Empathy is the most powerful tool that a photographer needs to carry. Empathy empowers a photograph and makes it extraordinary. A photograph taken with empathy can provoke emotions so strong that it not only takes the person back to that time but also reminds her of how she felt then.
Empathy is all the more important when shooting a wedding. Weddings are an emotional roller coaster. Tempers can run haywire, people are stressed, tired, euphoric, anxious yet it is one of their most happy occasions. Which is why it is imperative that we step in their shoes and understand what they are going through and make that emotional connect. When we make that connection we make a bridge between the photograph, the subject and the audience.
When we are shooting someone’s wedding it is important that we capture what our bride likes. She may care about her domestic help who has been working for her family for the last 20 years or she may want lots of pictures of her grandparents because it may be the last time she is seeing them. She might be a person who is not comfortable around the camera. It is therefore very essential that we make that emotional connect with the bride to understand what exactly she wants from her photographer. Empathy is what will help us make that bridge which will connect us with the people.
How do you become that photographer whom everyone loves? Learn to listen more, take genuine interest in people and their lives, things which mean a lot to them, the family dog, their favourite song, things they love doing together as a family etc. Give them space, be receptive, be sensitive, have an open mind, shoot with an eye that sees what they are experiencing, what they are seeing. Educate yourself about different customs and culture, be tolerant of different people and their background. Ask them about their lives, tell them about yourself.
They are letting us in their personal space and a lot will be shared with us if they can trust us. Our empathy will help us earn their trust. Once they let us in their personal space, we need to respect it. When we emotionally invest in people, we capture what is most precious to those people.
Empathy is all about taking the trouble to make someone else’s experience a shared experience. This is when we need to step outside of our little world and connect with their little world to understand what is going on. And when several little worlds connect, it makes an ecosystem of kindness and compassion.