A few months ago, I went out to the Strange Ranch again to do senior portraits for Emily. She happens to be gorgeous and happens to also be photogenic. But I think there's a misconception that those two things always go hand in hand. So not true. Emily is photogenic because she has a natural ability to relax in front of the camera. Of course this makes my job really easy. Because the ability to relax in front of a camera is what makes anyone photogenic. If you're not relaxed, it's my (most important) job as the photographer to help you.
You'd think by knowing this, I'd be really good at letting people take my picture. I will rat myself out now and admit that I am overly anxious, borderline neurotic about it. But that's why I can relate so easily to the natural nerves of my clients. Before a session people often say, "I'm warning you, I've never been photogenic." My response is, "Don't worry, that's what everyone says." Which is true. I feel like what they're really saying is, "I'm afraid you will take unflattering pictures of me." And what I'm really saying is, "I know you will be nervous, that's so normal. But don't worry because I will know how to make you feel safe enough to relax, so that you're able to reveal the things that matter most to you: laughter, connection, love..." These are the things we want captured. But revealing these things means someone will have to "see" us. That feels vulnerable, so we sometimes hide behind plastered smiles, perfect hair and matching t-shirts. Being a photographer is like being a waitress or hair stylist, in the sense that success hinges on relating to people. But it's also like being a therapist, because it's about relating to people when they're nervous.
This is why I've never taught a workshop. It would be over in 5 minutes, and would go something like this:
"Hi friends, thanks for coming to my photography workshop. I've been shooting for twenty years. Back in the day my camera was 4 feet wide. We used to lug it uphill both ways in the snow. Now it's not like that. Now you can learn every technical thing you ever wanted to know online or in any one of the hundreds of other fabulous workshops out there. The learning curve is way less than it used to be, which is so great. Unfortunately all this info doesn't guarantee that you'll be able to take great portraits. There's only one thing that can do that: Developing your ability to calm people's nerves. Period. Unfortunately, I can't tell you how to do that because it would be like me telling you how to paint or sing or dance. You have to find your own way. But I can give you a hint: Calming others always starts with calming yourself. Thank you and goodnight."
Then everyone would throw tomatoes at me because they were expecting me to show them how to change their aperture.
Anyway, I mentioned that Emily is naturally relaxed. But this is not the norm. And I'm not writing this to make people feel like they should take quaaludes before a portrait session. I'm writing this to make the distinction that being photogenic has less to do with the way we look, and more to do with how we feel inside our own skin. Also, to acknowledge that being nervous is a natural part of every photo session. So when you choose your photographer, the most important decision you can make is to choose one that you can connect with.
If you live in San Antonio or Boerne, The Strange Ranch is a gorgeous location for weddings, corporate events, and any other kind of fun Texas-y party. The owners are super sweet too. Thank you Shanan and Emily for such a fun day. :)