A few years ago I attended a workshop by Peter Hurley, who is a well noted headshot photographer based in NYC and in Los Angeles. His personality and way of working with his clients is truly unparalleled to anything I had ever seen before. He really has taken the idea of a headshot photographer and turned it into an art form by way of his personality alone. One of the things that impressed me the most was when he was talking about when sometimes he will take an amazing shot of someone and they will be looking at it together in the studio and then the client starts to see things about it they don’t like, to spite the fact Peter may think the image is incredible and would sell well to casting directors for them to be hired for work. This is something that I can relate with as a South Florida Wedding Photographer. Sometimes my clients will see images I take of them, and although I think they look amazing they won’t necessarily always agree. For a long time it would bother me, as I wanted everyone to love what I produced for them all of the time and I imagine Peter may have felt the same at one point in his career too.
Well…that all changed when Peter whipped out this cardboard cutout of a FedEx box and said to his client “I want to show you something”. I mean, at this moment I am already laughing thinking what in the world does his last shipment from amazon have to do with his client not liking something about the image he just took?
He looks at her, and then in this straight tone, in this as a matter of fact way says “do you know what this is?” my sides were hurting from trying to hold in the laughter. She looks at him like he’s an idiot and says “yes, it’s FedEx”. He replied “thats right”, and then asked her “where is the arrow in this picture?” She then took another quick look at the logo and quickly said “arrow? there is no arrow, it’s a FedEx logo”. At this point Peter starts to laugh himself, and the girl is so confused, that now she is the one starting to feel stupid. Perter then says “Look closely between the “e” and the “x”. So, she does and at first… silence.. then after a few moments she cry’s out, “OMG! I see it! I see it!” and yes, now of course we all are looking at a FedEx logo on our phones closely to understand as well, and then I saw it too. I saw the “arrow” that is graphically present as a result of the dead white space between the “e” and the “x” in the logo. Unreal. Peter then said to her “you will never see a FedEx logo again without seeing that arrow first” and you know something, he was right. Here I am 5 years later, and that is 100% true.
Okay, that was fun. What’s the point right?
Here was the point Peter made, and I have since shared this with a whole lot of people because it is so true. The point is, that we all see ourselves in a very specific (and subjective) way and we all have things that we are not totally happy with perhaps on the outside of our bodies that we see and know exist. This “thing” that you don’t like, or wish you could change about your self image becomes your “arrow” per se. Only you are going to truly see it. Everyone else simply sees you as… you.. and that becomes “FedEx”. I spent my entire life never knowing there was an arrow in the FedEx logo. It took Peter to go and pull out an old box, and point it out. Now.. I can’t not see the arrow every time I see FedEx. It’s pretty crazy, and has proven this point over, and over again.
Now, I am not saying there is no need for a photographer to “pose” and choose flattering compositions for clients. Lets be clear, this is a totally different subject entirely. Trust me when I say, I know how to pose a women so that she will look as slim, and as flattering as possible regardless of size in any dress. Period. That is a frame work that I have down pat, and as a professional this comes along with what I do. The point here however is that
in some cases… regardless of how the client is posed, or what the lighting is, or how creative the composition may have been, some people.. just are never really happy because all they see (and jump to) are all the little “arrows”.
For a long time it would bother me and I would start to question myself, and my own abilities… then, I attended this workshop and learned that some of the most highly paid photographers in the world struggle with this. I also learned that some of the most beautiful people (both men and women) will be insecure with some little thing that has become their arrow and regardless of what any photographer will do, they will not be happy —until— they fully understand this concept and can relax in knowing that the world only sees them for all that they are in every image and not the little “arrows” that they can only see which creates a false insecurity that sadly will prevent them from loving most images taken of them. So, in the end the advice is to let go of all the arrows and see things how they actually are, and how everyone else sees them and you will be a much happier person while in front of a camera once you adjust your worldview 🙂
Want to have some fun? Pull out your phone.. google “FedEx logo” click on images, and then say to your spouse, your girl /boy friend whomever.. “where is the arrow”. If they see it right away and “get it” then, you can explain the concept and be the hero. If they don’t see it at all and think your nuts.. well.. give ’em a hug and know that you will never have to worry about them seeing anything you don’t want them too! LOL 🙂 (kidding, kidding, go ahead and change how they see FedEx forever).