Tyler’s Tips Episode 25: Vulnerability


Welcome to Tyler’s Tips. Today, I’m gonna talk about why vulnerability is so important in photography.

So first of all, what is vulnerability? That’s a word that gets tossed around a lot, what do I mean by that? For me, what I mean when I say vulnerability is opening up my ideas, opening up my creative process, making that stuff really transparent. Which means showing the people I’m working with exactly where my limitations are, what I think we can do, what I think I can do, what I think I can’t do, what I’m scared about, what I think, “Gee, maybe I could do, but that’s a long shot and jeez I might do a face plant if we try to do that, it might turn out awful.”

It means opening my heart. It means sharing … personal things during a shoot with a stranger. True, absolute things that are sometimes really hard, sometimes really glorious, magical, powerful, positive moments that have huge meaning to me. Or scary, terrifying, dark experiences that I’ve had that have been horrible for me. And allowing that emotion to be very real and present … in the way I’m doing right now. You can hear it in my voice, you can see it in my face.

I’ve had to learn how to share that. But what I’ve found is that that vulnerability, while it’s really hard to do, and it’s uncomfortable, I don’t think I’ll ever be really comfortable doing it, but what I have found is that it’s a powerful tool as a photographer because it accomplishes two things.

One is, creatively, it creates an environment where you give people the freedom to say things that are a little risky to say, that they’re not totally sure about. And then we wind up with these wonderful, escalating conversations of ideas and creativity, and together we create something much more interesting than we would have otherwise. But that vulnerability creates an environment where other people are free to be a little bit vulnerable and express ideas simply.

The other thing, the second thing, that vulnerability does, bringing a deep, emotional vulnerability to a photo shoot, is that it creates human connections. You can’t fake this stuff. We spend our lives talking with other people and communicating, and if you are truly vulnerable with another person, most people, in my experience … Almost everybody, I’m trying even right now to think of an example where I’ve had this go badly for me, and I can’t right now.

In my experience, it’s really almost universal that, when you give somebody that gift, it creates a human connection, and they will return vulnerability to you. And very quickly what happens is you develop a true connection with whoever it is you’re talking to. And if you’re shooting a portrait of somebody, you’re working with people, this is one of the most important components of creating a good portrait.

Because if you can establish a true human connection between you as the photographer and the human as your subject, it goes a long way to helping them just be themselves, even though we have lights or whatever, or we’re sticking this big camera in their face, all these things that make it really hard to just relax and be yourself. But that true moment of being yourself is what makes a great portrait, it’s what makes a good photo of a person, it makes an interesting photo, and it’s really hard to do for people. But that vulnerability as a photographer, if you bring that to it, to your shoot, you’re gonna get better results.

So there you go. A couple of different ways that vulnerability can be really helpful to making better photos. So, as always, I’m grateful for your time, thank you for staying with me for that one, and if you have any other ideas or thoughts that you’d like me to discuss in a future episode, just drop me a line and I’ll work it in. Until next time.