When I was approached some months back about taking the graduation photos at my school, I was surprised. Why were they asking me? Surely, there was someone better qualified. Someone with more experience. But they hadn’t asked someone else. They’d asked me. Turns out, I was the only one the guys in the Media Factory (the A/V, web and graphic design guys) trusted. I had spent the last three years in and out of their office. I’d built up a rapport with them. They trusted me with the equipment. So despite my lack of confidence, I agreed to spend a few hours every day for two weeks taking portraits of my fellow grads.
I worked directly with Wilson, my school’s Graphic Designer and Photographer. He transformed the music room into a mini studio, perfect for portrait taking. Before taking any “real” photos, he showed me the camera settings and how to position the lights. I took a few practice shots of him that day, but the next day was the real deal. We only had one person scheduled, so at least there was no stress. Wilson took the first few shots, and then let me continue. With all the props, there were four poses for boys and six for girls. It was nice having him there so I could learn the placement of the flowers and the rolled up piece of paper that acted as a diploma.
The following day was much the same, with Wilson starting to take the photos and me taking over. I started to get really comfortable behind the camera once I had taken several photos. “This wasn’t so hard”, I thought. I was personable with each person that walked through the door, and that helped make them comfortable. By the third day, Wilson wasn’t sticking around to take photos. He just let me do my thing. And my thing was working out pretty well! The photos were coming out great! I was developing my own sense of style, and getting what I wanted to capture with each photo.
For the following one and a half weeks, I took 20 hours worth of photos for approximately 50 students. And I loved every minute of it! I knew getting your picture taken isn’t easy, so I tried my best to make everyone relaxed. I asked questions about their plans after graduation, joked with them, and most importantly, made them smile. One of the best things ever when taking portraits is getting that one really genuine smile. I think the fact that I was a student too, and graduating with them, helped me build rapport with each individual I met.
I really enjoyed the time I spent taking grad photos. It is definitely something I would do again. As a first experience with portrait taking, I think it went really well. The best part, though, were the happy “customers” when I showed them their photos. They were all so pleased!
One girl in particular, Katrina, posted her picture on Facebook. It got rave reviews from all her friends and family. Katrina thanked me profusely, and told me that my personable nature, and photography skills were good enough that she could see me doing this as a profession. She also said that her mother thought it was the nicest picture ever, which is of course, what grad photos are all about: making mom happy! I hope to get more portrait photography opportunities in the future, as this experience has taught me that I thoroughly enjoy it, and that I’m not too shabby at it either.