I think the reason for the long "o" at the end of her name should be obvious when you see the picture. I was just going to call this one "The Williams" but then I remembered that I still have another Williams photo coming up later (spoiler alert) so I had to differentiate them somehow. The best way I could think to do it was by using Billi's first name. The entire first name that I have always known her as even though I'm now told nobody really calls her that anymore. It's supposed to be just Billi.
Let me backtrack just a little bit...remember how I told you how it's always good to get support from my frat brothers whenever I return to Des Moines? Well lately I have been fortunate enough to get support from folks that have connections with me dating back to my high school days. I am always talking about how much I loved my time at Norwalk High School. I know some folks like to forget their high school days, but I have nothing but fond memories about my time there. Mainly because there were so many great friendships made while I was there. Then later reconnecting with some of those folks in later years thanks to the magic of The Book.
Billi is another one of those amazing NHS alumni. She a little bit younger than me though. Her sister Phyllis was actually one of my classmates. Our class was small enough (134 in the class of 1988) that I pretty much remember everyone by first and last name. Even if we didn't talk on a daily basis. So even years later and even with my bad memory, I still recall that Billi was younger. But if I didn't know any better, I would have thought the sisters were twins. They still favor one another to this day.
I had put out one of my feelers on The Book announcing an upcoming Des Moines trip which is what enabled me to book this shot with Billi and her family. I couldn't remember at the time she booked if she told me how big her family was. Therefore, I din't know what to expect when she showed up. I also didn't have time to think about some good poses since I didn't know the amount of people I would be dealing with. Ironically, that tends to work in my favor. I'm not overthinking things and the looks come more natural as I'm interacting with the family.
There's an old trick that any photographer can use when working with children. You want to get on their good side as soon as possible. Get them to trust you and get somewhat of an immediate connection. The way I do that is have ask one of the kids to help me out with testing the lights. All they have to do is stand in front of the strobes with holding the light meter while I get a shot. Not a big deal at all, but it gets the kid vested which makes the shoot go much smoother. It worked like a charm with Gentry.
It didn't take Gentry long at all to get warmed up to the camera. She was pretty much a natural. Sometimes when I'm working with adults, I will have to give some direction after each click. As in help them along to a new pose. Not with Gentry. Soon as the strobes flashed she was hitting another pose. And they were good ones too. But the best thing about that is that it had a domino effect with her parents. The more animated she got, the more it got them producing natural smiles as they enjoyed their daughter's participation.
As for the look on Gentry's face? I have no idea what caused it. It certainly wasn't anything on my part. I never said "Make an 'O' face". She just did it. She was just being the amusing character she is and it came out. I'm so glad it did though. It was a departure from the traditional look of everyone smiling. What was even better was it her being herself and letting her personality shine through. Sometimes it really pays off to let a kid be a kid.