Join Paul Taggart for an in-depth discussion in this video Posing and documenting the clowns in character, part of Storytelling through Unconventional Portraiture.
- Can I get a picture of this real quick? Once I started taking actual portraits of Fable and Rebecca, there was a couple of dilemmas that showed up. The first was, is they really wanted to take their pictures together, and that is great, but, I also wanted to get them separate. So, I think it's always good with your subjects to just be really honest from the get go. So, what I want to do... I'm going to do you guys individually first, then we'll do some fun ones, together. - So I'm going to do you first, Fable. If I can just have you sitting on the corner here, however you feel comfortable.
When I first met Fable, yesterday, he was laying down on one of these mats, here and I thought it was great, and for me, I don't really work with models, that is not the kind of photographer I am. I appreciate that kind of photography, it's really hard, but what I'm good at is recognizing things that people already do in their real lives and then trying to document it, and sometimes when I'm doing portraiture, replicate it. And, so when I saw Fable yesterday, relaxed and laying down on one of these mats, not even in a costume, I actually got that kind of clown feel from him before I even knew that he was a clown.
On this one, however is comfortable. I want you to just be like however you would, because when I first met you yesterday, you were laying down on the mat. - [Fable] Mmhhm - And, if I'd have had my camera, I would have shot you right then. (rapid camera shutter snaps) Thank you, sir. I think it made a great picture, partly, just because it was an ice-breaker to get started. One problem I was having was in photographing both of them, it was starting to feel a little bit posed at times. It seemed like Rebecca was, sometimes, hamming it up for the camera. I was fighting with this a little bit, and then I realized, wait a minute, this is who they are, they are performers.
So, finding that middle ground and getting those options are going to be really important later on, when I'm editing this project. I want some that are, maybe, that performer, and then I want some that aren't just somebody standing on a stage and smiling at me. Fable, can you check the inside of your hat again, like you did just a second ago? And just hold that. (camera shutter clicks) To deal with this problem of over-performance in front of the camera, I tried a couple different things. One thing I did was in photographing Fable, I photographed him in the foreground, and then put Rebecca in the background, king of far away and out of focus.
It made some fun pictures because he was performing but not looking at the camera, and she was out of focus in the background. And then what I did is I crossed, it's called a 180 line, but I switched the position, and so now I had Rebecca in the foreground, and Fable in the background. (shutter clicks) Fable, can I get you to do your hat-trick again, please? It was a great image, it kind of had my brain thinking about Fellini films that I had seen, but I think recognizing what's working and not working with your subjects is half the battle.
As a photographer, when you are chasing your subject around, sometimes it's dangerous because you get so caught in your own mind, that you are not really paying attention to what is going around you. And it is good to stay in that moment, but also be listening to your subject matter. At one point, when we were running around, taking all these crazy pictures, Fable, jokingly said, "Would you like me to jump on that trampoline?" Which I don't think is something he usually does, he's a bigger guy and it's a little trampoline, but I said yeah, totally, that is something I would love to do. And so, if you are listening to your subject and having the conversation with them the whole time, so it is a collaboration between the two of you, great images happen because you are both in this moment, creating something together. (laughter) You set yourself up for this one.
I think one of my favorite photographs from today was Fable on the trampoline, by himself. He was jumping up and down, getting probably two or three feet off the air. He did a great moment where he went like this... (giggling) I took the shot and I was like, that is definitely one of the ones we are going to keep. (shutter clicking) Love it...alright. Lets do another one, this time I'm going just going to have you hang out there for a minute. Just peeking through. When photographing Rebecca, I was looking around the tent, trying to find a special place, something unique, location that I can put her in, and, one area of the tent had a sort of sliver of opening that you could open up and then crawl out if you wanted to exit the tent.
So, I actually posed her in there. While shooting, it kind of felt too forced, she was posing a little bit too much, and then it was my fault as well, because it was such a posed situation. I wasn't loving the images. What I was loving was the light. It was completely blown out outside the tent, and when she peeked her head through, she was in the exposure of the interior. It was really nice. The image didn't work, so what I did, is I just put that in the back of my brain, and then later on, during the shoot, when I knew we were going to be exiting the tent, I just jumped ahead of our subjects, by a couple feet, got my composition of where they were going to exit the tent, and then naturally let Fable and Rebecca walk outside the tent.
I think it was a good moment, because what happened is real life, so I got that beautiful light that I wanted, but it was a real moment, rather than a posed one. (shutter clicks) Maybe you both take a baby step this way. Boop, perfect. (shutter click) When I exited the tent to do the more formal portraits with the backdrop, I was really disappointed. When I set up the backdrop, I had a nice flat lighting, which for me, that is kind of what I want in these moments. Unfortunately, the sun came out, the clouds cleared, and it was really contrasty.
Part of me just wanted to call it and say, no, no, no, we will do this some other time, or I will get you to come back, our schedule doesn't permit that, so I just went with it, and started taking pictures, just keep taking the pictures. And I'm glad I did, I didn't get a lot of material that I liked, but what did happen, was probably the first image that I really liked of Rebecca, and she was being goofy and leans her back so her head was upside-down for the portrait, and she was making some goofy faces, and it was just a weird pose.
Something I could never come up with. And, I think it really worked. Fable, lets get yours and then we will be good. - Good - Now, can you just do that same, that same pose? (laughter) I think I got a couple images that I liked, in front of the backdrop, I wasn't really feeling it, but I kept shooting and made some pictures so I will have something to look at in the edit tonight. But, then I decided to go back inside the tent and just have a conversation with the subjects. There is a couple things that are important to me, I wanted to exchange email addresses and let them know that not in a week or a month would I be giving them images, but I try to send them images immediately, meaning tonight or tomorrow morning.
I know I'm going to be photographing the circus for a couple of days, and I think, having a good relationship from the get go, with your subjects, is essential. If I can get those images out tonight, and they take a look at them, they will tell their colleagues that they got the pictures, and people will feel more at ease with me. So, again, just being honest with your subject matter, and making it a collaboration is important, so, give them some photos. I'm going to get you sitting on here, if you can, - [Rebecca] Sure - And leave the hat and glasses on. - [Rebecca] Okay. - I'm going to do something a little different. While exchanging email addresses and saying good-bye and thank you's to Fable and Rebecca, Rebecca started getting more casual, put on her eyeglasses, was goofing around and picked up Fable's hat and put it on her head, and all the sudden I was looking at her and said, wait a minute, this is really more of who this girl is.
This is way more, I'm seeing who she is, rather than just the performer, and, so, it's just a moment where, as a photographer you recognize what you want, and, even though you don't have your camera, you're always thinking, what's that picture going to look like, and being able to recognize those moments, and when you do, just ask them, "Hey, can I pull you off to the side and take a picture?" And just be honest, and I said, I don't want a clown photograph, I just want to photograph you, and I think it's something that is going to be really nice. While photographing Rebecca, Fable actually came in and asked me, "Hey, is there any way we can do a picture together when we are not clowns?" Which I think was kind of an important moment for us.
I think Fable is going to really like that image, as well.
In this course, photojournalist Paul Taggart shows how using different types of portrait photography and selecting subjects that visually add to the narrative can tell a full and colorful story.
- Scouting locations
- Posing portraits
- Emphasizing costume or clothing
- Sequencing portraits
- Building a portrait story