“A good Photographer has to be a bit of a comedian and an entertainer” – Korby Banner
QG: When you first meet someone who is going to be the subject of your photography, how can you tell that they’re introverted or extroverted?
KB: I’m very perceptive about body language, so somebody who has a very relaxed, and open body line, meaning if their arms are by their side rather than folded over their chest, shoulders are dropped down, and they have a relaxed facial expression, right away I know they are someone who is going to be malleable and easier to get a connection with. On the opposite side, if you see somebody whose shoulders are creeping up, their knees are tightly pressed together, and they’re fidgeting with their hands, wringing their hands, or have their hands firmly clasped over their knees, I know right away that person is stressed and apprehensive.
I know that it’s going to be a bit more work to get them to open and connect on camera.
QG: I guess that’s a big part of your job being able to tap into that?
KB: Yes, definitely. It’s easy to detect in the tone of their voice. If they’re talking in a lower register of their voice, they’re more likely to be relaxed, but if they’re really talking fast and in a higher tone, then I know they’re nervous and I’m going to have to get them to the point of as if they’ve had a couple glasses of wine.
If someone is breathing quickly and their voice has a higher pitch than normal, and they’re talking faster than what’s normal for that person, that is also indicative that they are uptight and uneasy or they’re nervous.
“With some people, it’s just like butter…”
The photographer’s job is to get the most relaxed, confident portrayal of that person and with some people it’s just like butter, it’s effortless. With other people, it’s sometimes a longer process than the photography, the preparation of getting them ready for those photos. There’s no point in even shooting until the person is in a relaxed state because they’re going to look overly posed and anybody who knows that person will recognize them as looking wooden and nervous in their photos.
QG: How do you help them to become more relaxed and comfortable?
KB: There are three things I would say:
- One is the fact that I myself have to lead by example, so I really have to slow down how I talk and make use of my lower register.
- I ask them what kind of music they like and I have soft background music so that they start to be more reactive to the music and not as closed into the moment thinking, “okay now I’m having my picture taken and spending all this money, I sure hope I look good”, because then they start putting pressure on themselves, which is the worst thing you can do.
- In addition to that I try to entertain them. A good Photographer has to be a bit of a comedian and an entertainer, so I try to find an avenue and joke around with them and get them to laugh and as soon as someone is able to laugh, just the action of laughing releases endorphins in the brain and it lets tension out as well.
The best results are when somebody says, “You know what, I don’t really care how these pictures turn out, I’m just going to have a good time with Korby!”, and those pictures always look great.
That’s when I feel like I get the best connection with someone, when someone lets go of trying to control the session and just lets the artistry flow and taps into the ‘pleasure centres’ in their brain thinking about something that really means something to them…If you’re engaged in a conversation about things that really stimulated you, then the pictures will be equally beautiful.
QG: So it must be pretty rewarding on your end when you’ve encountered someone that’s quite reserved or shy, or uptight and you’re able to make that connection?
KB: Absolutely, It’s the biggest reward I can have because it means that I’m doing my job and I know that it’s not something that everyone can do. These days when so many people call themselves photographers because they have a single lens reflex camera, pretty much anyone can take what look like professional photos!
The only thing that defines a true artist or a master photographer from a wannabe is the fact that you’re able to really direct people and to extract a good performance from them.
Anyone can buy the same camera as me, anybody can buy the same lights, but does that mean they’re going to take photos that are the same as mine? Not a chance, because my experience gives me things:
“being able to extract a meaningful expression to capture the essence of who someone is”
- Knowing how to set up the lighting properly to get the right perspective on the angle on someone’s features, and
- Being able to extract a meaningful expression to capture the essence of who someone is
The difference between that and a picture that just looks like you, is that somebody who really knows you will look at the picture and say it not only looks like you but it ‘feels’ like you.
It’s got an expression that’s familiar to you, so that it’s not that cheesy pasted on smile.
Lips and Teeth
If you’re uptight, you’re smile becomes tight and the lips will tighten up against the teeth and it’ll make it look a bit hard, whereas with a natural smile the lips are almost not touching the teeth.
There are physical differences in the musculature of someone’s face. When someone says “that’s a natural smile”, it means it looks like a conversational smile.
Nothing looks worse than a forced smile. I’d rather have no teeth showing than somebody whose just showing teeth but not smiling with their eyes, because a true smile comes from your eyes, the teeth are only incidental to it. A smile means that your eyes are sparkling and that you’re engaged with the person, so the person is either connecting with you by sending you a message or receiving a message.
If they’re projecting some of their own personality, intelligence and sense of humor then I’m engaged with them, so either connection works.
There’s an invisible connection, like what we call a “photographic dialogue” that happens between the subject and the photographer.
QG: Can you think of any one particular example of when you came across a person who was very reserved and shy and you ended up being able to break them out of their shell?
KB: I can think of quite a few examples because that happens a couple of times a month. I had a business Executive and, I could tell he really wasn’t comfortable in front of the camera and he was concerned that his teeth weren’t really great, I could tell he was very self conscious, so I had to get him to respond and to react and to be real in the pictures, so I said, “Hey, say ‘quarterly profits’!”, and he burst into a natural smile!
His wife said that’s the best picture she’s ever seen of him.