I have yet to meet anyone that truly enjoys having their photograph taken; the photographs I shot in and around Harpenden last weekend for a website we're building only served to prove the point.
Last Saturday I spent the first of a number of days visiting the owners of homes built by one of our Customers; we're building a new website for a residential builder in Harpenden. Key to our website design is the requirement to have real people photographed with their homes. The trouble is I don't believe that anybody can put their hand on their heart and say that they truly enjoy having their photograph taken. This makes getting the photos we're after very tricky indeed.
But it's not just subjects of the photograph that can become a little anxious and self conscious, it's also possible for the photographer to be more than a little on-edge. I don't usually take commercial photographs of people - I tend to stick to shooting inanimate objects.
I feel something strange happening when I look at a fellow human being through the lens of a camera; somehow the camera brings the photographer into the picture, up close and personal with the subject. Ask me to photograph a human and I always tend to feel like I'm invading their personal space. The discomfort of the sitter and the discomfort of a photographer tends not to make for the best photographic results.
The home owners who kindly and warmly invited Sharon and me into their homes were more than happy for their property to be photographed but were a little uncertain about putting themselves in the frame for shooting. I totally understand why. Not every photograph for the Harpenden builder's website needed to have a photo of the happy home owner front and centre, I only need a handful of shots like this. What was important was to capture the lifestyle that the building allows the owners to live.
Shooting natural photographs of real people in their own homes is all about capturing their lifestyle and not about asking them to pose uncomfortably in front of a camera. It appears that a dog makes for a superb distraction technique. The photo at the head of this blog was shot whilst both subjects and photographer were encouraging the dog to walk through the shot and out, into the garden. We humans were, for a split second, not thinking about the photograph and felt at ease.
The dog in the shot above tells the story of this wonderful house extension in Harpenden, in which the full height glass doors bring the outside inside. The dog in this photograph joins those inside to those you, the viewer, as you imagine yourself to be in the garden about to be welcomed by the dog. Although the photograph is all about the heavy engineering there's a real sense of warmth and humanity to the shot, turning it from an architectural shot into a very personal photograph indeed.
No arnimals were harmed during the making of this photograph, no owners were made to feel uncomfortable and the only personal impact was that this website photographer in Harpenden got a little more confortable about taking photos of things which aren't inanimate.