Some people are just more serious than others. Most people like to laugh, but to be represented in an image people generally fall into four categories. 1. Smile at the camera in some sort of pose that you think shows you off the best. 2. serious and contemplative to show some sort of professionalism or intellect. 3. I'm pissed being made to pose for a picture that I hate. 4. as goofy as can be. Now there are a few other categories that are a little less obvious and not as common, the downright shy not sure what to do or why, or the person who really just doesn't know much about what a photograph really does(this category is less and less now with camera phones etc...). When I set in motion to do a photoshoot these are the things I try to decipher right off the bat---what kind of portrait am I going to be able to make. Some people just don't want to have their picture taken and even though this is often the more difficult type of person to get a good photograph of...I sympathize and we talk about that and I tell stories of how much I didn't want to be a photographer because I just hated to pose for pictures---so why would I put others through that? Generally we laugh at this and somehow we get a little more relaxed and get through the shoot. Most of the time we end up with pretty cool photos. I'm pretty sure Tyler didn't want any part of having his senior photos taken, but we tried some things with his basketball uniform, we tried some smiling shots, but he seemed much more comfortable being serious and I think these probably show more of his personality. He is a serious guy and I think he has a pretty good head on his shoulders and will succeed in life....this is the sort of thing that makes me feel honored about being able to document a little bit of his life. SayerMotter Photograph by Richard Sayer.
Jack is one of those people you run across in life that make life....well.... the wonderfully unique experience that it is. Jack is a bright guy with a very good wit and sensibility toward creative solutions. He doesn't take logical paths toward conclusions and this is what I like about him the most. I've never met anyone quite like him before, though I've met several people who he reminds me of because of his uniqueness---its a little like that maple leaf idea I wrote about awhile back---there are no two maple leafs that are exactly the same, yet nothing looks more like a maple leaf than a the leaf of a maple.... Jack is like all the oddly great people I know and call my friends. (This portrait even resembles one I took of one such friend--Ray that I took over 20 years ago---and when Jack saw that picture he busted my chops saying I haven't come up with any new udeas in 25 years!!!!) I am quite often impressed with Jack's ability to problem solve and his memory is possibly photographic. I made this sort of impromptu portrait of Jack last night as we talked about photography and college. He showed me his senior portraits done for Allegheny by Herff-Jones. It was a riot. I told him he looked like an upside down boat and he told me that his dad was disappointed that he had his picture taken with a Mohawk. I offered to take his portrait next semester without the Mohawk, though I think this portrait, taken in the computer lab shows a little bit of his personality and might be a more telling portrayal than the funny mohawk picture or the portrait we'll take next semester for his family. Photograph by Richard Sayer.
There was a scene in Cats Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut where this scientist's attention was taken away from working on the Atomic bomb because he became fascinated with turtles. His bosses couldn't get him back on task and finally resorted to asking the scientists daughter for help. The daughter basically ran the house and took care of him since her mother and his wife died. The daughter simply said...'just take the turtles away from him.' Sometime I feel like that. I get sort of obsessed working on something that virtually everything else gets neglected (my yard and house are exhibits A and B unfortunately). Right now I'm really trying to decide how I want to design a wedding album. I'm never happy with pre-made templates so I end up doing extra work to design everything from the backgrounds to the borders ... everything. So today I decided I wanted to design a 12x12 album with completely custom designed pages and have begun to zero in on the designs above. I want elegant yet something that focusses on and showcases the photographs and the stories within them. I've decided today...though this may change...to keep a consistent background throughout the book... I'm at least going to put a few pages together to see if this looks right and isn't too boring. I want the photographs to be the key more than the 'design' if that makes sense. Like going to your own art show opening and hearing people talk more about the frames or the food than the actual artwork, I don't want the presentation over power the images and the wonderful story telling moments of Dee and Greg's day. SayerMotter photographs and designs by Richard Sayer.
I've written this before, but when I was in high school and I was trying to do my art project with a video camera(I wanted to make a music video to a Violent Femmes song) my art teacher made me do my project in photography. I suppose I owe Tom King .... well .... everything! The video camera was broken and I didn't come up with a plan b. He said he wanted me to do photography and the school had a Nikon FE2 with a 50mm lens. I resisted because I really hated the idea and I remember telling him I hate photography and photographers. The photographers I'd experienced in the past were at weddings and they sorta ruin all the fun... or posing for family portraits where the person doing the shots had to get it just right and really didn't even know how to use the camera....so I had a bad taste in my mouth with regard to photography. But years later here I am, basically living a photographic life. One thing I do remember about that old old feeling about photographers is that not having fun part and I have vowed to myself to not be one of those photographers. I have fun making pictures and try to get my subjects to have fun as well--Everyone look up there--now there--ok kiss Grandma...now get attitude...smile....seriously is that the look you want to go with??? I try all sorts of things to get everyone relaxed and laughing. It is then that we get our shot. And those outtakes in between are also where we get a real glimpse into the family portrait as opposed to being just a picture of the family. I hope no one feels that they don't want to become a photographer someday after a photo shoot with me. That would be a tragedy...and Mr. King...Thank you! SayerMotter photographs by Richard Sayer.
