PsyPhotology

I came across this short TED talk about one of the hardest things to do as a filmmaker or photographer, especially if you are interviewing people, or creating their portrait and headshot.

Most of everyone I have ever photographed have a complete uncomfortable way of being in front of the camera. They are not themselves. They see this thing pointing at them, and they immediately get stiff, worried, nervous, and unnatural. It's extremely hard to take a photograph in those conditions, or film an interview like that.

An example of a studio photoshoot I did with a model friend of ours.

An example of a studio photoshoot I did with a model friend of ours.

I always felt since I started freelancing, that one of the biggest learning experiences I've had to go through is to deeply connect with people before I go ahead with the shoot, no matter if it is an interview or photograph. If I can, I typically ask my talent to come in a bit earlier, while I am still setting up the shoot. Obviously, many times you can't do this, but when you can I've found it helps tremendously.

Those few minutes before the shoot actually begins, I am constantly talking about their lives, about what they've accomplished, things that make them happy, how they got to who they are, what they like doing, basically anything that I feel that would bring to their memories images of things that relax them into their true selves. That's when the shoot is ready. That's when I take a photograph. Or film.

Even in corporate headshots I like capturing who people really are.

Even in corporate headshots I like capturing who people really are.

One of the reasons I think the famous Andy Warhol screen tests he did are so perfect, is precisely because of this. He would have his Factory visitors sit in front of a film camera for something like five minutes, constantly rolling, and just as them to face the camera at all times. His idea was that typically during the first two minutes or so you're still self-conscious enough, but there will be a tiny fragment of a moment, maybe just a couple of seconds, where you become completely comfortable and show your true self. He did dozens of these portraits and they're incredible.

The funny thing is, I am the WORST person when it comes to practicing those same beliefs when I am in front of the camera being photographed or filmed. It's insanely rare that I feel like I am myself when that happens, but it can happen. And I've noticed that only a few people know how to do this same thing, that know how to connect with me and put my mind in a place where I am myself again. Where I accept myself. My good friend Sidney Erthal is definitely one of them. And so is Vitor Moura, a journalist/TV personality in Portugal.

Anyway, watch this TED talk. It's fascinating. One of the best headshot photographers out there, Peter Hurley, teamed up with a Psychologist to talk precisely about this.