I was recently watching an interview conducted by Photoshelter.com with noted photographer Brian Smith, who talked about some his “secrets” to great portrait photography.
Near the end of the interview, as he shared details about some of his most popular work featuring actors and celebrities, a viewer asked why he chooses to shoot some subjects posed in such a way that has them looking off to the camera or down.
I loved his response. He said, “In general, I think looking into the camera is over-rated.” He said actors often prefer looking off camera rather than directly into the camera and smiling because it allows them to get “into character.”
For regular folks like you and me, I find that capturing moments when someone is looking off camera actually tells more of a story. It makes you wonder — hmm, what was that person looking at, thinking about, or reacting to? When you think of it that way, I believe that onward looking pose often extends the shelf-life of a photo, too.
It’s for these reasons that I also enjoy taking photos when people aren’t smiling or laughing. My husband once asked why I loved one particular picture of our son so much because in it he was frowning or scrunching his face — I can’t exactly remember his expression.
And I told him it’s because people don’t smile 24/7. Frowns, flat expressions, crying and the like are part of our emotional repertoire as human beings. So why not capture it, I thought to myself?! 🙂
While I certainly am not about to abandon having my clients look directly into the camera and smiling, I also want to be able to capture the full range of emotions that may surface on the day of our shoot.
Looking off-camera is simply one of those opportunities to tell the whole story, to elongate a moment in time, and to capture natural emotion. Whenever I get a chance to, I hope to be ready to snap away when that moment arrives.
Here are some of my FAVORITE photos from the past season that included my (oh, so gorgeous) clients looking off camera. What do you think?