From Benjamin Wohlert
In the flow – what does that even mean? For me, the photo flow is a state in which you practically no longer think about it, but only do it intuitively.
The photographer and model are completely on the same wavelength and the photography is completely coordinated – I think that can best be compared with making music together. Both know what to do and when and “are in time”.
In my experience, the very best 1% of photos succeed in the flow – that’s why you will find 7 tips here to take photos in the flow and to photograph people in an extraordinary and authentic way.
Adapt yourself and your communication to the model
What you will see in your photo later is what communication you do!
Does the person like to talk a lot or do they prefer to listen? Accordingly, you should behave appropriately, i.e. be a good listener, if the person likes to talk. Conversely, it is your job to lead the conversation yourself more if you notice that she prefers to take on a listener role.
In order to have good conversations during the shoot (or during the breaks), it is important that you get to know the person. Get away from boring small talk quickly!
Ask open-ended questions that cannot be answered with just a “yes” or “no”. In this way you build up a better relationship of trust and are more likely to actually capture “the person himself” in the pictures. Your portraits will be more candid, authentic, and real when you do that.
Be genuinely interested in your counterpart. In my experience you can learn something from everyone, broaden your horizons through each person or get to know a different, new perspective on many things. This is incredibly enriching not only for the pictures!
Increase the well-being of your model
Devote all your attention to the person in front of the camera, listen carefully, notice every little sign, give her security, encourage her, make her feel that she is exactly right and good as she is.
That sounds so natural and simple, but I often hear from models that it is neglected by many photographers.
And it’s not at all easy, it takes a sure instinct and a lot of experience. Because everyone is different, and that’s what makes it so exciting!
If you can make the person feel like the most beautiful person in the world while standing in front of your camera, you’ve made it. Praise and compliments are very important, but of course they have to be honest.
After my shoots, I often get the feedback that I “exude such calm” when taking photos. And after a while, this is carried over to the person in front of the camera.
One thing is very important to know: emotions are always mirrored between people. You have probably heard of it before. Therefore it is important to show security and relaxation to the outside world, then your model will quickly feel in good hands, even if she is still very unsafe at the beginning.
Furthermore, you should try to avoid anything that could make your model feel negative. For example: Unwanted “spectators” during the shoot of any kind (assistants can also be included), clothing that the person does not feel comfortable in, time pressure / stress, uncomfortable seating, too bright light, cold or heat …
Develop a feeling for noticing, eliminating, or, best of all, preventing such things in advance, even before the person feels them and speaks to them.
Train to be able to see and appreciate light
In order to be good in the long term and to achieve the best possible image results in all situations, it is essential to learn to see and “read” the light.
But one thing should not be underestimated: It can really take some time! It is, however, that you decide everything in this regard. This is your job alone. Whether hard or soft light, a lot of light or rather little, from which direction it should come and so on – this of course has a direct influence on the appearance of your model in the picture.
You can only make these decisions correctly when you have seen how the currently available light is falling. They are the basis for many other things that you determine, such as the cropping, direction of the picture and posing instructions.
It is therefore advisable to initially only work with the available light, because you can see it directly when taking photos. I recommend working with flashes later, if at all. Because with the latter you can no longer see the light before it is triggered, but you have to be able to imagine what effect the flash has on the image (or check this afterwards on the camera display and then improve it if necessary).
So how do you learn to read the light? Here are a few things I’ve done:
During a shoot, you can let your model move in the available light (e.g. turn slowly around itself once) and walk along yourself and track how and where the shadows fall and where, for example, highlights arise. When you come to a scene or situation in which you want to take a picture, first identify the main light source and its properties (direction, color, strength, etc.).
Think about what effect you want to achieve on your photo and whether and how this is possible with the available light.
You can also train your eye for light in everyday life, wherever you are, without a camera, by analyzing existing lighting situations. You can do it anywhere! Whether you are sitting in the office, waiting in line at the checkout in the shopping center or just taking a walk outside – always try to be aware of, classify and evaluate the light.
Ask yourself, “How would I take a portrait here and now if I had to?” And try to imagine what the result would be. You can do all of this anytime, anywhere to learn to read the light.
If you can think of another exercise on this, I would be very happy if you write it to me!
Experiment with perspective
Always try out new perspectives – the positioning of the camera to the object (in this case to the model) is one of the most important and powerful tools of the photographer.
Sometimes take photos from high above, sometimes at eye level, sometimes take a very symmetrical face, or also from the side. You will definitely develop a lot as you do more such experiments.
And what if a perspective doesn’t work out and looks ugly? No matter! Then you’ve just used a little space, nothing else. But you are smarter than before! Also analyze the shooting angles, image sections and perspectives of other photographers.
Just start with the photographers whose pictures you like. Then try out these angles yourself during your shoots.
So photograph the same pose of your model from different perspectives, because everyone without exception has angles from which they look the prettiest and some that look less advantageous.
People with big noses, for example, are less likely to like themselves in a picture if they are photographed from the side. A frontal image is often better here.
One of your main jobs behind the camera is to find those best parts of a person. I personally enjoy this task a lot and I always recommend taking the time to do it. It is always exciting to get to know people and their different sides in this way.
Don’t look at the camera screen that often and don’t show pictures in between
I know it’s tempting. You take a photo and want to see how good it turned out. Just take a quick look! You’re out of the flow again.
Now do you think the model wants to see pictures in between?
I always explain beforehand that it is my way not to show any pictures during the shoot. This has always been accepted so far. As long as you don’t constantly hang on to the display, that’s no problem at all! And yes, here, too, I sometimes make exceptions if I am absolutely sure that the picture shown gives the person additional self-confidence and does not unsettle them (see below).
Many photographers say that their models want feedback about the pictures, how they look in the photo and what they should possibly do differently when posing or printing. You say that gives the person security.
However, I take a different approach: I am responsible for everything when it comes to photography, and trust between the photographer and the model can grow precisely by letting me control that.
Also consider: The “wrong picture” that you show in between can create a lot more uncertainty than a “correct picture” would provide for security.
My advice: Set the review time of photos on your camera. Take picture series of 15-20 pictures and check in between with a quick glance whether the settings of the camera are still correct. The more experienced you become, the longer your series of images can be before you look at the display again.
Try the creative, the crazy and the unusual
Use props and things that not everyone can simply buy. Just look for what you can find in the household. This way you save money and train your creativity!
In addition, your results will be more individual and you will automatically stand out from the image results of other photographers. For example, if you use a curtain from your grandmother’s attic for light and shadow play, nobody can imitate you exactly!
To get your creativity going, here are some things from the household that I have already used when taking photos: curtains, broken glass, mirrors, pasta sieves, sheets, sand, water, drinking glasses, flowers, flashlights, cell phones …
The only limit is your imagination!
Leave your photographic comfort zone
Yes, you’ve read so often that you should leave your comfort zone. It’s already coming out of your ears!
But there is something to it. When I started portrait photography, I was the most introverted guy (can you even improve it?) You can imagine.
My communication, if it existed at all, was, in German, horrible and full of uncertainty.
And today? I’m still an introvert, but I really enjoy getting to know new people through photography and I’m confident in my demeanor.
I’ve learned that being good or bad at taking photos has NOTHING to do with it. If there was only one thing I could give you on your way, it would be this.
Don’t let anything stop you, grab your camera and go!
I wish you a lot of fun, success and good light in our hobby and exciting encounters with great people!