Kate here at Tyler Stableford Photography + Film. Writing to you about how unique the past few months have been. Far and away the coolest part of my job is getting to make connections with people I may otherwise never meet. As a photographer or filmmaker creating connections with your subject can make or break your shoot. A lot of the time in this industry we work with models but for this past Cabela’s project we got to work with real people as our models and guides.
Growing up in the suburbs of an east coast town, I was not brought up in a world of hunting and fishing for sport nor for food. I’ve never hunted a day in my life and you won’t find meat on my plate, so how then could I connect with people who hunt, fish and guide for a living? That’s the exciting part!
Getting the opportunity to talk with people about the thing they are most passionate about is a great way to learn more about them and yourself- it’s also usually makes for the most compelling content.
So how do you break the ice? First of all tell them why you want to photograph or interview them- what the footage will be used for or what your interest is. People are sometimes hesitant to talk about themselves, but may be more keen on talking about a hobby they do or cause they are passionate about. Once the camera is rolling I usually ask for their name and where they are from. This is good because it not only gives you a chance to triple check your audio levels, make sure your frame rate is set, it also gets your subject comfortable talking on camera and if you are shooting interviews of multiple people you’ve never met before it will help you remember their name.
Come prepared. If you can know about your subject before you interview them, come up with a list of questions. If you are shooting on the fly and don’t know a thing about your subject not to fret! Now is a great time to get to know them.
Stay on track. This goes for you not your subject. You are the guide. Allow them to be tangential, some of the best stories are anecdotes but some feel like Russian novels. Stay interested and do not interrupt if you think of a follow up question save it for when they are through. Keep the point of your piece in the back of your head then find a connection between that and the story they are sharing.
Be your audience. So what if you and your subject don’t have a thing in common- though I find the more people I talk to the more similar we all are than different- but even if it feels like you can’t find the connection between their story and your life remember who this story is meant for. Who is your audience? Define that for yourself. Then think about what they would most like to hear about. Chances are they are the stories that come from the heart. Stories that are told with enthusiasm and conviction.
For a recent Cabela’s campaign project I was asking outdoorsmen of all ages the question, “What’s in Your Nature?” It can be a pretty simple or pretty philosophical question to answer. Sometimes the responses we’re pure gold, some were total misses, but with each person I got to spend an hour or more talking to them about their life, their passions, their heritage, hearing the stories that belong to them and getting to share those with all of you. That’s what connecting to your subjects is all about.
To see some of these interviews click below:
All of these videos were directed by Kate Rolston and edited by Ben Thomas. Special thanks to Cabela’s particularly Brandon Beck for his vision and his passion for this project!