True Stories: The Secret Makings of a Superhero Photographer

Today being “Robb appreciation day” (i.e., my little brother’s birthday), I thought I’d let you in on what makes him so cool. Some people just have that special quality that draws people to themselves, and my brother is one. He has an upbeat, positive attitude, he’s goofy and outgoing, and he goes out of his way to help people who need him. This all serves him well in his photography business, but he has a secret ingredient that makes him memorable.

Once upon a time, I was writing a novel about a photographer, so I asked him for advice. How can my character stand apart as a photographer and get really great shots? He told me how to get subjects to lift their chins. “Get them talking about something they’re really passionate about.” Their dog, a wrestling match, awesome kids, whatever makes them tick. When you do this, they instantly relax, and their chin lifts, giving the photographer a confident pose that flatters nearly everyone. Check out the best pictures–it’s true!

He didn’t stop there. He also lets loose and gets goofy. Really goofy. Check out his own personal pictures if you don’t believe me. “This lets people know they can be themselves. Lets them relax around me.” I don’t know many people who aren’t relaxed in his presence.

 

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Those are all great tips, and very telling about his personality, but there’s more to it than that.

His true secret–he finds the good in people.

I seriously admire this trait, because I’m not good at it. I’m a natural-born editor, and I notice mistakes and flaws. I even point them out sometimes. While the world may size up a shy kid with few friends and say, “he’s not cool,” Robb will most assuredly find something awesome about the guy and focus on it. If the kid knows a ridiculous amount about sports, rocks the drums, or simply gets awesome grades, that’ll be the topic of conversation around Robb. In the past, he’s made me feel awesome about learning how to mow my own grass, teaching myself to drive stick-shift, or editing his college paper. And he makes you feel like the best at whatever skill you have, no matter how small. This validation makes anyone comfortable in his presence. Makes them enjoy being around him.

His ability to do this is one of the most godly talents I’ve seen. In his pictures, he makes people look their best by focusing on their strengths, and makes them look natural by making them feel good about themselves. And it goes beyond the camera lens. This is simply how he treats people in everyday life.

When I walk into a room, how do I make people feel? Sometimes I’m not even thinking about it–I’m focused on how people perceive me, not themselves. When I leave a room, have I lifted any chins? Breathed a pleasant, validating aura into the room? Did anyone’s day change for the better in my presence?

It’s not hard to pick out the flaws–it takes no special talent. Nor is it hard to let people know our own strengths, to make sure they know how great we are. The true skill is in lifting that chin, noticing and then drawing out the good in someone. Making them feel like a rock star in your presence. Every person has value, but sometimes we forget that. What might it do for someone if you started out with that thought when you talked to them?

So there it is, my brother’s secret. I’m pretty glad to be his sister, and very proud of the person he is.

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