a real conversation with them. It’s important to really listen to what they have to say, and show genuine interest. You will be surprised how much someone will open up when they have a captive audience.
People really tend to gush about their interests, whether it’s a beloved hobby or even their children. Focus on having a natural curiosity about others, and get them talking about what they love. Building rapport with your subject is an art, and there are plenty of ways to go about it. However, when you get it right, the results are stunning.
It’s easy to spot the difference between a real expression and a stiff, forced smile. By breaking down the walls that exist, you’ll create more authentic images. These genuine exchanges and the pursuit of authentic connections with the subject are the key to getting there.
Capture Moments of Interpersonal Connection
A friend once hired me to photograph a small event. When I delivered the photos, she mentioned that she loves my work because “there’s just always something happening in my photos.” In the past, with other photographers, she felt like the images she received fell flat. She and her family were always present in the photos, but there wasn’t much going on. Being present simply wasn’t enough to make the images have an impact or strike an emotional chord. In my images, “something was always happening.”
Let me translate. When I press the shutter, I’m looking for the moments when people are genuinely connecting with each other. This is when the magic is happening. It happens in that moment in the conversation where old friends crack up laughing or that split second where a mother embraces her daughter with pride.
These are the interpersonal connections you need to be looking for. When photographing an event, you’re bound to have many photos to sort through before client delivery. Which ones are best? The ones with real, authentic connection and interaction. Sure, I’m always looking for perfect lighting and tack-sharp focus. But guess what? This is real life, and often times, the subject of the image trumps all other aspects. That image of an adorable baby with the cute expression is always going to resonate with the viewer more than a typical corporate headshot, even if the lighting wasn’t quite perfect in that frame. Why? Because of the subject and the connection you’ve captured.
Outside of “People Photography”
The same idea works outside of photographing people, but in a slightly different way. Initially, you might wonder what kind of connection could possibly be going on with the cupcake you are supposed to photograph or perhaps the living room you’ve been asked to shoot. Here’s the key… It’s not always in the photograph, but rather, it’s sometimes how the photograph itself connects with the viewer.
With everyone having such a short attention span, you need to create photos that capture your viewer’s attention. You know those images in your social media feed that make you do a double-take? The same aspect that stopped you in your tracks is what you need to create for your viewers, and you can do so by creating images that resonate with them.
Part of this is knowing what you want to say about the subject. Is that food delicious? Is the dining room elegant and impeccably furnished? How can you use the elements of photography (lighting, composition, etc.) to best accentuate these things? The method varies from subject to subject, but the goal is always the same. Here, it’s forming that connection with the viewer.
A great example of this in the commercial photography world is Ikea. In recent years, Ikea had replaced traditional product photography with CGI renderings in their catalogs for a number of reasons, including flexibility and cost effectiveness. Recently, however, the furniture giant has reversed course a bit, and they began using photography and incorporating people into the images in unique and creative ways.
Their catalogs full of CGI had become too sterile, and there was just something organic and enticing about the human element being added in. The new catalogues were highly engaging and really connected with consumers.
Tips by Fred Glasser
Focusing on genuine connection has long been a strong and central them in a lot of my work, and I’m confident that by paying attention to it, you will generate more compelling, powerful images. Over time, you will develop your own approaches that best fit your style, but, this central theme remains true. Always remember that as human beings, we easily identify with the faces of other human beings. Deep down, we value and respond to genuine interactions and connections, and your work will strike a deeper chord if you can make your work tap into this. Thanks for reading, and happy shooting! Feel free to share comments on how focusing on human connection have helped you to create more powerful images!