Chris Orwig suggests that while taking portraits a photographer should “Strive for honesty versus something that is flattering and fake.” My last experience with portraiture was at the Muslim Day picnic and it didn’t go over well. I realized a huge stumbling block for me during that trial run was that I was shy with my camera. Too concerned with what people might perceive me doing, too afraid of finding myself in what-if situations, or getting a beat down by a father. All these constructed circumstances of maybe, might-have-beens or what-ifs. So I went after something that provided easier opportunity of success and mitigated the opportunity of failure and disappointment-I enlisted my family and family friends to test out my portrait photography skills on. Weddings are a photographers bread-and-butter it seems and while people hire photographers to take pictures of the bride and groom and their special guests, there are lots of people who dress up for a wedding and are just as photo worthy. (Also if you’re looking for wedding photographers, check out my friends Naveed Ahmed and Wendy Ramos) So when my parents had their friends spend the weekend with us in Palmdale for a wedding they all were invited too, I saw it as my chance to bust out with my camera and snap up some pictures of them before they went out to the wedding festivities. It was a great learning experience. I got to get comfortable with giving people orders about where to stand and what to do, how and where to look. Its intimidating at first, to tell people what to do when you’re not really sure if its the right thing to do in the first place. Worse, its my Dad’s friend, a surrogate “Uncle” figure to me throughout my childhood, that definitely would get me into a pickle if I messed up. I think by taking pictures the way they wanted me to and then telling them to do what I thought would work, helped build my confidence, especially when they saw the final result, liking the ones I had worked on arranging them around in.
The instructions came from my gut, not necessarily rules, but rather I saw how the composition could be made whole or given perspective by moving people around, or having them shift the way they were standing. There were these father-daughter pictures where both people seemed happy but the way they were standing spoke louder- it was awkward, and more then anything contradictory to the spirit of what the subjects felt about each other. Then there was this series of pictures with my mom and sister, they were just phenomenal, even better were the shots they didnt know I was taking like this one! The thing that makes this picture so awesome is that my mom is smiling, she’s super shy about smiling and I think its a cultural and social thing she grew up with where you don’t show your emotions while taking pictures, I don’t know its a theory! But what I realized while taking pictures was that I found myself constantly snapping a few “candid” pictures where the folks weren’t really posing or cognizant that I was taking pictures of them. I found myself gravitating toward those pictures more because they were the pictures that got across an honest candid portrait of the person. From all the pictures I took this weekend, this one was my favorite one because it features my Mom sitting on a sofa waiting for everyone to take pictures and I was just playing around with the setting on the camera while my Mom and sister were talking and someone made a joke, at which point I took aim with my camera toward Mom and snapped away. There’s nothing fake or flattering about this picture, its plain honest and candid, made for the moment it was taken and it perfectly captures the weekend fun we had.