What is a person-centered photographer?

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“It was an absolute pleasure working with Elizabeth! She’s kind, patient, and professional. She’s a person-centered photographer and cares about providing exceptional service.” -Whitney & Dallas

Person-centered is a bit of a buzzword now. But what does it mean to be a person-centered photographer?

In general, the term “person-centered” refers to an approach that places the individual at the center of attention and decision-making. It recognizes the unique experiences, perspectives, and needs of each person, considering them as an expert on their own life.

bride with red hair in emerald green dress in front of monstera vines and cypress tree at kraft azalea garden in winter park

In a person-centered approach, the focus is on valuing and respecting the person’s autonomy, agency, and dignity. It involves actively listening, empathizing, and collaborating with the person to understand their thoughts, feelings, and goals, and to support their self-determined growth and well-being.

This makes a lot of sense when thinking about medical care or mental health care approaches, but how does it translate to services like person-centered photography?

Person-centered photography is an approach that focuses on capturing the essence and individuality of the people being photographed. I go beyond simply documenting a person, family, or couple’s physical appearance and aim to convey your personality, emotions, and unique qualities through your images. I seek to establish a connection with my subjects, creating a comfortable and trusting environment that allows your authentic self to shine through.

The emphasis of person-centered photography is on capturing moments and expressions that reflect your true self to evoke a sense of your lived experience. The resulting photographs are intended to be respectful, empowering, and representative of your individuality as a person, couple, or family.

I have many tools in my toolbox as a photographer; locations, wardrobe, posing, and prompts. If I had a session flow that I never deviated from no matter how my subjects were feeling, I wouldn’t be person-centered.

Because I’m a person-centered photographer, I have general ideas about where our time together might go, and then I’m led by what you say about how you’re feeling, what you don’t say about how you’re feeling (aka your body language), and my intuition. All of this to make sure your photos are individualized to your unique self. And that they’re not just beautiful images, but your memory of our time together is pleasant as well. This is why you may see the same locations in my photos over and over, but each image made there is different.

As a special needs photographer, I photograph a lot of kids and families with special needs and disabilities both seen and unseen. The dignity of the person I’m photographing is extremely important in these interactions and being a person-centered photographer gives me the tools and flexibility to be able to go with the flow and be led by that person’s needs.

This isn’t just a job to me. Every session I do is the most important of my career and I want you to end up with images that reflect not just the person you want to be, but the person you actually are.

I think one of the things people (myself included) don’t like about being in pictures is that—much like hearing a recording of your voice—you think “that’s what I look like to other people?” and you might not like what you’re seeing. It’s like those filters that show you the mirror of your face—it can be jarring. So a big part of my work is quickly figuring out who you are and vibing with that person to create images that reflect it back to you through the mirror that is my camera.

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