There are only a few things in life that I know FOR SURE….One, is that Guinness Extra Stout is the Nectar of the Gods and that Every Thing Happens For A Reason….everything else, even this writers’ existence is in doubt….How Do I know for sure about sure thing #2? (I void, therefore, I am) OOPS… Wrong #2…. WAAAY too many times, something seemingly unrelated, other than the space/time continuum, happens, then the next thing you know, this happens…..here’s what I mean….and this is why I LOVE what I do.
What do I do? I make the world and the people in it a happier and more beautiful place, one person at a time.
See this woman, (name withheld), called and made an appointment for a “business portrait” for herself, at the studio a few weeks ago. We put her on the calendar and we were all ready for her arrival. Now, rarely are people on time for their appointments…or, they come skidding in just in the nick of time, stressed out over their day. JUST the prescription for me to catch them at their most serene and omnipotence…a-hem…but this fine woman arrives early…not just a bit early, but like a half hour before her time. She carried in a few different changes of “TOPS”, (guy speak-shirts), which is always a good sign to me….it shows someone actually put forth the effort to prepare for their likeness to be created by moi….kind of like really washing your feet (with soap) and putting on fresh socks, to keep the toe jam at a minimum, the day you visit the podiatrist. (now THERE’S a job/profession I could NEVER do!) And she goes to the powder room, the changing room and it’s forever before she comes out…um, like, is she texting back there? So way after when we are supposed to start, she’s in the portrait studio. (I have multiple studios for different kinds of photo needs). She introduces herself and outright states she’s VERY nervous…(and It showed) I caught the vibe. Poor thing. She had no idea what was about to happen….and neither did I!……..
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OK, we are back. Thanks for not switching blogs.
Back in the studio, with the door closed, I love to meet and get to know the person I’m working with/for. I look at their expressions, eyes, hair, smile, body language, all while I’m chatting, getting them relaxed to a non-standard room (studio). My studio is functionally different from home or office rooms. I want it that way. You KNOW you are not in Kansas anymore. It’s all business. Its, well, studio-like. Someday, I’ll tell you why my favorite word in the English language is “studio”. Later. So, I learn about Wendy (oops!), what she does and the fact that she’s out-right scared of this process we call a portrait. Maybe you medical-types can understand….to you blood is your, well, life-blood. But if I have to go someplace like a Doctor’s Office and get a “blood draw”…I’D rather be in Kansas. Cause soon, I’m gonna be spinning my way past Mrs. Gootch and falling down on Dorothy Gale’s porch…I frickin’ HATE to get stabbed and lacerated into my manly, pulsing veins. Watching 14 gallons of black-red blood flowing into the catch-can the pit crew is holding next to me. Y-U-C-K! So I get it, when someone says they are scared. See, fear is a nutty protector. We grow up with our parents telling us “NOT to put our hands down in the garbage disposal”, (which never dawned on me until they mentioned it…..then it was kind of fun hearing the different, cool noises when finding out what sounded the best and worst down in there….(It’s a draw between shooter marbles and a silver tea spoon) When you’ve really scored, is when you jam it, and it just hums/growls, ’til the breaker pops…then you run. Where was this going?
So Wendy (oops) was afraid of the un-known. It’s funny how our self-confidence crumbles when a camera appears. Remember being in school and a TV or still camera guy walked into a room, unannounced? Suddenly, it’s like some death-ray is coming out of the lens and it’s spraying you this “visable gook” all over you, so that you can appear into the camera’s guts. Why are they here? What did we do wrong? Why US? Or, its that wonderful, high-speed playback video our brains can fabricate from a lifetime of experiences….reliving the shock of seeing what we “really” look like in Uncle George’s snap shots. HORRORS! We cringe! We go into denial. That’s NOT ME! (It’s kind od like hearing your voice played back…you cringe thinking that’s how others’ hear you talk!!)
So Wendy (oops) was in pre-cringe, before we started making test shots. I do everything I can to describe what’s going to happen, what the rules are, how I “coach” people into positions, not “pose” people. And a whole bunch of other stuff.
Well, she, Wendy, (oops) didn’t pass-out, she listened and saw the feedback from the different frames, as we worked together. One of the miracles of digital photography is feedback. The system and workflow I use, has my camera tethered to the portrait computer. As I trip the shutter, the camera sends the images through the cable to the monitor, so we see life-sized (or larger) images of the subject AS I WORK. It’s like hearing the notes come out of the piano, as the keys are pressed. No more waiting six weeks for the proofs to come back (remember fil-um?) No, it’s not even six seconds any more.
we know when we are hitting sweet notes or sour ones. Soon, Wendy (darn-it, oops) was relieved. She listened as I showed her different frames and we would go back and make more frames of her….we found which angle was best, what side was best, etc….
Soon, we picked a final frame, then I did my usual tweak in post-processing, right in front of her, following her suggestions and surprising her with other subtle tweaks. She packed up, we shook hands, exchanged pleasantries and she left the studio. I re-sized the files for her needs and emailed the pix to her.
Four days later, in the USPS Pony Express, came a hand addressed letter to moi. I opened it, not recognizing the return address. In beautiful hand writing was this…..
“Dear John, I just wanted to thank you again for your help with my photo last week. You really made it easy and painless as possible. I also find that you gave memuch more than just a professional photo. for those who want to listen, observe and learn, you really help coach people in some of the finer / more subtle points of how to best present oneself visually – energy from the eyes, which smile / expression looks most appealing, etc……These were valuable “take-aways” from the seemingly simple 1-hour photo session. (editor’s note….this usually takes me 20 minutes…this is HOW nervous she was) I also loved and appreciated the the follow-up email and especially the the subject heading you used: “Beautiful YOU!” …..in an increasingly visual world & in a competitive job market & in an “up-north” community where it’s easy to sort of “let yourself go” in baggy clothes and baseball caps….Beautiful YOU! helps you make a great impression. I can see it especially targeted to the 40+ crowd – especially those trying to navigate a tough job market. (then she rambled on with ideas to and for me) She ends with “Thank you again for a wonderful experience! I am SO glad we’ve met & I hope our paths cross again soon. All the very BEST! Wendy” (oops)
So, I sat back, gobsmacked. Wow, I made a difference! Someone took the time to write me and thank me for a wake up call on her appearance. That note made my day!
Here’s the deal….see, I KNOW I’ve built the ‘better mousetrap”. After years of working and studying people, their feelings and reactions, I have captured lightning in a bottle. Everyone walking out of the studio after their session, is walking-on-air! It’s mental and physical health all in one.
And they have the photo to prove and remember it!