Knowing how to be a leader is an important part of being a photographer. If you are a photojournalist, this article is not directly related to you; however, if you are a portrait or a boudoir photographer, knowing how to be a leader will be an invaluable skill to take better photographs.
If you were thinking that photography was a comfortable role, think again. If you thought you could have hidden behind the camera, think again. As long as you don’t want to be mediocre in what you do, then you have to get out there and be a proper photographer. Take things in your hands, take risks, be a people person, be a psychologist; all these before even thinking of getting the camera in your hands.
This post is for those who really want to get better photographers. For those who are waiting for a sign to move the next step: yes, this is your sign, so get up and get better!
Why knowing how to be a leader is an important skill for a photographer?
Put yourself in your customers’ shoes. They probably have no idea how to pose. They don’t know what you are going to do with that huge camera. They are in front of a machine. Why do you think you should know how to be a leader?
You should know how to be a leader because in front of you there is a human being. She wants to be reassured that you are going to take great photos of her. She wants to believe that you are going to make her look beautiful. If you act like a leader, she will be a follower; she will allow you to direct her, she will trust you, opening in front of the camera. Knowing how to be a leader means that you will be seen as the professional, and that you ought to be trusted.
You have to know
If you really want to know how to be a leader, you have to know your stuff. I am not talking about aperture, shutter speed, the rule of third or any other technical part, I will give for granted that you do it already. To know how to be a leader, you have to be the beacon for every person in the team, at any moment. You have to know everything is possible to know, and be confident about it.
Is your customer asking if for her face smokey eyes are better than a natural makeup? You have to know it. Is the customer asking how should she wear the suspender belt? You have to know it. Is your subject asking what should she do in front of the camera? You have to know it.
It is really important that at any time you team and your customer should know that you are on top of everything.
The good news is that if you want to know, the only thing you need to do is study. It is as simple as it gets.
Fake it till you make it
There are moments in which you may have doubts. In front of your customer or in front of your team is the worst moment to bring these insecurities out. Knowing how to be a leader means being in charge. You have doubts? Leave them for when you are going to be alone.
Faking it means that anyone looking at you will see a confident person, someone who can be trusted. Of course we can all take the wrong decisions; that happens, and it is ok. Being indecisive is not ok, as you would be sending mixed signals or even worst, you will be hiding behind the camera.
When you step in your studio with your clients, everything should be ready. You should be ready, the cameras set, the lens clean, the setup ready and the music switched on. In order to achieve a great sense of serenity, everything should follow a plan, and knowing how to be a leader passes from knowing how to be organised.
Reality is that being organised to know how to be a leader passes from one simple step: lists. What do you do before the client arrives? there’s a list for that. What do you do when the client is under makeup? there’s a list for that. What are the key shoot you want to capture? there’s a list for that.
You see, as you know what letter follows A, you should know what tasks follow any other task in your work. Being organise will solve a lot of your issues, and will make you feel at ease, knowing that you are in control of any situation.
If you want to know how to be a leader, you need to learn to take responsibility over things. If the makeup artist is late, it is your fault. If the sun is not shining, it is your fault. If the customer failed to mention she is different from what she told you she were, it is your fault.
Blaming the weather, the government, the camera or anything else won’t make you look any better. Do you want to know how to be a leader? Stop using excuses (yes, even if you think it was not your fault: you are the leader, if something goes wrong it is your fault).
If at any time you don’t know something (as you should) there is nothing else to do than to admit to yourself that you should have been studying more. If you forget to do something because you did not make a list, admit that maybe next time a list would be a better course of action.
Knowing how to be a leader is something relatively simple in the end: know your stuff, be the beacon of calm, be organised and take responsibility. Use these four things alone and your photographs will improve; They won’t improve because you will be able to take better photographs, but because your subject will be more relaxed in front of you.