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What Does Paternity Test Results Have To Do With Portrait Photography?

Before I picked up my Nikon and photographed people for a living, I spent the better part of 17 years picking up a video camera and working in the television industry.

9 of those years were spent working as a Field Producer for Maury, the daytime talk show — also known as the “You are NOT the father” show...at least that's what people like to yell in my face when I tell them that I worked there.

And boy, did I see some craaazy shit!  Buy me a beer and I will share a litany of ridiculous stories that you wouldn’t believe, :)

Despite the chaos, very-long production days and the massive amount of emotion and stress that comes with that job, I am extremely grateful for my time with the show because many of the lessons learned working there have been invaluable to my lifestyle portrait photography business.

One of the greatest benefits has been the ability to learn how to manage a wide range of personalities under an intense amount of pressure, while still being able to focus guests to reveal the heart of their stories, and then direct them to share it passionately on camera.

Well, how did that happen?  My inner psychologist was born through these techniques:

  • Negotiating guests sensibilities
  • Helping guests feel comfortable enough to be authentic in an uncomfortable situation
  • Listening more than talking
  • Quickly discovering important story points and helping guests expand upon those
  • Setting and exceeding expectations for the interview
  • Providing notes and suggestions in order to empower guests in front of the camera
  • And a whoooole lotta empathy for their situation

And this is where my past and present overlap.  

Everyone has their own hangups, doubts, questions and concerns when they step in front of a camera.  

A lot of these self-imposed issues are BS and only a reflection of their negative self-image but, by building a connection with that person in front of the camera by utilizing all of the skills developed and refined at Maury, I am able to humanize the moment and get them out of their heads and in the present moment.

And, once that happens, that’s when the magic starts to happen, and amazing, authentic portraits are born, :)

What experiences in your previous jobs have help shape your current career path?  

Please share in the comment section below.

John DeMato3 Comments