Disclaimer: I am liable to offend a few folks with this one.
There’s certain photo cliches when it comes to portraits that I would rather not shoot. Among them are:
The rock band in front of a brick wall. Lame, and it’s actually a thing. Don’t believe me? Go google it.
The pretty girl/model on train tracks. Is she a damsel in distress? Why is she there? Bonus cliche points if she’s half naked.
And my all time least favorite: The senior photo leaning against the tree.
Now, I get there’s a whole bunch of moms out there that love this beautiful shot of little Jimmy or Janie, demurely posed against a nice healthy birch tree. So to you, I say I am sorry I am offending you, but there’s nothing unique about this shot. Just look in any student’s yearbook and you can find dozens of them. It’s the McDonalds version of the portrait. Cookie cutter, easy to pose, it gives a sometimes awkward teen something to put between them and the photographer. Something to lean on. Most students are not good models, and this is an easy way to get them to do something besides stand there, looking uncomfortably at the camera, while Mom stands off camera and says “Oh smile nice! You have such a nice smile.”
Disclaimer #2: I have done it. Recently. Meredith wanted one as a running joke for her headshot at the local playhouse and I relunctantly agreed after her mother assured me it was a running gag. “Steve-o, it’ll be funny” she said. So, I did what my client wanted. I’ll digress for a minute. Always do what the paying client wants. Mom pays for a senior session, and she wants the birch tree shot, give it her.
This year, one of the seniors on my football team, Austin, asked me to do his senior pics. I said I would be happy to. When asked what he had in mind, I got a twisted teenage face back and he said he had no idea. He said his step dad wanted a Bo Jackson inspired shot, being that Bo and Austin, who goes by Dids, bith are two sport atheletes. He wasn’t sure how to pull off the Bo Jackson thing. I said “Dids, trust me, bud. I will make it cool so both you and Bill (step dad) are happy with the image.” He gave me a long, sizing-me-up kind of look before saying he would do it. Dids met me at the house and we got a whole bunch of killer shots, including the aforementioned Bo jackson inspired photo.
My point in all this? I would hope that folks would hire me as their photographer because they are going to get a unique photo that is unlike anything else in the yearbook. Will I shoot the dreaded birch tree? Sure. The client is always right, so give them what they want. My objective would be to establish my brand as the guy who doesn’t do the birch tree shot. I want to be the guy who took that photo in the yearbook that all the students are jealous of when they turn the page to that shot. You want the jealous gasp when they they turn the page and see your shot for the first time? The “Oh man, that’s so cool!” shot. I am your guy.