52 Pick Up: Black and White – Photographing Difficult Subjects

Not every subject who steps in front of your lens is going to want their photo taken.  Very often photographing young teenagers can pose a particular challenge.  In many cases photographing teenagers, especially young teenagers has the potential to be a perfect storm for disaster.

They are living in bodies that have betrayed them; bodies that they often don’t like.  Couple this with the fact that their parents have probably demanded they join the family to have a nice picture taken.  Often they have been told what to wear and that they MUST SMILE NICE.

I have had a few occasions where a morose teen has stepped in front of my camera almost daring me to make them smile.

My daughter is no exception, I was trying out new studio lights and I needed a subject.  I asked my eldest daughter to help me out and as you can tell from the first image she was having nothing to do with it.

grumpy teenager

As with all difficult subjects, I started out by simply letting her be.  I did not ask her to brush off the dog hair or lift her head.  Bottom line, she could hide, but I was still going to keep take photos.  I went through the motions of moving  lights, changing camera settings all the while rambling away.

grumpy teen photo


Eventually her head came up, but she was still hiding.  I’m still doing my thing and she asked if she could hold the dog.  My response, “Of course!”  If you have a difficult subject and they make a reasonable request – grant it!

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black and white pug photo

I should have known the cheeky minx would hold the dog up in front of her face!  All I could do was laugh, and low and behold she actually laughed too.  The scale was starting to tip in my favour, but I still did not push the whole smiling matter.

This is difficult, especially when you just want to snap that one smiling shot – the money shot!  Trust me, your patience will pay off.

serious teenager photo

Still no smile, but at least I could see her face.  This was a step in the right direction but patience was still required.  At this point and time I am telling bad jokes and making funny observations.  Really, I’m just nattering away.  In fact I never really stopped talking.  All I wanted was to gain a connection so that she would respond to me.  And then…

DSC_0139 filt wb


DSC_0138 filt wb

It can be frustrating trying to photograph an unwilling subject, but with patience and the willingness to just let them be themselves, you can very often drawn them out of their shell and get that smile!



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