Humanity and Humility

Not too long ago, I was consulting with a 50s+ woman photographer about how to make better portraits with both her dedicated and iPhone cameras.
Fair enough. This was right up my alley.
And, btw, this was not my first consultation with this photographer.
I knew, for a fact, that this female photographer had plenty of training and education in portrait best practices.
I also knew, from previous conversations, that she struggled, even mightily, with general relatedness.
Her subjects, consistently, appeared stiff, awkward, and self-conscious.
Here’s the hard-cold reality of this story and many stories just like it.
Forgive me if it seems harsh.
I never particularly cared much for this photographer’s personality.
She was cocky, a bit pretentious, definitely a know-it-all, and seemed closed off emotionally. No soft edges. No vulnerability. No fragility. Ugh, not what I would call ingredients for a successful portrait shooter?
Annoyingly, she seems to love hearing herself talk more than listen? Argh.
Right in the middle of listening to her go endlessly on and on about her puzzling inability to genuinely connect with the subjects she photographs, it dawned on me, what the real reason was that she couldn’t connect with others.
Mostly, in short, she was too into herself and not enough into the people she was photographing. Plain and simple.
Just like my own personal experience with this woman, people didn’t/don’t seem to like and trust her.
And this, sadly and unfortunately, is the kiss of death in portrait photography.
When you make the experience about them, the subjects of your photographs, and not you…magic happens both behind and in front of the lens. Trust me.
It doesn’t matter how talented or skilled you are, as a portraiturist, if people, first and foremost, don’t genuinely, even immediately, like and trust you, your portrait work will be handicapped.
As odd as this might sound, and you have to believe it, when people sincerely like and trust you, even when the portrait session is innately awkward, they want to connect and help you.
As a matter of fact, oftentimes, they want to help you get through the session as much as they want to get through the same.
Thankfully, I got quite a few ”like and trust” genes from both my mom and dad.
So, for me, this part of the portrait process has always been easy and frictionless.
When you look closely at my portrait work, across the board, I think you will see and feel a certain connection and chemistry, even as a viewer looking on.
In my very humble experience, being liked and trusted, in both photography and life, grows out of two things-humanity and humility.
Have them both, in abundance, and you will enjoy the infinite portrait canvas.
I did manage to tell my consulting client, in a kind and gentle way, that her challenges were not technical and mechanical but emotional and psychological.
She never called me back.



Jack Hollingsworth