Last winter I was given the pleasure of shooting along side a Pulitzer Prize winner. He is a very close ole friend who was attending and photographing his niece's wedding. For the opportunity to help out my friend and selfishly--to learn from him so that when I began photographing weddings again that I'd be a little more capable and perhaps confident. I was doing my thing as a second shooter at the wedding. Craig, for obvious reasons was the primary photographer and I was sort of on the outskirts capturing some of the stuff he couldn't or a different angle. I was setting up this picture, one I do a lot --a reflection in a window, when Craig was following his niece and new nephew down the stairs. I liked this picture because Craig saw me and I think felt like he was in my photo and wanted to get out of the way, but since he is family too I thought it was a fun picture of the wedding. I had a few of these. Normally you wouldn't want pictures of the photographer in the wedding album, but this one I think would fit in, though I don't think it made the cut---my pictures had to hold up to a Pulitzer winner's pictures.... Photograph by Richard Sayer.
I admit, I struggle with outdoor portraits. Lighting is beautiful to me and I love to really try to capture lighting--the speckles the harsh angles and deep shadows....but portraiture...at least most commercial portraiture is based on a much more even toned lighting where the highlights and shadows are not too far apart from one another. My first thought is expose for the highlights and let the shadows just go, but this has bitten me in the you know what before as I've gotten a picture only I and some of my photographer friends would like....not the client. I still try these, but am super conscious about making sure I shoot pictures that capture full shadow details and not too bright of highlights. This summer I found myself finally understanding how to find this balance of light and shadow and this fall felt like I could see it and use it. Its still not easy for me--I have to remember to see first, but think throughout if that makes sense. It is important to me to make the work that I want, but it is equally important to the client to be able to trust that I will keep their needs first in mind. Finding that balance is where I want be in this business and eventually find that what I ultimately want to achieve, clients will come seeking. SayerMotter Photographs taken in the middle of the road near Conneaut Lake this past fall by Richard Sayer.
This was an interesting year. Busy.... extremely busy, but interesting. I recently was making a 2012 calendar for a family I photographed in the fall and this picture was chosen by them for their December photo and I thought it was perfect! We tend to look back at the year in December and this picture so perfectly says that. This made me realize even more than I did before that this family understands photography! To me we communicate so much in images that its disconcerting to see how so many people treat photography as such a whim and an unthought out reflex in this age of cell-phone-immediate posting to facebook-armlength snapshot photography. I know meaningful images are being made...but they are hard to find through all the noise from the inundation millions of photographs posted everyday. We maintain this blog of images and sometimes we feel like we're posting for the sake of posting, but we are confident that even when we miss the boat a little, we're not missing it entirely and am trying to post something that has meaning(Ok the picture of my dog the other day really was just for me--I love that little guy--and my mom!!!) This picture has meaning, and I don't think just to the family...it says something and has a quality to it that I hadn't really noticed myself before placing it on a page on a December calendar. Right now it is one of my favorite pictures of 2011. SayerMotter Photograph by Richard Sayer.
Formal and informal? Since I'm a photojournalist I'm less apt to think formal portraiture before informal portraiture. During a recent shoot I was reminded of how I tend to set people up and sort of let them be themselves as I talk with them and snap pictures. I give direction, but I'm seldom too picky about exacting position of head and hands etc.... This can be a problem sometimes, but overall I like the fact that when I'm done I usually have a more naturalist portrayal of the person overall. I think this is where a personality comes out. Even in the formal pictures I try really hard to make sure they are not too stiff and lifeless. To me formal is more about posture and lighting than anything else...so why make it be boring. I'm trying to relearn lighting techniques I learned 25 years ago and newer techniques(although most of my 'newer' techniques are from the 30's and 40's) so that I can increase my ability to set up a situation and then--let the flow of the session take on a life of its own knowing the lighting will work. I remember working with Eric Shilling this fall. I had these new lights and had them set up and ready to go when I discovered this great sun light coming in if I left the door open. So I used the natural light and then just had to reflect and balance light into the shadows. It was fun to adapt to the unexpected, which is also an indication of my journalism background where I need to be able to make a picture no matter what the situation happens to be. SayerMotter Photographs by Richard Sayer.
The senior portrait season is basically over for this year, though we still occasionally get frantic calls from parents who say they need a rush portrait done right up to yearbook deadlines. We're looking back at the past year and we're picking our favorite shots of 2011 and as we do this we're working on what sort of specials we'll offer in 2012. Last years specials gave us a great opportunity to meet several very great young people who have bright futures ahead of them. When I see the seniors I've photographed I feel almost a family connection to them and I am genuinely interested in what they going to do with their lives. I see Alyssa quite a bit and I'm impressed with how nice she is to me and seems to go out of her way to say hello to this old photographer who took her picture last summer. Gives me faith that maybe the world is really not so bad afterall! SayerMotter Photographs by Richard Sayer! Can you pick which of these will make it into my favorites of 2011?
I tried to hammer home a point this semester in the class I teach at Allegheny. Watch your backgrounds. Its something to really pay attention to because distracting backgrounds can just kill a picture. Being aware of the parts of the picture that are not the subject is what separates the good photographers from the snapshot shooters. I'm often told, 'Oh i have this really great picture!' only to look at it to see they have a really great subject of they captured a peak moment, but they don't really have a great picture. A great picture has everything, light, composition, a moment, and sense some sort of emotion perhaps. In a great picture we don't talk about something needing to be different--a crop, light, distance to subject....etc... They are rare, but when they are there...by god you know it! This picture of Jordan is not one of these 'great' pictures I'm talking about, but I thought it was fun to make this really big tough kid into a flower. And he is a great guy who let me do it and he even laughed a little when we did it. SayerMotter Photograph by Richard Sayer.