I’d love to feel natural in front of the camera lens but like many other people, as soon as a camera is pointing my way, I suddenly don’t know how to stand, where to put my hands or how to organise my face. A good photographer should put his or her models at ease, but sadly, I’m not even very good at that when I’m on the other side of the lens. I’ve photographed many people during my work in two senior schools and there weren’t many of my ‘models’ who didn’t express how awkward they felt. It always troubled me, having to take students’ photos whether they liked it or not. However, if I hadn’t, someone else would have done, as photos were needed for school newsletters and digital screens etc. Many teenagers have hang ups about themselves and they hate having their photo taken so I really felt for them. I tried to make it as painless as possible taking as many photos as necessary and checking with them until I had one that they liked. Although some students refused to look at the photo, telling me to use the one I’d got and not allowing me to take any more. I was never sure if they really didn’t care or if they were too embarrassed to look at their image on my camera. Mostly, people stand squarely in front of the camera and look like frightened rabbits. I always get people to turn their bodies away from me slightly and then turn their faces back to look at the camera, to prevent their portraits from looking like mugshots!
The hardest portraits to take were of those who blinked at the wrong time. I had to get them to close their eyes and open slowly but it still took lots of goes to get a nice picture, with their eyes open. One young lad didn’t seem to have any control over his eyebrows, which shot upwards towards his hairline whenever I clicked the shutter.
One of the hardest things was taking a group shot. For some reason, when I said “Please move in a bit closer,” I could almost see everyone thinking She can’t possibly mean me. I’ll just stand where I am. Lots of arm waving was required before people would move together. The other skill necessary was to mentally arrange the group, imagining how the different people would look when standing together – either that or to keep rearranging people until the group looked right. But as I always had difficulty getting people into a group in the first place, rearranging them several times wasn’t always an option. Sometimes groups were accompanied by teachers who acted as sheep dogs, moulding the group until it looked right and I was always very grateful to them. Of course, there was always the joker who did ‘bunny’s ears’ behind someone’s head and I was glad to have a school copy of Photoshop, with which to remove them!
When I had the opportunity to go on a portrait workshop with some models I jumped at the chance. Two of the results are on the left. There were several models and even a dog and they did their best to interpret our instructions. I liked the girl on the left, her yellow dress, green tights and colourful eye makeup were very striking and with her professional attitude, I don’t think anyone could have failed to get a good shot of her.
In my ebook ‘Daffodil and the Thin Place’, I identified with the wedding photographer, who also did a lot of arm waving at Daffodil’s cousin’s wedding. If you’d like to find out how he coped, you can get a copy of ‘Daffodil and the Thin Place’ here on the Muse It Up Publishing website. All profits from sales of the ebook will go towards St. Nicholas Church, Laindon with Dunton, Essex, where the story takes place and where Daffodil’s cousin got married. #MuseItUp #DaffodilAndTheThinPlace