The Importance of Laughter
All the time I get the question "What is your favorite subject to photograph? For the first couple years of my career I would waffle between "Oh, I just really like photographing people" and "Well, I don't think I can choose - I love everything I shoot!" But that's not entirely accurate. I shoot everything from weddings to athletic events to product shoots to landscapes to maternity sessions professionally - sometimes all in the same week - but over and over again the shoots that I enjoy most and specifically the images I am happiest with are those that include laughter.
To me, laughter is not only an expression of mirth, but often one of genuine happiness (even for just an instant) giving a glimpse into the character of each laughing subject as I see what affects them most and how that laughter affects their persona and movement. I cannot tell you how many people have told me they're not at all photogenic before a shoot, but once I get them laughing and enjoying their experience, they open up to the camera allowing for authentic portraits. And truly - to me at least - it is this authenticity of character (rather than well-lit, well-posed stiffness) that can make or break a photo, depending on how well it tells the subject's story.
This is why, as many of my subjects can attest, all of my shoots are centered around laughter in some fashion. This is easiest, of course, with couples photos - weddings, engagements and general couple shoots. I mean, who knows better how to make you laugh than your partner? In my wedding and engagement questionnaires and through the planning process I get to know each couple so that when we photograph together, I know how best to make them laugh or to get each other to laugh so that their images show the utmost joy and excitement that they surely feel but may not initially be comfortable sharing with the outside world. And this year I'll be taking a page out of the Poetic Posing playbook drafting a list of individualized questions to ask at each shoot that not only will give us something to talk about during the process, but are sure to induce at least a small chuckle if not a full-on peel of giggles.
These questions will also accompany me to family and other portrait sessions; though, for every family shoot I've ever done, we've had so much fun (usually involving tickling and teasing each other) that I don't anticipate needing them. As we plan our shoot, if you have an appropriate question you feel would elicit a hilarious response, I will happily include it.
Ultimately, my goal in creating laughter in my photo shoots is not solely to generate pleasing photos, but to create an overall delightful experience. If you take a couple hours out of your day to simply enjoy spending time with your loved ones - unplugging from all else - while I capture your fun, not only will you end up with a beautiful heirloom album of photos to document how enjoyable your afternoon, but you'll have a great memory to treasure until the next photo shoot when you can make memories anew. You may not believe me now, but an enjoyable photo shoot experience can even improve your self confidence by creating a perpetual cycle of enjoyment therefore authenticity therefore more beautiful images therefore more confidence. Rinse and repeat.
So now, when someone invariably asks me "What is your favorite subject to photograph?" I can immediately whip the answer out of my pocked (with finger guns) - laughter!