The {Guest} Post About Photographing Your Favorite People and Places

My rabbit guester today is Liz Thomas from Liz Thomas Photography. Liz and I go way back. Like bighairandscrunchiesandhypercolorshirts back. My first memory of Liz has her surrounded by paper and photographs in the yearbook room at my high school. I remember thinking "She has such a big personality to be so little. I like her." Petite Liz and I lost touch after graduation despite what we promised to each other in that yearbook we designed. However, Mark Zuckerberg saved the day and we've reconnected. Now I think "She has such a gorgeous portfolio to be so little." Let's see what petite Liz can teach us.

Jamie was crazy enough to invite me write a guest post, and I was thrilled, because I love Jamie and all her rabbits. We knew each other long ago in school, and to be back in the presence of Jamie's wit via Facebook and her blog...well...it just makes life better, doesn't it?

So here goes...a tutorial of sorts.

Capturing something real is what I live for (professionally speaking).

Recently, I photographed a wedding and the comments that sent me over the moon were about the bride's dad. "We couldn't believe how he smiled." "We haven't seen him like that in years." "That's the man I married." Whoa!

Was it my rockin' personality and fantabulous shooting skills? Let me assure you - not!

How does it happen? And, how can you take photos that make you feel something...something real?

Photography has been a gift. It's taken me to faraway places, introduced me to people I might never know, and shown me a world I would not see otherwise.
Whether its travel, weddings, families, or police officers (uh-huh!), some things are always the same. People are people. Learn to anticipate.

Here's what I mean:
Say you're at your cousin's wedding. Your uncle is dancing with his daughter, the bride. You snap off a few. They're pretty good, if you say so yourself. As you turn to walk away, the song wraps up and you hear "awww...ahhhh..." No surprise, right? But you missed it...the real moment.
Nine times out of 10, if a bride dances with her dad, he will kiss her or hug her tightly - so very sweetly - when the music stops.

And if you're ready, you'll capture something...something real.
Wait for the moment and don't stop shooting, just in case the moment goes flying by you! You can't create a moment like that, you can only be there when it happens.
This high school senior wanted her childlike spirit captured. She recognized the childhood chapter of her book is closing.
Learning to anticipate was not an accident. And, it didn't start with photography. Since I was a kid, I wanted to be a writer and tell stories. About people.

When I was in college, I worked as a public relations photographer. I will never forget a meeting with our editor before a college event saying, "the president played football in college, and he still looks like a line backer. Whatever you do, don't shoot him from the backside. And he always makes a telling expression when he says 'such and such'- get it!" We learned to watch and wait. We were shooting film on manual cameras- you had to get it right.

My boys are infamous for their big mouths- literally and figuratively:
Everyone has an expression, a gesture, a look that screams a part of who they are. Grab that moment!
That's how I approach most everything I shoot. A writer asks about details and weaves a story connecting those details. It's the same with photos that stir you. They tell a story and show you provoking details without a word. With an article, readers want to know the who, what, when, where, why or how?

A photo can tell the same story.
So ask yourself, whether it's a family event, an aging parent, a wild toddler or a trip to Six Flags: what's the story here? what do I want to remember about the place? the person? the day? this moment?

My grandmother loves puzzles. My boys love puzzles. Lucky me, they decided to share the task of putting one together. I grabbed a camera.
I could've said, "hey everybody look at me. Let's take a picture of you with the puzzle." I bet 5 million dollars that two out of three would not have looked at me or smiled. What I wanted to remember was the story. It's not just the moment, it's the angle and the details. Notice below, the angle changed depending on the detail.

So what can you do? Aim for three shots:
1) The Place: Set the scene. This is the where and the who. By looking at the images of my granny, I will remember in which room we were. I will remember my grandmother had fallen a few days before and still wore the bruise on her jaw. I will remember which hands belonged to whom.

2) The Moment: This is closer, is shot from an angle that says who and what.

3) The Details: This is close. I wanted to remember the contrast of the hands - the wrinkled ones and the not-wrinkled ones. I wanted to even remember the puzzle since my boys loves learning states and capitals.

Maybe you just have your phone or a point-and-shoot. It's even more important to anticipate. You know how long your camera may take to respond, so plan for it. Start snapping just before the moment and you should actually capture it.

My friends just adopted a little girl from Ethiopia. What happens at a homecoming? Husbands and wives, mothers and children, all make a beeline to embrace!
So here's what you can do at such an occasion:
1) Survey your surroundings, find good light, take pictures from different angles (especially if you have a fully-automatic camera, because this will affect the lighting of your photo.)

2) Find the important players, even the folks who don't think they need their picture made. There will come a day when someone will cherish that real-life image of them!

3) Think of the story you want to tell. If it's a family reunion, it's not people eating that you want to capture. Sure, take photos of the spread of food, just not people eating! :)

4) Find the emotion Whose moment is this? Who's going to react?

5) Anticipate how the events will unfold.

6) Get in position and wait...

We were in the airport and I wanted the viewer to know that.

Mommy had been gone...little sister was coming...brother was anxious...

Dad would be anxious, too, as would a host of other people. Where would I be to capture this? Sometimes, all you have to do is turn around and your moment is waiting for you!

Brother meets sister for the first time.

Mom, Dad and brother are proud. Relieved the journey was behind them... (keep shooting!)

You can see more of these moments here.

Maybe it's a place you want to document like your childhood home. Ask yourself:

1) What do I remember about this place? the kitchen, my bedroom, the carpet color

2) Who is special here? Where do I have the most memories of that person?

And, get several angles of the outside of the house.
I'll leave you with a project I photographed this summer. A grandmother's legacy of more than 200 quilts.
You can see more of that story here.

I hope you've found something in this post to help you document your favorite people and places! Please drop me a note. I'd love to see what you're working on! liz@lizthomasphotography.com

Time to stalk Liz. Subscribe to her blog. Like her on Facebook. Follow her on Twitter.

Question from Jamie: What's captured in one of your most treasured photographs? I'll go first in the comments.

{images: Liz Thomas Photography}

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