4 Tips for Directing Photography Subjects to Achieve Your Vision

You can feel it pulsing through the crowd during any soccer game, fueling all of the screaming and whooping and dancing and boozing, the reason behind the elaborate costumes and the incessant waving of foam fingers and painted signs—energy. And so much of it that New York-based photographer Monte Isom dedicated a season in his career to try to harness that rampant excitement into a studio portrait series celebrating the 2014 World Cup.

In the following video, Isom takes viewers behind the scenes of his portrait project, showcasing some of his amazing portraits while also demonstrating his method for creating and maintaining an optimal shooting environment to achieve his photographic goals:

Besides explaining his project and displaying some of his work, Isom’s video notably includes footage of some of his interactions with subjects during the photo shoot. Viewers can glean several tips for how to set the mood and bring out the best in photography subjects.

1. Tell your subject what you want.

Isom gives clear instructions to his models about how to act and what types of expressions and energy he is looking for in the images. “There’s nothing you can do that’s wrong,” he tells one of them, and to another, he says, “I’m looking for happiness, celebration.” His direction gives the models confidence because they know just what to do.

energy monte isom soccer futbol football sombrero mexico

Fans’ expressions vary, but all of them have one thing in common: high energy.

2. Speak to subjects face to face and mirror desired poses and expressions.

When Isom provides direction to his models, he often sets his camera down and steps into the shooting area with the client. Spending a few minutes talking with a subject pre-shoot and lowering your camera to mirror desired poses and expressions can really help to put subjects at ease.

“The subject has to feel comfortable in front of the camera,” writes Isom on his Vimeo profile. “The most important thing is allowing the photo shoot to be their time.”

female columbia woman sport soccer monte isom

Showing your subject what you’re going for to get the best expressions.

3. Encourage subjects by showing them their best photos.

Many photographers balk at the idea of showing subjects unedited images, but Isom makes a point to discuss awesome shots with his subjects, and the models seem undeniably encouraged that they’ve done well. Even just showing a subject a great shot on your camera’s viewfinder every once in a while can make all the difference.

world cup soccer futbol football usa team fan

Each fan was decorated in the colors of their team.

4. Create a shooting atmosphere that complements your photographic vision and goals.

Isom wanted high energy photographs, so he created a high energy environment. At one point, he’s screaming, “It’s really happening!” right along with an excited fan as he shoots. If you foster an appropriate atmosphere, you won’t have to figure out how to pull certain expressions and behaviors out of subjects, because they’ll happen naturally.

“It’s just smooth-sailing. I always feel like a superhero around Monte,” said one of the fans. “He really raises everybody else’s game to that of his, which is high energy. It really just creates an atmosphere of fun and what’s not to like about that?”

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