I used to say to my husband that I loved Thai food, he would reply with "You don't love Thai food, you love Pad Thai." He was right, that's all I ordered. While I have other favorites now Pad Thai is always a favorite. So what does Thai food have to do with photography? NOTHING!
Actually, when I say I love photography it's true, but what I really mean is I love portrait photography. I enjoy landscape and macro and just plain playing with the camera but truly my passion and inspiration comes from working with people and making that connection through the camera. My personality changes when I am behind the camera. I find myself more confident and I as a connection develops I find myself becoming more in tune with the person that I'm working with.
I also love a challenge, especially with different types of personalities. I love watching someone relax and give me their personality to capture. So what really inspires me?
Teenagers, yes teenagers! I love their attitude, I love the glimpse of who they're growing into. I love to capture them at this challenging stage of life where they are finding themselves and learning to express themselves. I also love working in urban environments, which offer interesting backdrops and fun challenges. One of the biggest challenges with teens is keeping them age appropriate. They can look like the kid they are and then suddenly throw you a grown up sizzling look that shows you the adult that is emerging. I want to capture all of that and I want to keep them looking like the teen that they are. There's no sense in rushing them to grow up. Teens are amazing to work with, especially as they open up and share their thoughts and ideas.
I recently had an opportunity to work with a beautiful 14 year old in an urban environment. I've known Ayla since she was a baby but haven't spent much time with her. She's a sweet kid that once charmed a pendant off of my neck at a pool party. When her Mom and I started talking about doing the shoot I got excited and inspired. I didn't give them much input on clothing because I didn't want to stifle her style. Teens can be self-conscious and it's important to honor that. They also need the space to say no to a pose, background or idea.
We chose Georgetown and I chose an area near the water where I knew there was a lot of graffiti. I had researched the area on Google maps and knew exactly where to go. We packed the car and headed out, as soon as we hit Georgetown we hit snarling traffic. Undeterred we found our way around and got parking fairly near the location.
We headed down to the water and started shooting. Ayla was goofy and acting like the 14 year old that she is. I let her be silly, I took some shots and quietly evaluated her to find her better side. I also brought along a small cream colored parasol. I actually brought two but let Ayla pick the one she wanted. Props are really helpful if someone is a bit nervous. Find a prop, any prop and people will usually use it to relax. If you don't have a prop, find a tree, a bench, a wall just find something that they can interact with.
This shot was taken along the path with the river in the background. I love her natural smile and the lighting is pretty. She has a nice big smile that doesn't look cheesy. You have to shoot the cheesy expressions but the goal is to get her relaxed enough to give the real expressions.
As we explored we found the location that I was looking for. I evaluated the lighting and the glass on the ground and the whole scene and asked her to jump into the pit and use the wall like a table to rest on. By now she was starting to relax, so we worked on her poses and finally hit on this shot. I love her expression and it's clear she's relaxing. You also get a sense of the environment without it taking over and competing with her.
Then we decided to have some fun. There is nothing like movement to get someone relaxed so I had her jumping off of the opposite wall. We gave her the parasol which made her very happy. I love the pure joy here. Even the graffiti is playing along with it's phrase "Make a Memory"
At this point she is totally relaxed and having a blast; she's coming up with her own ideas and adding to the shoot. She starts to play and work some different expressions. I wanted a nice neutral expression image when I got this one. I processed it a bit differently to capture the mood and chill of the day.
Last I just wanted a cute shot of her with the environment. By now she was so relaxed, practically posing herself. Cheesy smiles were long gone and we were getting naturally happy expressions.
The session with Ayla was a blast for me. I found myself inspired by her energetic personality and totally enjoyed playing with her and her Mom. I love the images that we got and I think that a lot of it was because I was playing to my photographic strengths and allowed Ayla to show off her strengths, joy and smiles. To me a successful shoot plays to our strengths and through that allows the true personalities to come through.