8 TIPS TO HELP YOU MASTER THE ART OF “WEIRD”
Etymology of “weird”
Old English wyrd ‘destiny’, of Germanic origin. The adjective (late Middle English) originally meant ‘having the power to control destiny.’
When it comes to conceptual portrait work, the biggest challenge is adding a layer of “weird” to your photos. It’s easy to take a pretty picture. Anyone can eventually get to the point where they can take beautiful pictures of everyone and everything – and they can make a viable business out of that! But for those of us who crave that extra “something” that sets our photos apart, we need to master the art of the weird.
By the original definition of the word, do we, as photographers, have the power to control destiny? I don’t know - that might be taking it a little far.
But what I do know is that we have the power to freeze a moment. And in that moment, we can captivate an audience. To captivate an audience, our frozen moments need to stand out.
Playing with any of these elements will help you add a dose of “unusual” to your photos. I’m all for subtle oddities that don’t overwhelm the viewer but do force them to pause and wonder for a moment.
The best part is: this list doesn’t involve locations, or lights, or special gear. Any of this can be done anywhere on little to no budget!
1. Running away. Having your subject run away from the camera or across the scene adds a narrative to your shots. What are they running from? It’s a mystery.
2. Lying down. Especially face down. The more public of a place this is, the better. Need I say more?
3. Facelessness. Another way to add an element of curiosity. Who is this individual? Why are they hiding their face?
4. Head leaning. Have your subject lean against a wall, a pillar, a tree trunk. The key is that the only body part touching this surface is their head. Think planking, but cooler.
5. #Twinning. Or #tripleting, #quadrupleting, #quinting...you get the picture - those hashtags aren’t as catchy. Seeing real life clones catches people’s eye. And the more people dressed the same, the weirder. Think Handmaid’s Tale. But in a good way. I probably use this oddity the most.
6. Roboticism. This is on the milder side of “weird,” but most of my poses for portraits tend to be pretty robotic. This means: neutral expression, straight arms and legs, and an apparent lack of awareness for the world around them. When they walk, their movements are mechanical – like a military march.
7. The right props. Fruit, flowers, chairs, paper, fabric, umbrellas, pillows...adding in random objects in an intentional way can make your viewer say “why?” or “how?” We want them to do that.
8. Nonsense. This is pretty broad and could almost encompass everything I’ve already mentioned, but what I mean by this is: mismatch reality. Why is she sitting in a tree in a perfect outfit? Why is she balancing a watermelon on her butt? Why are they holding a clear umbrella on a totally sunny day? These are all great questions to which there is no clear answer. And that’s what we like.