This week’s Questions with a Pro features Dave Moser.
Dave is a Philadelphia based commercial photographer specializing in portrait photography. He is fascinated by each and every one of his subjects and has mastered the art of portrait photography through this fascination, as well as his ability to develop a connection with each of these subjects. Dave’s work has been featured in publications like: Fast Company, Forbes and People, and he is the recipient of many national and international awards. Here, Dave shares some of what has shaped him into the photographer he is today, details about his blogging experience, and his opinion about social media’s role in the photography industry.
We asked: Please describe what has shaped you into the photographer you are today.
Dave said: The most obvious and important factor is my love of people which I discovered while living in Ohio during college. As I started to shoot on the street, I was surprised by how open people were to being photographed – letting me into their lives and being moved when I brought back prints for them. I am still amazed at the questions people answer when I am photographing them. I am an incredibly curious person and people let down their guard as they get to know you and share about themselves. This established trust increases the range of expressions available to you. Whether I agree with peoples’ views and choices is unimportant to me when photographing; it’s the discovery of “why” that drives me. When you drill down into people’s beliefs, we are all very similar in what we value most. It’s mainly our choices we’ve made and our backgrounds and strategies that make us manifest so different. I find it is impossible to dislike someone once I’ve truly connected with them, regardless of their views and actions – empathy.
I have always studied fine art, whether it’s painting or photography. In studying contemporary and historical masters, I look for emotional connections through the use of color, light, gesture, and expression. This is not limited to representational art as so much of abstract art is about these same elements.
Lastly, it’s a sense of play and experimentation which happens on both assignments and personal projects. Once I have completed the client’s requested needs, we can push things further and take chances. So much discovery happens during these times.
We asked: How does developing a connection with the subjects of your portrait photography affect the final product?
Dave said: Connection is possibly the most important skill as a portrait photographer. It really doesn’t matter whether I am photographing a celebrity, CEO or someone on the street – although timing and circumstance do come into play! Connection is so important to me as I am not looking to photograph someone as an object or lighting study, but as a human being, an individual. It’s paramount to me that I portray a sense of understanding and dignity, and convey that to the audience. As I mentioned earlier, as the connection strengthens and trust is established, the range of expressions and gestures increases. They are willing to take direction and honestly react or interact without hiding – we are now on the same team. As I get to know people when photographing them, they start to appear younger and even more attractive to me. I think this is simply what happens as relationships develop.
We asked: How does your blog fit into your business? Would you recommend blogging to other photographers?
Dave said: I find that clients and prospects have often gone to my blog prior to meeting me. My blog has a personal side which shows people how I approach photography and life. It’s an intimate look into how I see. I am amazed at how often people reference older posts, showing they’ve really dug into what I’ve written, beyond the images. I would like to post far more than I do and am scheduling my time accordingly. Blogging is not a direct marketing tool as I see it, but a way of prospects and clients to get to know you. There is a lot of trust needed in this industry, and blogging is a way of strengthening this trust and getting to know me. A peer recently told me he loved my blog. “It’s like Dave Moser magazine.” By blogging about my experience of life, I am offering points of connection to the audience, which inevitably come up during conversations with clients and prospects.
I would recommend for other photographers to blog, but do so in a way that feels authentic. Some people use blogs as quick hits to show what they’re up to, some go deeper or more personal, some create content that is of value to the industry hoping to create larger audiences…it’s all a reflection of you. Instagram is now fulfilling much of these needs in a format not unlike blogging but is more interactive. It seems as if Instagram is taking the place of blogs. I personally prefer blogging but am putting more time into Instagram and Facebook and enjoying the interactions.
We asked: Where do you look to find new inspiration?
Dave said: Some of my inspiration comes from looking at other photographers’ work, watching movies, and going to galleries and museums, but much of my inspiration comes from “seeing” – watching light change as I am waiting for something or just hanging out can lead to lighting experimentation on set. Casual interactions with people can be a source of inspiration as well – watching a stranger or friend move through expressions and gestures can lead to me exploring similar interactions with my next subject. Once you learn to “see,” you will never be bored. I also spend quite a bit of time listening to music, which has visual connections for me.
We asked: Did the growing popularity of social media affect your business at all? How do you think social media will affect the future of photography?
Dave said: There is a collapsing of the division between professional life and personal life. People are not only sharing their work or images, but also curated versions of their lifestyle and day-to-day happenings; there’s a feeling of immediacy and casualness. Much like blogging, I find social media to be a soft touch, support for your brand, and offerings of who you are. I have not received work directly related to or solely based on social media, but know that this has helped build relationships which lead to work. I strongly believe social media is one of the strongest marketing tools out there due to how much engagement is happening. People are answering their phones and responding to emails far less. Social media allows the audience to choose whether they want to engage, and interact on their own time and terms. It just might be the most important marketing tool we have outside of our websites. People have used phones to shoot assignments and people with large followings have even received assignments due to these large followings – it’s creating a major shift for some of the industry. I expect this to continue and expand.
Find more of Dave’s work on his website.