We've all got ears and mouths right? Whatever needs to be said can be used that way. But really, is that all there is to communication? Of course there isn't. I know communication is such a broad term to deal it so for the sake of simplicity, let's keep it in the realm of photography and also in the arts just to bridge the gap to all the creatives out there.
We all want to say something. The beauty of the human specie is not just the strong intellect and inventive mind, but also the ability to transfer information in a vast number of ways. Any emotion, social statement or idea can be used with the click of a shutter, the stoke of a bush on canvas or a soft squeeze on one's shoulder.
Don't get me wrong, words are a beautiful thing but in reality it's only the tip of the iceberg in essential communication. So what does any of this have to do with taking incredibly amazing photos? It's got EVERYTHING to do with it. Be it an image maker or image taker, how you can connect your ideas to your team or recognize the truth in any given moment is your ultimate tool in communicating as a successful artist.
So How To Speak Beyond Words?
Most of us probably know this but, the same word can be "said" in so many ways depending on the TONE and BODY language that is coming across. I could say "I Love You" in a romantic way, or in a mean and sarcastic way as well. It all depends on the tone of my voice and body movements I'm projecting. It's always there no matter if we recognize it or not. For those who understand the language beyond words we can easily pick it up. For others who aren't as well versed in it usually is identified as a "vibe" "energy" or "feeling" we get from the other person.
So how do we get to communicate with more than just words? Simply use your body more! Your hands and arms are a great place to start. Most of us do this unconsciously already but starting with the body first gives the fuel to your tone of voice which in turn gives a more clearer message.
All great and memorable speeches were done this way. In the end effective clear communication is when it touches both your head and heart. Where one can understand you both intellectually and emotionally.
But it's Not All Up To You...
Of course being a better communicator will help you tremendously when working with a college or a client but remember that it's always different depending on who your talking to. Everyone has their own way of expressing themselves and processing information. Not everyone is a fly by the wind artist living day to day or a time bound CEO of X corporation. But it's our job to at least understand the people we come in contact with to better the means of communication. People are the way they are not just because of themselves but of their likes, hobbies and social surroundings which make up their whole being. So if you want to get to know someone indirectly, study their social circle, culture and origins. It might not get you exact understanding down to specifics but it will give you a road map to some ice breaking conversations.
The job will entail totally different dynamics when working with artist portraits or corporate head shots. The look and feel won't be the same so it's important to help them get the image they want to convey in the photograph.
1. Getting to know them BEFORE you meet them.
2. Once met, talking about their goals and proposes for the session.
3. Getting comfortable so your client is now at ease and relaxed.
I've always researched just a little about someone's background before I would work with them. Especially if it's in a field of photography I've never done before or a new big potential client. But after awhile from trial and error the patterns seems to be the same with varied differences no matter the culture or ethnic origin.
Be Easy and They'll Tend to Become Easy As Well
Now what I'm not saying is that you become a totally soft mother-like nurturing person in an instant. We are professionals and it's important to get the message that we know what we're doing. But being comfortable in ones own skin is the foundation in communicating to your client or subject to feel the same. No matter if it's a high pressure situation or not. Show that you are an understanding person who wants to get the best out of the session and without words, others will feel that "energy and presence" and start to feel safe. But always remember to find common ground with who you are with not just in subjects of conversation but also in body language and tone. Having a sense of control that is not domineering or demanding will instill confidence in yourself and others.
Personally, I love photograph in many different groups and cultures. Picking up the camera and getting to document such a diversity of activities makes me see the common ground we all have has humans on this planet. It's just the style that changes. But seeing the multitude of communicating the same things in different ways is just so fascinating because there's such much variety out there. As long as there are new people, there will always be a new way of seeing and doing things.
But remember your not out there to change people on a fundamental level. That's their job for their life. Just make the moment shared worth something and they will remember you. To truly change someone takes time and won't be possible in a one hour photo session. Get them to be themselves and that's plenty enough.
So what's the first step to becoming and better communicator? Get out there and socialize! In this fast paced internet age, it's always welcome to open up to someone just for the sake of good conversation. Know the culture, know the person and better yet, know yourself!