Lately I’ve been thinking about why my higher education photography works. I’ve studied a number of my fellow higher ed shooters but remained a bit puzzled until last week.
A conversation with a potential client reveled the answer. She said that what attracted her to my work was because it looks so natural and real. Well there is a reason for that.
A photo shoot can only happen one of three ways : 1)You create an idea, gather the students, lasso a professor and have them do what you want . 2)You take an idea and let it play out as it actually happens, with a bit of planning ahead of time. 3)A careful mixture of 1 and 2.
Controlling the action controls the message. That’s safe, but the results can be unpredictable. Are the selected students ” in touch” with the message you want to convey? Yes, you can lean on the photographer to make it “happen” but that still involves the risk of potentially uncooperative actors. But on the other hand, if all of the players are working together it can produce a nice outcome.
Allowing an idea to play out can produce some solid results that will resonate with your viewers. Not everyone will be dressed perfectly or right “on script” but isn’t that the point? What is the purpose of making everything perfect?
I operate with a very small “footprint”, many times working without an assistant, using minimal lighting to achieve my results. Making a splash with lot’s of important people from the college involved may send a message that the shoot is “important”. Why put pressure on students who have already volunteered to help?
This work is all about connections. How do professors interact with their students? How engaged are students with their professors? What is life like for students? If these can be revealed, the institution wins and attracts the “right” student.
Real basic questions can sometimes get complicated by over-thinking the message. Much of what gives a college it’s personality is subtle and that is what an applicant sees.