Creativity knows no bounds
During the quarantine, I'm not able to conduct dance photo shoots in Chicago, in person. It's tempting to just sit around and watch Netflix all day. Now, don't get me wrong, I love Netflix as much as the next person. But as a creative, it's important to exercise those creative muscles.
Technology has gotten a bad name. Some deserved, some not. But the important thing is...how do you use technology to create, connect and tell stories?
For me, the answer is FaceTime Photo Shoot...or as I'd like to call it Social DistDancing Shoot, because my focus is dancers. I came up with the name, but the idea was created by other photographers. I don't know who exactly, but I'm thankful.
There are two ways to do a virtual shoot. One method is the photographer would just screen capture what he sees from his phone. Another way is to capture what's on the phone with a camera...this is the method I choose.
The main reason I decided to add an extra step by using my camera to shoot my phone screen is, I can add my personal style into the images.
As you can see from the images shown in the blog post...instead of just the dancer, I was able to met up a mini studio with what I have around the house, to add to the images. It being a virtual shoot is an important part of the story telling. I wanted the viewers to see the phone and that Hannah is not present physically. I was able to add depth by adding a foreground element...aka the branch close to the camera. The branches also allow me to subtly subframe the subject.
Compromises and Adaptation
One thing that's inescapable is the loss of image quality when doing a virtual shoot. And when I say quality, I meant how clear and sharp the images are. Regardless of what you've heard about cellphone cameras...they are NOT up to the professional standard. On top of that, when you facetime, the video feed's quality is lower...and on top of that...if the wifi signal isn't strong enough, it suffers even more.
And this is why good photographers charge what they charge...they use what seem like disadvantages to their advantage. When you understand the technical side of photography, it helps you with the artistic part. I knew the limitations beforehand, so when it came to editing, I already knew I wanted to give it a vintage look...almost as if I took them with a film camera. Luck would have it that I started photography with film, so it's something very familiar to me.
Being able to communicate is important when your subject is in person...it's IMPERATIVE when you have to communicate through a phone to guide the person on the other side how to frame the subject.
It is not easy to pull off if, 1), you don't have a clear vision, and 2), if you lack social skills. A lot of photographers are technically sound...as in, they know all the dials and functions of the camera and understand the photography technics...but some lack the personal skills that is irreplaceable. It is the difference between a ruined shoot and an unforgettable experience. I've heard this from quite a few people I've photographed, and it's heart breaking.
Joanna, Hannah's mom, did an amazing job of listening to my direction and execute my vision. And Hannah was all hands on deck and was willing to be open minded and make suggestions of her own. It's important for photographers to create an environment where the subject feels they can question and/or make suggestions without hesitation.
Experience is Priceless
Embrace the act of creating! If the only thing your clients got out of a photoshoot with you are images, you haven't done your job as a photographer. I love putting parents/family members to work during my shoots. And Hannah's shoot was no different. I require a legal guardian present when the subject is a minor, and that made it easy. In this case, Joanna was my camerawoman. She and Hannah had to set up the space in their kitchen. Joanna was the one holding the phone to frame Hannah, and we even got dad involved...albeit he was used to block out the natural sunlight coming through the window. :D It might sound trivial, but I guarantee you, a year from now, if I brought up this shoot, they'd all have fond memories of it! :)
Jeff Yin Is an international award winning Dance Photographer from Chicago.
As always, my photo shoots always end with a silly group photo. It's a tradition I started to celebrate the time we spent together. I am forever grateful when the families choose me as their photographer. I'd like to thank Hannah, Joanna and Bill for putting their trust in me and sharing this experience with me. I hope to see them again in the summer for Hannah had plans to visit Chicago for ballet summer intensive.