Shoot: Anna & Mike. Engaged.
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Thursday, April 26, 2012
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Part deux of 'Colorado Weekend' was with Anna & Mike, WI natives now living in Denver (and until Wisco can match CO's sunshine quota it will remain so)... with highlights including being covered in sand flies, we threw in some ants for good measure, a gale force wind and finished off with ski goggles.. totally normal. Looking forward to the deep winter Milwaukee wedding in December...

Anna & Mike. Engaged. from Steve Bowman on Vimeo.


So at a client meeting last week, someone said something that resonated with me. The girl said that she didn't look good when pictures were taken of her when she wasn't smiling. The guy immediately chirped in that she shouldn't worry about it, because it's like hearing the sound of your own voice... you hate it, but other people think nothing of it. Yet, I hear this comment so very often..

The non-smiling issue is something that has always been, and probably always will be a small bone of contention for me. It's one of those things that always rubs me the wrong way a little when it's questioned. There's a quotation I'd like to drop if you don't mind...

"It's only hubris if I fail"

There are two possible situations here. The first is that despite the fact that people hate images where the subjects aren't smiling (a solid 50% at least), clients continue to hire me anyway. The second is that this kind of image does work and their impact and my style continue to keep me in high demand.

Given no one is holdng a gun to anyone's head to hire me amongst a sea of other options, I'll take a leap and say it's the latter.

This all goes back to one of my soapbox topics: Making an image interesting is more important than making an image pleasing.

In portrait photography, particularly wedding photography, it's a dangerous proposition if you're wrong. Happily, I'm not.

I don't just know this because I'm full of myself (which I'm not.. maybe only 3/4s full), but because decades of entertainment marketing has done the job for me.

Whether we like it or not, we're influenced by visual media. In my opinion, it's one of the major reasons that sun flare is so widely accepted as desirable, and also the reason that non-smiling portraiture is also just as acceptable; it's just not embraced by those that have the chance to deliver it.

When shooting clients in this style the first time, it's always a little funny.. "OK..Look epic!" cue nervous laughter. Yet they always pull it off, even though you can probably count on one hand how many times they've taken a picture this way. However, they know what I'm asking for, and easily deliver it.

Take a look at this shot, one of my favourites...


Wedding portrait or poster for a movie? The point is, it could be either, yet the obviously desirable use is easily within the scope of believability.

We watch drama all the time... we watch plenty of TV shows, and plenty of movies where the characters do not smile all the time, and indeed their promotional materials are littered with stoic, ambiguous expressions.

Clients want to feel 'Hollywood'. They want images that are like the images they see in Vogue or Harper's... the guys want to look like action studs. It goes further than that though... think of the last time you were in a deep emotional moment with your significant other... were you grinning like a pair of chimps high on bananas, or was it deeper than that?

There's a place for this type of portraiture to be a feature. Thanks to the fact the portrait industry seems to be stuck in the mentality that there isn't, I'll continue to enjoy the benefits.