You know the traditional marriage vow. The one that says for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health. Well, when one half of the happy nuptials happens to be a stock photographer, the vows should really go something like:
…I thee wed, along with all your camera equipment that I will forever be in the company of from this moment forward. I promise to pose and preen, and to be ready with a smile. I will forego the peace and quiet of dining without a camera flash, I will dress in silly costumes on demand, I will act goofy in public when asked, and I will wait patiently on vacation while you take “just one more shot” ….. til death do us part.
You see as a photographer, one of the best subjects you can have is your spouse. Think about it. They’re always around. It’s easy to get a signed model release. They get just as much satisfaction from your photography as you do (or so we like to think anyway). And they know we can make their lives pretty uncomfortable when they choose not to co-operate!
For me, that’s my husband. Or, as I refer to him, the Emoting-king! While I’ve only been a professional photographer for a fraction of our 23-year marriage, I sometimes feel like we were meant to be together because of my interest in photography and his interest in getting photographed. Together we make taking stock photos a fun filled family activity. Something that is easy for any family to do.
Let’s first admit to ourselves that, as much as we love them, our spouses are not professional models. That means we should set realistic expectations for their abilities and for the results we expect to get. What they are good at is being our spouse, so that is what we need to capture in pictures.
To ease your spouse into this, start with everyday life. Show them doing what they do day in and day out. This will allow them to relax and act naturally and leave you with some great stock-oriented photos. While the pictures need to look like you’ve just grabbed your camera and captured them in an unguarded moment, that doesn’t mean that you don’t still need to approach the shot with your usual professional manner. Taking the time to set up quality lighting, shoot using a tripod and pay attention to your camera settings will make sure that the resulting image will be of the highest quality.
Shoot the stereotypes even if your family doesn’t conform to them. Show your wife as homemaker, mother, friend and lover. Have your husband doing home repairs, lawn maintenance, and more “traditional” male activities. Then shoot the opposite – you’ll find a lot of images with a woman doing laundry but not so many with a man doing it. The same is true for a woman doing car repairs. The laws of supply and demand can work in your favor.
You already have your camera with you on vacations, so use it to capture your spouse doing fun activities. The same is true when cooking an unusual dinner, when out on a picnic or while attending a party. The key is to keep your camera handy and to look for moments that translate into good stock photo opportunities.
Once your spouse gets comfortable aping it up for the camera, it’s time to try something more adventurous. Have them try doing unusual activities in everyday settings. Be prepared to take lots of throwaway images, but don’t be surprised to capture some real gems as well. Set the environment up and then keep the shoot as relaxed and spontaneous as possible. As much as we may hate to admit it, our spouses are pretty creative too and can contribute some great ideas if we let them.
Introduce costumes and special effects when you feel they are ready. Start simple – take an unusual Christmas card or play around in the backyard, and slowly introduce more creative elements as they become more comfortable in this new role. For my husband, I find the introduction of a good single malt scotch can help smooth out the rough edges in the process.
Throw yourself in the mix to get good couples shots. These can be anything from everyday activities to the more adventurous you’ve been asking your mate to do. Lose those inhibitions!
Experiment – tell a story. Be creative with your ideas. The best advice I can give is to have FUN! Making photography a family affair can yield some great pictures for your portfolio – and create some lasting memories as well.
About the Author
Karen Foley is a freelance stock photographer who contributes her work exclusively to Dreamstime Stock Agency. Look for her blogs about photography and portfolio of work at: Karen Foley Photography.