“Why do you do what you do?”
In one form or another, it’s one of those questions people often ask as a way of keeping a conversation moving or attempting to learn more about a person and what makes them tick. It is a legitimate way of gaining some insight into a persons life, motivations, and priorities.
In my experience, the folks who face the question most often have a job that either surprises the inquisitor or lies outside of their framework for life. I tend to think of chronically underpaid professions like social workers, case managers, teachers, etc. We place a high value on money and often are unable to comprehend deeper motivations for choosing a career.
I spent more than two decades in sales and retail management and can’t recall a single time I was asked: “why?” I left that world last year, and since then it’s been a regular part of nearly every conversation I have with people. “Why would you leave a good paying job? Why did you choose photography when there are SO MANY photographers out there now?”
For one, I realized that doing a job I didn’t enjoy because it paid well didn’t give me any satisfaction. Second, I’ve had this photography business since 2012. I’ve gotten pretty good at it, and I love the work it entails. Which almost always leads to this question:
“What kind of photographer are you? Weddings? Portraits? Events? Boudoir?”
My answer is almost always “Yes.”
I took over my (finished) basement to create a studio, travel to the four corners of the state, and stand in the sweltering heat because I love this job. I have my favorite types of sessions of course, (for me that’s Boudoir and Concert Photography), but as long as I can find a way to convey emotion through the image, THAT’S what I want to do.
When you look at the family portrait, we created, done up in gallery-quality canvas with a custom frame; I want you to smile. I want you to remember the day fondly, and maybe even recall precisely what you thought as you heard the shutter click.
The photographers I admire most, and those that I tend to gravitate toward, are masters at letting the emotions of the moment bleed through the image.
“But Shawn! What about the poses!”
Yeah. Posing is important. A hand out of place or placing people in the wrong order can distract us from an otherwise compelling picture. But as photographers, we sometimes lose sight of what our clients are there for: A captured memory. We remember things best when forging our memories along with a simultaneous emotion.
What’s that mean? It means I do my best to pose people correctly and get creative with how we’re going to make that happen. It means I’m respectful of my clients' boundaries and comfort levels, and it means we’re going to work together to make the shoot a success.
It also means I’m going to be snapping photos between poses. It means I’m going to ask questions about you, your past, your dreams, and your hobbies. It means I want to get to know you so that the “you” in the photos is the real “you.”
The name of my business, Captured Chaos, is born of my passion for capturing those emotions. In the chaos of life, frozen moments can be powerful beyond imagination. Even the slightest change in your facial expression can mean the difference between a good shot and a moving tribute to a memory.
So when people ask me what kind of photographer I am, I tell them that I’m the kind who can trap an emotion that triggers a memory and make it last a lifetime. If that’s in a boudoir (or dudoir session), great. If it means a family shoot at a local park, then let’s do it. And if it means working your wedding for 10 hours, then I’m game for that too. To me, it’s the art of emotions and how we can work together to capture the memories that honor them.
Hopefully, with the following images, you'll see what I mean.