The best photographs are the ones where people look relaxed, confident and natural. For subjects who aren’t professional models, it can be tricky to get into a mental state of confidence. It’s the photographer’s responsibility to ease their nerves and assure them that amazing photos will come from the photoshoot.
Subjects who aren’t used to being in front of the camera often feel they’re not photogenic, which can lead to awkwardness and visible tension in photos. For the best outcome, a personal connection with the subject should be quickly established. With the right posing tips, instruction, and conversation, anyone can look and feel natural in front of the camera. Below are some tips and tricks to have more than just a surface level “photographer-subject” relationship.
Develop a Relationship before the Photoshoot
This tip is so, so important. It can be incredibly awkward to have someone photograph you in total silence. Developing a relationship deepens trust, and the more that the person trusts you, the more comfortable they will feel!
Building a relationship with clients should actually start before the photoshoot takes place. Ask them to show up 15 minutes early, or use the first 15 minutes of the photoshoot to get the conversation going.
Be engaged in who your client is. Ask them questions, joke around, tell stories, poke fun and talk throughout the entire shoot. Think of it in the same way a dental hygienist tries to talk to patients while she’s cleaning teeth, but in this scenario, the subject can actually talk back.
Don’t forget to include stories and information about yourself, so it feels like a back-and-forth conversation and they’re getting to know you too. Interaction helps subjects forget that they’ve got a big lens pointed directly at them, like a microscope.
Give Helpful Posing Directions
Generally, clients will have little to no experience in front of a camera. Due to this lack of experience, they are naturally going to be nervous not knowing how to pose or what looks good in front of the camera. Continually offering tips for poses during the session really helps them relax and take their mind off of that portion of the photoshoot. After giving enough direction, they might even get comfortable enough to start varying the pose themselves.
Give Consistent Reassurance during the Photoshoot
Almost everyone can say they have something they are self-conscious about, and that gets magnified when they step into the context of a photoshoot. Offering consistent, genuine reassurance while working with a subject during a photoshoot is vital to helping them feel more confident and relaxed. Be sure to avoid negative feedback. If a particular pose or action isn’t working, don’t show it! Take a couple quick shots and move on to another pose.
A note on complimenting: compliment sincerely. Don’t overly flatter the subject – this can often be interpreted as disingenuous and have the opposite effect. Instead, pay them occasional authentic compliments.
Show Some of the Photos
Sometimes it’s good to ask the client if they want to be photographed in a different way. Take multiple shots with each pose and every now and then turn it around to show them how it’s looking. This is a good opportunity to gain useful insight. For example, some subjects will often ask to photograph the other side of their face, they take their hair down, or make other changes. Mostly they won’t want anything changed and will want the professional to stick to the directing the photoshoot, but if they have a suggestion, it’s a good way to know how to avoid the things they are self-conscious about or want air-brushed.
This is also a good tactic if they’re still not quite relaxed. When coming across a great shot, say something like, “That looks awesome. Come look at this!” When they see a flattering photo of themselves, they’ll likely get more excited and feel confident in moving forward in the photoshoot.
What are some tried and true ways you or your company’s photographers get subjects to loosen up? Let us know in the comments below!