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Clients & ‘Comfortability’ | The Last Forty Percent Photography

All images in this post are copyright The Last Forty Percent Photography.
Used with permission.

I’d seen a lot of blogs, ogled a lot of pretty images.  But one post stopped me dead in my tracks.

It didn’t just awe me.  It changed the way I thought about photography. 

The post was a set of images that Ewan Phelan had taken of his wife Brianna.  The photos were so breathlessly stunning and emotionally intimate that as I scrolled, it dawned upon me that photography can be so much more, so much higher, so much richer than I had even imagined.  Not just seeing, but feeling beauty in another person, and transfixing that in time for someone else to admire.  What a gift that Ewan shared with us that day, to show us how he sees and feels about his wife.  In that solitary post, the two of them not only inspired me to new heights, but threw down the greatest challenge of all time.  Photos can be more.  Photos can be deeper.  And that happens when you don’t just see what’s in front of your lens, but when you feel it.  When you believe it.

Aside from the intoxicatingly beautiful images, incredible concepts, and mouthwateringly gorgeous black and whites you find on their blog, they also tell beautiful stories about family.  Theirs, and their clients’.  I’d read Brianna and Ewan’s words even if there was nary a photo in sight.  They’re funny.  They’re serious.  They know how to draw you in, suspend you in time, and then set you gently back down so you can continue your day, happier for having stopped by.  Timeless.  Emotional.  Amazing.

I’m so honored that they agreed to answer a few questions about photography and business for us today:

Q.  Please introduce yourselves!   

Every morning the alarm goes off. And he reaches over to hit snooze. Without asking, his arms wrap around me as he pulls me closer. We cuddle and talk about the day and what we’re looking forward to the most. It’s just our thing.

Hi! We’re Ewan and Brianna Phelan. We’re husband and wife. We’re best friends. We’re parents. We love driving down the high way and singing wildly off key. Watching Star Wars on a rainy day. Making risotto. Reading. Writing. And oh ya, taking pictures.

Q.   Your images always seem real, with fantastic emotion, as though your clients have known you all their lives and have simply forgotten that you have a camera in your hand.  What are some ways you have learned to achieve this level of comfort before and during a session?

I think a big part of our couples comfortability with us is that they feel like they know us even before they meet us. Our blog allows us to share our life with our clients. Give them a glimpse of who we are, who are kids are and what type of people we are. We are a family run business and really want our clients to feel like they are a part of that family.

Before a shoot I spend a lot of time communicating with clients about how to prepare, what to expect and addressing any worries they have. On the day of the actual session Ewan explains everything that will happen throughout. We are very hands on photographers and start by telling our clients that we will tell them everything they need to know and what to do during the shoot. It is like a big weight is lifted off of their shoulders the second that this comes out of his mouth. You can actually see the relief and the most common comment immediately is, “okay, great!”

Q.  A lot of photographers express difficulty helping guys/husbands/fiances/fathers be comfortable and natural in the session.  What tips can you offer about photographing men, so that they both have a good experience and so the photos reflect their personalities?

I think the first thing that you have to do is shoot for men when you are shooting them. In this I mean, you have to put them in poses that you would want to be in (if you are a man), or that you would want to see your husband, brother, father, etc in. You don’t want to ask the to do something that will make them feel stupid. Also, you have to be able to show them in your work how you shoot men. If you can show them that they will look great and “cool” in your work, then they are more likely to be relaxed during the shoot. As well, direction goes a long way with men. They need the reassurance that they are doing exactly what you want them to do. It is like the movie Talladega Nights, “I’m not sure what to do with my hands.” If they are uncertain of what they are supposed to be doing, they can not get comfortable.

Q.  How do you balance allowing people to be themselves, unposed, while also helping them look their best?

We are very hands on photographers. We guide our clients through all of the movements and poses. When we first started out, we didn’t do this. We let our clients do whatever they wanted and just tried to capture this. We found that our clients never really relaxed in this situation. They are not models, don’t know what to do and feel self conscious about getting their photograph taken. They could never relax enough to be themselves. Now, with telling our clients exactly how we want them to situate themselves, it gives them the freedom to relax and be themselves in that situation. We have a very specific style and bring in clients that want that style. In the first few minutes of the shoot we pick up their personality and as the shoot goes on help them to bring it out. It is in the ability of them not having to think about what they are doing which truly allows them to be themselves.

Q.  What is something you wish someone had told you when you started in the photography business?

Something we tell anyone who is new to the industry is : this is a business. It is a passion. It is something you love. But in order to be doing what you love still in 20 years, you have to think of it as a business first. It took us a couple of years to realize this, and many many mistakes. We think it’s important to pass this on to help others from making the same mistakes and help their passion/love and business minds work together to build something great.

 

Q.  In the busyness of business, what are some things you never want to lose sight of?

Family always come first. No matter what. No questions asked. Our family is our world. We book full weeks off throughout the year, block important weekends off and don’t work on Sundays – no matter what. Our kids will only be young once and we want to make sure those years are filled with memories of fun and laughter and not ones of us working.

Q.  You do an fantastic job of drawing clients who seem to share your specific aesthetic.  Was this difficult at first?  What advice do you have for other photographers who are still trying to find or create a market for their particular style?

Shoot for yourself and the work that you like. The clients that like that style will come to you.

 

Q.  Please leave us with a favorite quote or song lyric:

Brianna : “I wear my heart on the outside so that it gets more light”.

Ewan : “Without you/ All my teeth fall out/ I’m decapitated/ So the phone seems useless too” – Nizlopi

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A huge thank you to Brianna and Ewan for sharing their thoughts with us.

(I know, I’m dying to see and hear more, too:

The Last Forty Percent Photography Home Page

The blog where all the magic happens

Check them out on Facebook!)

 All images in this post are copyright The Last Forty Percent Photography.
Used with permission.

sarah - “Shoot for yourself and the work that you like. The clients that like that style will come to you.”

I thank you for that affirmation this afternoon!

Cales - Jenika! Thanks for sharing this work, and introducing me to this amazing duo of photographers! I have spent a good hour pouring over their blog – feeling deeply inspired by their photos and writings, as well as the love that seems to be shared so deeply between the couples they photograph.

Brett - I loved reading this as I love Ewan and Bri. Hands down the best experience and fun I’ve had getting photos taken was when Ewan and Bri took ours. They are such sweet, genuine and caring people and that fully comes out in their work.

Philly Baby Photography - I love Ewan and Brianna’s website. When I need a pick me up, I get lost in their website. They are truly inspiring and they remind me to connect to get deep in with my clients, and to express how much I love my hubby! :)

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