They say a picture paints a thousand words, but when it comes to books full of well-intentioned words, anyone who knows me well will tell you about my aversion to reading fiction.
It’s probably a hang back from school days when we were expected to read a certain number of fiction books during the holidays and the resulting detentions when you couldn’t answer questions on them once term had restarted.
I can confidently say that the last fiction I read was the third Harry Potter book, which I read to my younger daughter at bed-time.
So when Nigel Morgan of Berkshire’s leading public relations and social media consultancy Morgan PR approached me to take pictures of Mackenzie Smith to promote his new book “Who pays the Piper” an SAS novel, I was delighted to help him, however I also thought: “So what? – It’s just another story book!”
After I’d agreed to take the commission, Nigel sent me various background materials about the author, and invited me to download the first chapter of Who Pays the Piper for free from the author’s website.
Now I happen to believe that, being a commercial photographer it is essential to know about the product I’m photographing and on this occasion, who, I’m working with.
Establishing a comfortable relationship with them is vital, if you really want to achieve the best and most relaxed photographs and of course building that essential ingredient – the magic of rapport.
To this end and in the interest of research, I decided I must put my prejudice about fiction aside and find out what this book is all about, so I began reading the first chapter, which was included in my brief.
After the first few sentences my imagination was sparked by the visual and sometimes graphic descriptions which appeal to my rather right-brained mind and I soon found myself abruptly halted by the end of the chapter and wanting to know more. So much so, that even without meeting the client, I have ‘liked’ the book on Amazon and pre-ordered it ahead of the September launch.
When I eventually met Mackenzie, it was obvious that he was going to make a great subject, but like so many people before him, he didn’t feel particularly comfortable being photographed and while he is destined to become a much photographed best-selling author, for now it was all new to him.
The greatest secrets of getting good pictures of anyone is not to be rushed, Nigel had allowed plenty of time to get these pictures, and also to try and take them in their own environment, whether it’s their office or home, these really are key.
My technique is simple, I get my subject to talk to me, while I fire off pictures, inevitably, there will be some bizarre expressions, which you can sometimes share with the client before deleting, although this can be risky as they may react badly and destroy their confidence.
After about half an hour the whole atmosphere changed, relaxation took over and the pictures improved. The plan had been to do some indoor shots and then try and get some exterior shots by the local river but when we arrived at Mackenzie’s office, it had been pouring with rain.
The sky having cleared, we had the opportunity to start some outside pictures, and that heralded an almost Eureka moment; where he had been hesitant about the camera, suddenly, both Nigel and I noticed a change, Mackenzie was starting to enjoy being photographed and even stopped talking to pose, which ended the session with some really great shots which he has started to share on the Facebook page for Who Pays the Piper – you can also follow Mackenzie Smith on Twitter via @MSmith_Author.