Capturing Spirit | Photography

This photo is all about spirit, and how to capture it. There is nothing more rewarding than immortalising a moment in time. It is the ultimate buzz.

#FotoFriday | Spur Of The Moment | Photography

The assignment for the photo above started out simply enough: shoot a bunch of generic headshots of my colleagues at work for use on a company flow chart. I setup my lights, got my exposure right and framing was ready to go. All rather boring and clinical so far…

Capturing someone’s spirit in a split second is the ultimate [photographer’s] buzz.

Then one by one people came in – almost all of them begrudgingly with the “let’s-get-this-over-with” attitude. Most people hate having their photo taken. I’m one of them. I never think I look like me in any photos of me. We’re all like that.

So the obstacle I had was not technical, but spirit based. To get great shots, I needed to bring people’s true spirit out of them. I needed to make them feel comfortable, at ease, and then capture an “immortal” moment in a very brief period of time. It’s a lot harder than it seems, but there is a way to do it.

Firstly, put your subject at ease by talking and joking around with them as you fidget with your camera. You need to mirror their body language; if they are nervous, act nervous yourself, like you’re also here begrudgingly. It builds rapport; you’re both uncomfortable, but we’ll make this work. If they are confident, beam that back too.

Then start “officially” shooting them to make sure your exposure and focus and composition is right, but also be ready to snap when they least expect it. Take snaps without holding the camera to your eye. Or pretend the camera is not working, then when they drop their guard, hit the shutter release. Nintey-nine percent of the time, it’s when people DON’T think they are being photographed that they drop their guard, and their real essence comes out.

And that is when you – the photographer – strikes. That is your moment. You need to train yourself to look for it. Like a sniper.

In the photo above I got the subject talking about what she loves: her band, and playing music. Hence I got her to show me how she headbangs at a show, and SNAP – you see the result. I captured her spirit in the photo: free spirit, creative, flowing. And that is who she is in real life.

Here are some of my other shots of people:

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