What does magic have to do with photography? A lot actually. Being able to press the shutter at that exact magical moment that gives the best result is a talent for sure. And, while that’s certainly blog worthy magic, that is not the kind of magic I mean. Allow me to explain.
I recently had the opportunity to spend some time capturing a young man’s Senior pictures. Ordinarily there is likely not too much magic going on with an event like this, but this young man is anything but ordinary. In fact, after getting to know him, I think he’s really rather EXTRAordinary!
You see, this young man has Asperger’s Syndrome. According to Everyday Health.com “Asperger’s syndrome (or disorder) is a developmental disorder in which people have severe difficulties understanding how to interact socially. People with Asperger’s syndrome may not recognize verbal and nonverbal cues or understand normal social rules, such as taking turns talking or recognizing personal space.” For my subject, though we both speak English, we were having a significant communication issue and the shots were proving it. He didn’t understand what I meant when I said I wanted or needed a relaxed and un-rehearsed smile. He didn’t understand what I meant when I said I needed to see his natural smile. His father and I attempted to crack jokes…most of which got an eye-roll instead of a smile and I was really struggling to get him relaxed so his personality could shine.
As you know, the reason I chose Captured Faithfule as a business name is because that’s my ultimate goal. To capture the essence of whatever it is I’m photographing. If it’s children and babies, I want to make sure when parents see their sweet angel baby’s images they can go “oh wow it looks like she’s’…” When I’m capturing seniors I want their parents to be able to say smile knowing their child’s image is as unique and fun as their child is. I don’t enjoy pictures of myself that are stiff and posed and lacking fun, an element that I think is critical. I certainly don’t want to capture images of other people or things that are flat, stiff over posed and lacking fun. Asperger’s was kicking my butt though. Well at least it was till I decided to kick back.
After trying a few different locations and umpteen different words, I knew I was gonna have to do something. I got him laughing somehow (I don’t remember how, but that’s not the important part) and snapped a few shots off. Then I asked him to smile and instantly the forced, stiff, unnatural smile was back. Time to pump the breaks and bring the action to a screeching halt.
After saying a quick little prayer, I sat down next to this young man and showed him some of the images I’d captured on the viewfinder. I showed him what he looked like when he was “trying” to smile versus when he was just having a good time and smiling as a result. I showed him every difference we could see on that little 3 inch LCD screen and then we moved to another location and tried again. That is when the magic happened and together we kicked Asperger’s behind…we kicked it hard too. Once I showed him the differences between a natural smile and a forced smile, he just got it got it. As a result, he could deliver a natural smile on cue EVERY time after that. Additionally, his facial expressions relaxed, he relaxed, I relaxed and the results were amazing. Let me show you:
The shot above was taken on the end of a good hearty laugh. It’s the image I used to show him how he looks when he’s smiling naturally.
This one is probably my all time favorite of the entire capture. I wanted to have him sitting on these steps, but the white banister along them was getting in the way of every shot from every angle and it just wasn’t working for me. He laid down on the stairs to rest and what I saw was just amazing don’t you think? “Don’t move stay right there it’s perfect!” I shouted and ran up the stairs. Standing above him and looking straight down at him, with my camera turned slightly to produce an angle and the image above was the result. After a minor camera adjustment or two we took a few more in this same location, here’s another one I love:
After these shots, we moved indoors and he was still able to give me perfect natural smile on cue each and every time. At the beginning of our session the shots were flat and lifeless and lacking personality. Then the magic came and at the end, not only did I get perfect natural smiles and facial expressions every time I asked for them, I also got a small glimpse of the fun and infectious personality this young man has. Here’s a glimpse of that personality for you to see:
With the exception of babies, which really is more about waiting patiently and then hitting your shutter at that exact magical moment, I don’t think I’ve ever worked so hard to get what I wanted out of a subject. Likewise, I’m confident I’ve never laughed so much or had as much fun on a capture as I did with this young man! Thanks for making magic with me A.K.!