German Roque: Developing a Rapport with Portrait Subjects

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All images by German Roque. Used with permission

German Roque is a 27 year old New Orleans, LA-based portrait photographer who, through his photography, demonstrates incredible relationships with his subjects. Any portrait photographer will tell you how important this is: from senior portraits to film shooters. German not only does this, but balances out the technical aspects through his incredible and creative use of lighting and shadows to tell stories about people and make them look their best.

Most of all though, German is all about developing a rapport with his portrait subject before the shooting even begins. And as some photojournalists will tell you, trust is the biggest part of any photographer’s work.

But it wasn’t always that way: German started out photographing cars just for fun.

Phoblographer: Talk to us about how you got into photography.

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German: I got into photography about 8 years ago. My friends and I were heavily involved in the import car scene, one day my friend let me borrow his point and shoot camera and the rest is history. For the first 3 years, all I simply did was photograph cars, starting out with a used Canon 300D+ kit lens, until I saved up and purchased a Canon Rebel XTi + Sigma 10-20mm.

I took a small break from photography, as I felt I had reached the full potential out of my Rebel camera and was slowly phasing out of the car scene as well. About a year later I picked up a NatGeo mag and was amazed at some of the street photography images, the way they were telling stories. I saved up and purchased a 5D Mk II+50mm f1.4 and started shooting nothing but street. Living in New Orleans, I found that it was easy to find interesting things to photograph. It wasn’t until about 2 years ago that I started photographing portrait/fashion work.

Phoblographer: What got you into portraiture?

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German: I honestly can’t remember, I asked a friend to pose for me once and got awesome feedback from friends, I’ve been doing it since.

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Phoblographer: You photograph mostly females but you also shoot a couple of men. What overall attracts you to the subjects that you photograph?

German: At the moment I mainly photograph women but that’s changing soon. I’ve done a couple males here and there, but posing men is definitely a little more difficult compared to women. What I mainly look for on my subjects is their face, anything that makes them unique: hair, jaw line, bone structure, eyes, and most importantly their personality.

Also check out: posing for men and women.

Phoblographer: Talk to us about how you use lighting to get the vision that you want across.

German: Lighting can be tricky at times. It always comes down to who I’m photographing and what will suit them best. As for setting up moods with lighting, there are countless ways to go about it, my favorite is always a simple one light setup with a dark background. I feel like it creates less distractions and the viewer can concentrate on the subject and his/hers state of mind.

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Phoblographer: What gear do you use?

German: I’m currently using a Canon 5D Mk II, Canon 35L , Canon 135L Two Elinchrom 600rx heads , 48″ octabox and a 60″ Photek soft lighter.

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Phoblographer: Where do you get your creative inspiration and ideas for posing subjects?

German: Movies! I get tons of ideas from watching movies. Magazines are a great source as well.

Phoblographer: Talk us through a session. How are ideas generated for the shoots?

German: I’m fairly easy to work with during my sessions, I like to prepare and be organized for a shoot. I usually start with a quick chat/run down with my subject on what type of mood I’d like to achieve that day. After that, a couple test shots to make sure everything is to my liking. Once everything is set, I begin too shoot I’ll give or show some posing directions and try to create some sort of flow with my subject. After a couple minutes, my subject is hopefully relaxed and comfortable with my presence, I let them express themselves.

Phoblographer: How important do you feel it is to develop a rapport with your portrait subjects before going into a shoot?

German: Super important! I can’t stress it enough. I always meet with whomever I am photographing a couple days before the shoot, just to try to get to know them a little better. I’m the type of photographer who if I don’t make any connection with my subject, I won’t be able to get into the shoot myself, meaning not so great photographs. In order for me to take a great genuine portrait, my subject needs to be completely relaxed/comfortable with me. I need them to be themselves on set, it’s the difference between a good and a great portrait in my opinion.

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