Learning to Smile- the skill of the Photographer.


Outtakes whilst waiting to take some fun corporate shots this week.

“Abi, you are so funny” my friend said to me the other day, after I had told a (sadly real and very true story). Funny, is of course entirely subjective. I am aware that I have a good sense of humour but as far as attempting to get laughs, that is something I am sure I do not consciously attempt. If people “get” what makes me tick then yes, it’s funny.. the thing I just drew attention to. But me personally? naaaah.

As I throw myself into more and more photo shoots I am increasingly aware of the need to be an engaging human. Whilst a photo shoot is not an opportunity to test out your stand-up material, it is at times often down to you, your personality and your camera. If the people you are shooting feel uncomfortable then you are almost certainly going to get forced, uncomfortable photos. This is usually why the first 20 or so shots I usually take are never as good as say, the last 20. I think the relationship you build with the client is an important one, having your photo taken requires you to be somewhat giving of yourself and also put a degree of trust into the person capturing it.

I very nearly used the word “capture” in relation to a photograph. gah.

Whilst I don’t subscribe to the opinion that I am “funny” I do acknowledge that yes, a lot of funny things happen to me. Not enough to pen a “laugh-a-minute” biography but still, amusing within the context of a fairly unremarkable life. I LOVE to laugh. I adore pun-based humour and silly, detailed, protracted ongoing jokes- some of which I am still stringing out 10 years down the line with some friends. Humour comes naturally to me, and I often use it to diffuse my low moods.

Sometimes things suck the life out of you and the desire to laugh diminishes along with your sex drive, appetite and sense of “get up and go”. That is truly a tradgedy, laughter is the one thing that binds us, makes us feel good, identify likeminded people and view things positively. Without it, life would be just a series of insurmountable trials.

Asked during my recent bout of self-loathing, a friend asked me what I was good at. At the time, I didn’t feel especially good at anything, such is the case when your self worth is residing in guttersville. I had been feeling that having a lot to say for myself was a bad thing, something to be ashamed of and that I should just paint myself (and my many, many words) into a beige coloured corner and wait for the dust to settle. About a week later he asked me the same question.. I blinked at him. He laughed (because I look like an Owl when I blink) and in a very small voice I answered “I dunno”.

“Well Shabs, you are very good at making people feel comfortable” he said and sat back in his chair, challenging me to argue. I did more blinking….

“You are, you are one of the few people who can get a laugh out of somebody within the first 5 mins of meeting them, that’s a skill, man!” (He is very cool, he calls people man, even when they are girls)

What I should probably leave out of this is that the reason I make people laugh is largely due to the fact that I don’t seem to have an off switch. I have developed this thing where I just… talk, talk about anything. In the context of photography it really seems to work well for me. The above shots, taken this week whilst waiting around to take some corporat portraits, are classic reminders of this skill during those times when I don’t feel I have anything to contribute. I must always remember that making people feel relaxed enough to let go and laugh is as valuable a skill as any.

Learning to Smile- the skill of the Photographer.

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