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  • Writer's picturesarahhawley

Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone

There are many different types of photography and different photographers gravitate to different genres. Personally, I don’t shoot photos of people, in fact, my work is quite the opposite. I am not at all interested in taking photos of people and there are several reasons for this.

I don’t like working with people as a subject matter. Depending on the type of shoot, sometimes you are waiting for the model or client to arrive and get ready for the shoot (which can include wardrobe, hair and make up) and as the photographer, at times you have to be really patient and wait. There are other times when the creative juices are flowing and those interesting moments that I want to capture happen really quickly, especially with candid photography, and I prefer to work in a more controlled environment. There are other types of photo sessions involving people, that also forces you to move and work at a faster pace than I am comfortable with. Street photography is one example. I love street photography, but I don’t shoot images of people in the streets because I don’t want confrontation. Another main reason I don’t like to work with people, is that I don’t like to pose or direct people and tell them how to stand, sit or move into different positions.

Having said this, there are benefits to stepping out of your comfort zone. It is a way to challenge yourself and your creative abilities. It can be a good way to experiment, learn something new and to be inspired. You can apply what you already know from shooting in your preferred genre of photography, but it can be refreshing to shoot something new. Photographing a new type of subject matter can lead to new opportunities. Most importantly, you’re pushing to further explore your creative boundaries and testing your limits.

Recently, I chose to step out of my comfort zone. A friend of mine asked if I would tag along on a photoshoot to be the second shooter for some engagement photos. On a Sunday afternoon in late May, during the Victoria Day long weekend, we spent the better part of the day doing two sessions of photos for the happy couple. At first, the couple wanted to do some casual photos at a few different spots in the local park. We took photos by the water, on the bridge, on a footpath and in a wooded area. The couple was dressed in jeans and a nice dress shirt. After the first session we stopped for a break to have a rest and a bite to eat. The couple changed into fancier clothing, and we went back out for the second session to a different park to shoot at a few spots at the second location. The couple was a dream to work with and it was a very pleasant experience for me, as a photographer.

Even though it wasn’t the type of photography I am comfortable with, overall, I really enjoyed the experience. Afterwards when I went through my images from the day, I was happy with the photographs that I took. I ended up taking a mix of different types of photos. I took formal, informal, posed and candid shots as well as a variety of close ups and wider shots. That way, I was able to capture a range of images because I wasn’t really able to talk with the couple prior to the photo session (as I was the second shooter, I couldn’t ask them what they wanted in advance). I tried to cover all the bases so that the couple had a variety of images to choose from.

Reflecting on my experience, I see the reasons why I felt it went so well. During the day we took a break. Often during a photo session, you can run into fatigue for both the photographer and the person(s) posing for the photos. It also helped that the weather was cooperative. It was a beautiful day that was warm, but not too hot, and it was sunny but overcast, which is ideal for outdoor portrait photography. Prep beforehand is always beneficial! To prepare myself for this project, I went online to get an idea of what kind of portraits and poses interested me, what I might like, what the client might like and how to go about shooting portraits of people. This helped to get rid of any nerves and the feeling of not knowing what I am doing. Other factors included having an open mind, working with clients that were very understanding and who knew that this is not the kind of work I normally do. Finally, working in a relaxed, light atmosphere without the need to rush or stress. All of these factors led to the result of a pleasant experience for everyone involved.

Should an opportunity like this present itself again, I would be open to do more portrait work and try other photography genres that I am less familiar or unfamiliar with, but I don’t think I would actively seek out this type of work. I would encourage others to take a chance as I have, otherwise you miss out on important opportunities that promote growth, you can learn a lot about yourself, the experience and what you are capable of doing with your craft. I realize that these opportunities to challenge yourself by trying something new won’t always go well, but starting off on the right foot has instilled the confidence in me to want to try again and the fear that I once had no longer prevents me from doing it.

The gallery of images at the bottom of this blog post is a small sample of imagery that I took from that day out on the engagement shoot. Thank you to the happy couple in these images for allowing me to share this experience and these images in this blog. I wish them all the best.

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