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5 Questions with Geoff Shirley

Katy Johnson

TIG continues its 5 Question series with photographer Geoff Shirley. A former art director, Geoff has a unique ability to recognize the inner workings of an agency while still bringing all the life and creative energy of a freelancer following his passion. It makes him an amazing partner in helping agencies get the shots they really need. Geoff walked us through a number of different local and national projects he’s worked on. He also walked us through these 5 questions you should ask any photographer you think you’d like to work with:

TIG: How would you describe your photography style?

Shirley: I search for the truth in the moment. You could call it authenticity, but I hope it is something more complex –– a realism that lives forever. I really put a lot into preparation to avoid patterns and produce images that are unique to my clients.

TIG: Talk about how you engage with talent in a lifestyle shot – how do you go about getting the best out of the talent you are working with?

Shirley: It varies from person to person, and, of course, what the intent of the assignment is. Above all, I want them to be themselves. You have to develop trust with the individual, very quickly. They are letting you in, you have to do the same. Usually, I find there is a very brief window where you lock in with someone and get the right chemistry. I try not to labor too much before or past that point.

TIG: Do you have a favorite story behind one of your portraits that you could share?

Shirley: I was passing through a town called Lisbon, North Dakota. It happened to be prom night. I came across a young couple at a gas station in his truck, dressed in their gown and tux. No way I was gonna let them get away without a photo and they eagerly agreed. It was as if I had gone back in time 50 years –– one of the most vivid moments I’ve ever had as a photographer. It’s my favorite aspect of being a photographer: discovering a moment and making it permanent.

TIG: How do you handle it when you’re working with a subject who is particularly shy or uncomfortable?

Shirley: Often, I try and use it to my advantage. Shyness can often reveal a glimpse into someone, but you have to capture it with precision. Cameras are really intimidating for most, and it’s rare I shoot someone who likes having their picture taken. I just try to keep the direction minimal and not overwhelm them. Another important ally of portrait shoots is a great make-up artist. They’re so good at getting people relaxed and comfortable before the camera.

TIG: What do you wish every art director would ask you before working together?

Shirley: Let’s shoot film.

It was great for TIG to spend a bit of our morning swapping stories with such an engaged creative and we’re grateful that Geoff made the time. You can learn more of Geoff’s story by visiting his site. Check back soon for the agency’s next guest.