Photographing your loved ones is the most meaningful thing you can do, which is why I made CINDYPROJECT.
Practical tips how to take better photos of your loved ones:
1. Colorful backgrounds
Simple tip: find a colorful background, and ask your loved one to stand in front of it. Bonus points if you can get the colors to match or contrast!
2. Obscure their eyes
Don’t show their eyes by putting their eyes in the shadow. Shoot photos of them during “golden hour” (sunset) to get epic light, and shadows to obscure their eyes.
Play with props like sunglasses, hats, and other clothing items. By obscuring the eyes of your loved one, they become more mysterious and the photograph is more interesting to look at, and the viewer can come up with their own story about the photo!
3. Get your selfie in the photo
Honor thy selfie, by putting yourself into the shot. By putting yourself in the shot (reflection, shadow), you make the photo more personal. You’re putting your own soul in the photo, and immortalizing yourself!
4. Make it surreal
Surrealism: make photos that don’t look real. Or make photos that look “hyper real”.
For example the photo of Cindy’s back, as she was getting Chinese cupping for her back and neck pain.
When you’re documenting your loved ones, don’t just show the happy moments. Also show the struggles, like you can see the pain Cindy had to go through with her chronic back and neck/shoulder pain. The photo is personal, and opens up our life for others to relate to.
5. Have fun
Not all the photos you shoot of your loved ones need to be “flattering” in the traditional sense. Have fun. Make silly photos, that are surreal, whimsical, and interesting!
For example this photo, Cindy is wearing VR goggles. It makes her eyes seem larger than life and distorted. But Cindy liked it, because of the shock factor and the nontraditional portrait!
6. Make your loved one a creative collaborator
Cindy isn’t just a photo object; she’s an active subject, author, and creative collaborator. For example when she put together the art portfolio “Cindy project”, she wrote these words on being both the subject of the photo, but also the curator of her own self-image:
What is the photographic moment?
It is a song, a record of the playful dance between photographer and subject.
Where is the photographic moment?
It is everywhere and nowhere—
An attempt to extend that sweet something while surrendering to the transience of life.
Who is the photographic moment?
She exudes power in her vulnerability.
She speaks, contests, collaborates.
She lives [sống].
Takeaway: Collaborate with your loved one. Don’t just “take” their photo; make a portrait of them, with their input, suggestions and ideas. Make them feel beautiful, loved, and let them add their artistic ideas. This will ensure a life-long collaboration between you both.
7. Memento mori
The truth is you and your loved one will (eventually) die. You don’t know whether you’re gonna die first or they are.
Why waste any time being petty over insignificant shit? I know it’s easy for me to get petty over small stuff, but whenever I meditate on the impermanence of life, I make sure to always be grateful for Cindy, how she empowers me and her love.
The other day we witnessed a nasty car accident, where the passengers of two cars almost died. It was a wakeup call: for me to always value Cindy, no matter what.
Just ask yourself, if you knew that your loved one would die tonight in their sleep, or in a car accident, how would you spend your time with them differently? What kind of photos would you shoot of them?
For myself, I’d make photos which express my ineffable love for her, and to convey this love to others; to help others realize their love for their loved ones as well.
Regardless if your partner is male or female, everyone feels empowered when they flex.
Have your subjects flex, and it will really let out their endorphins, and cause them to smile!
9. Just dance
Cindy and I love to dance. To me dancing is one of the best ways to express your joy of being alive. Even Nietzsche once said, “I would never believe in a God that didn’t dance.”
When you dance with your subjects, you make them loosen up and have fun! You’re more likely to get a good photo dancing with your loved one, which will be more energetic and dynamic! Richard Avedon would often dance with his models, making them jump up and down and move around.
A nice Avedon quote:
“One of the most powerful parts of movement is that it is a constant surprise. You don’t know what the fabric is going to do, what the hair is going to do, you can control it to a certain degree— and there is a surprise. And you realize when I photograph movement, I have to anticipate that by the time it has happened— otherwise it’s too late to photograph it. So there’s this terrific interchange between the moving figure and myself that is like dancing.”
Dance with your subject!
10. Let your loved one photograph you!
It’s hypocritical if you photograph others, and if you don’t like having your own photo taken.
To make better photos of your loved ones, learn how to be photographed as well! Cindy has started her own #ericproject in ways, like the epic macro eye photo of me above.
If you encourage your loved one to also shoot your portrait, you will make the portrait making a two-way street and collaboration.
I encourage you to start your own Cindy project, and photograph your loved one with all your creative heart, soul, and being.
Shoot with a joyful heart, and dance in this beautiful life you have together.
CINDY PROJECT (Monochrome)
CINDY PORTRA 400