It’s Not Them, It’s You: Confidence and Craft in Photography

In photography, you are either going to be great from the beginning, over time or never at all. No matter what happens, you should treat people nicely, because whether your work is great or mediocre you are building your reputation. In reality, great work is going to happen if you spend enough time and energy thinking and practicing your art.

What is greatness in photography? It is subjective, obviously, but it is a goal. It is a standard that you set for yourself about what can count as a photograph. It is your evolving sense of value in photography and what you consider a keeper. All these things are dynamic and subject to change. One thing is not. How you treat people matters a lot. 

Photography is creating a public record of a person’s image. During any given portraiture session, you might take anywhere from 100 to 1000 photos. Some people will take more. Some people take fewer, but generally with digital photography there are potentially hundreds of photographs that don’t make the cut for every one that does. It’s the same person in the same lighting with the same camera and photographer but only one photograph out of a dozen stands out enough to really count. 

What does it take to get good photographs of a person? There are lots of answers to this question. The main one is practice. You must get good at working with your camera so that you feel confident in your ability to get the shot when the time comes with a model in front of your camera. This will also help with being good to the people you photograph. The more confident you are in your craft, the more you can focus on the subject and their concerns. 

The second key to getting great results with portraiture is to choose good lighting situations. If you don’t have a studio space, overcast days are great for soft light. If it is mid-day during the middle of the summer you are going to have some challenges finding soft light outside. There are many ways to deal with a challenge like this, but the important thing is to figure them out ahead of time, before you are working with a model. There’s always going to be a certain amount of experimentation, but the more you understand how to get the photos you want, the clearer your path to getting great photos.