What are the hands saying?

Memories captured by Dragon Papillon Photography - your candid photographer.

We are all familiar with the proverb, “The eye is the window to the soul”.  In portrait and event photography, there is something incredibly compelling about images when the subject is looking down into the lens of the camera and making a connection.  As observers of the image we will project our own emotions, thoughts and assumptions into what is being communicated in that moment.

As a photographer, I am equally drawn to what the hands are communicating. Observing the non verbal communications and being attune to them can guide a photographer on how to connect with their subject to build trust and rapport.  During events it is often hands that will draw my attention to a potential subject.  Often at the beginning of a portrait session, I will observe clients holding a lot of tension in their hands and that they feel quite uncertain about what to do with them.  It is as though, when suddenly under observation, we become very conscious of our hands and how awkward they can be.  We may have learnt to guard our facial expressions, but very few of us are conscious of how our hands are communicating with the world.

From my experience, even if the hands are not included in the image, getting the subject to relax the tension in their hands by shaking it out, will lead them to a more natural positioning of their hands, the micro muscles in their face will relax, lending to a more natural portrait.  It is a simple but effective technique.

Our hands have a language of their own.  We are constantly in communication with the world through our hands – exploring, touching, connecting.  Sometimes, I find hands to be far more honest communicators about a person’s inner emotional state than their facial expressions or words.




Anyone can be an Event Photographer

Recruitment International Awards 2017

© Copyright. Dragon Papillon Photography. 2017.  From Recruitment International Awards 2017

Walking into an unfamiliar room, cramped with strangers and dodgy lighting can be a daunting experience.  It takes courage to instantly build rapport and to favourably capture the people and the action.  With all my years of photography experience, event photography is not for the feint-hearted, but it is also a great opportunity to capture real people with real emotion in real unguarded moments.  Great event photography has an authentic and genuine feel to it – it can capture that split moment in time of human interaction and connection – moments that tell a much greater story about why we tribally gather to celebrate, to share, or commiserate.  With great event photography, the image enables  you to connect with the emotions, feel the atmosphere and almost hear the sounds.

With the greatest respect to my friends, when asked why I do event photography, I will often jokingly reply that event photography is my social life … my friends don’t throw the kinds of lavish parties like the ones I get to photograph!  When I started out in event photography, I had to take a leap of faith in my technical photography skills and relied heavily on my intuition to “know when a moment was about to happen”.  As with most things, diverse experience in diverse situations is the best way to learn to think quickly on your feet, to be attentive to your surroundings and to be ever present in the moment to capture the moment.

There are no second chances in event photography, but there are plenty of opportunities.

Event photography can be exhausting work.  Shooting continuously for 4 to 6 hours is not only physically demanding, but to capture great energy shots, you also need to be constantly engaging with the crowd.  When shooting events, I find myself in a personal space where all my antennae are on high alert – scanning the crowd and sensing out where the next piece of action or connection is going to spark, and getting myself into a position to capture that moment without disrupting the flow of events.

However, many event photographers shortchange their skills by sticking to a safe zone of “looking very uncomfortable, posed, now smile kind of shots”.  In turn they deliver a boring gallery of images to their client that are quickly forgotten.  Smart phones are more than capable of taking those kind of photos for quick social media consumption.  I strongly believe that the challenge for today’s event photographer is not replicate the kind of photos attendees are taking with their smart phones, but to compliment those images with a more intimate, engaging and unique perspective of the event.

These days, everyone with a smart phone is an event photographer – cataloguing a moment in space and in time.  Therefore, professional event photographers need to deliver something different, something memorable, something that sets them apart from all the i-phone photos already submitted to social media sites during the course of the event.  To capture those moments, in my view, an event photographer needs to :

  • have immense empathy to readily connect and build rapport with attendees
  • have a personal energy that is spontaneous and engaging
  • be willing to give something of themselves in order to get a connection between camera lens and the subject
  • be ever present in the moment – simultaneously being able to pay attention to the broader vibe of the event as well as quickly focus in on specific interactions
  • to be ever ready and attentive, but also patient enough to wait for and anticipate the memorable moments
  • to smile and laugh often