Learning from the Masters: The Power of Conversation in Your Session


The concept of photographer/subject interaction has been a fascinating discovery for me this year, especially with my exploration of Beloved.

I have come to strongly believe that if someone is awkward in front of my camera, it is MY FAULT.

The photographer has a huge responsibility to truly learn to see people authentically, and interact in a way that will bring that authenticity to the surface.

A friend of mine recently introduced me to the work of Yousuf Karsh. Many of you likely already recognize some of his famous works of historic celebrities and world leaders.

I’ve had an inspiring time going through his portrait gallery, particularly reading his description of how the photograph came to be. There is a fascinating trend I see in his stories that fuels his interaction with these amazing subjects. Some of these people he had never met until moments before, yet he manages to have the most intriguing conversations during the photo experience that lead to these profound moments on film.

Have you considered before the power of conversation while you shoot? What do you usually talk about when you photograph?

Is it leading to something great?

How do you engage your subject in a way that brings out their soul?

These stories are simply fascinating and illustrate the importance of connecting with who you photograph in a deeper way than polite conversation about the weather will bring.

Brooke Snow is a Lifestyle photographer in Cache Valley, Utah.  She is energized and fueled through edifying conversation with friends and family.  She would choose a good conversation over a game of cards any day.  This is likely a revealing reason of why she is more comfortable in one on one interaction than a big crowd of people!  Anyone up for a lunch date of eating and chatting?!

Brooke teaches inspiring online photography classes that bring you confidence in your skills and creativity.

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11 Responses

  1. I continually find your posts so inspiring. Thank you. And I always enjoy your updated bios. 🙂 I would love to have a lunch date of eating and chatting…if only I lived anywhere nearby.

  2. I loved going through his portraits and reading the back story. His work is remarkable and the writing brought an added dimension that was quite enjoyable. Thank you for sharing this.

  3. I love to talk with the people whom I am photographing! I’ve found that ‘hiding’ behind a camera also gives me the courage to perhaps ask questions or make comments that wouldn’t normally happen in a more ‘face-to-face’ scenario. The results have been amazing – people have loosened up and felt the freedom to be themselves. It always helps me to interact at my subject’s level when taking pictures for them. I love to say silly things to the kids and get their gut-busting laughs frozen in time. It usually evokes the most sincere smiles from Moms and Dads in the pictures, too. I try to do my homework and find out a bit about what the family or kids are about before taking their pictures so I can relate on their terms.

    You are an inspirations, Brooke! Another wonderful blog post. Thank you!

  4. These were a great and inspiring read and visual feast. Karsh demonstrated just how important a knowledge of and connection with your subject is. What a masterful collection of images.

    I loved how someone wrote of George Bernard Shaw that his… ” way of meeting people was to charm them by being charmed himself.” That is such an important observation and anyone shooting people would do well to take Shaw’s example on board. People are so much more interesting if you are interested in them.


    1. I like Peter’s comment – “People are so much more interesting if you are interested in them.” It’s so true!

      Brooke – I love reading your work and I think that conversation is super powerful. Do you have any tips for not being nervous behind the camera so that you can get conversation started? When I’m photographing people I always struggle with being super nervous and that makes it harder for me to help them not be nervous. (A terrible cycle!)

      1. Hi Becky! Thank you for your comment! Conversation is such an amazing and potentially powerful tool in a photo shoot! I believe this so strongly that I’ve now included it as an entire topic in my Advanced Pro class! In general, I would just encourage you to focus on the people you’re photographing. Ask get to know you questions. Even if conversation is a little nerve racking, if you’re constantly turning the conversation into an opportunity for them to talk about themselves, most people will talk plenty and you can just listen!

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