Does having your photo taken make you feel a little nervous? Maybe even really uncomfortable? Do you tend to think of yourself as not very photogenic? Being photographed is nerve-wracking because you want to look great, and believe you me—you aren’t alone. Of course the idea of someone pointing a big, honkin’ beast of a device at your face is a little scary. Not only is it legit to feel that way but the fact is the vast majority of my clients come to me with at least a little (if not a lot) of this anxiety.
I understand there’s a lot of pressure to perform and I want to put your mind at ease. Our work together is NOT about performance. Most of the time I’m going to ask you NOT to look straight at the camera and certainly not to try to wow me with modelesque poses. Ew. I’ll ask you to engage with each other, to have a great time together. And that’s what I’m photographing—the time you spend together, not the time you spend performing. That said, I know you want to feel as prepared as possible, and to help you feel a little more confident and powered up, I’m sharing some tips about being photographed to help you FEEL great, which really, is what makes you LOOK great.
01. Use positive energy to help you relax
Starting our shoot worried that you don’t look great is like shooting yourself in the foot. I know you look good, but you need to know it, too! I think the idea of being photogenic is a myth. We worry about our features and flaws, but the problem is the worry itself: how feeling uncomfortable results in looking awkward. Discomfort shows. Instead, I’ll have you tell me about your favorite things, and when you think about those things, you’ll feel great! Let’s focus on how much you enjoy the time you’re currently spending with your favorite person(s) ever, and remind yourself that you look great. Use that thought as a mantra when you get nervous! Tensing up looks uncomfortable. Let’s keep you comfortable, because that’s when you look your best! **useful exercise** anytime you feel tense, roll your shoulders back as though you were setting them on a shelf behind you. It improves posture and releases the hunch of tension, so this is a surprisingly effective tiny little stretch.
02. Get out your excess tension before the shoot
Go for a run, do a little dance, hit your yoga class, or even just a brisk walk… before we shoot together, give yourself a chances to get your heart pumping. Physical activity absolutely helps release tension. You can bet we’ll be moving around a fair bit when we shoot together, too, but start yourself off on the right foot by essentially “shaking it out”. If you’re still feeling nervy when we get going that is TOTALLY okay! Let me know and I’ll do my best to keep a comfortable pace so you never feel you’re under attack.
03. Stop trying to control the faces you make
Control inherently is unnatural. Worrying that you’ll make a face you don’t like is a surefire way to keep yourself from feeling at ease. Tell yourself it’s okay to make faces and be silly. Trust in me—I’m going to work hard to make sure I highlight all the best aspects of who you are inside and out. I know you’re used to inexperienced people taking your photograph, but I am so looking forward to sharing the results of what an experienced professional can do! Years and years from now, when you’re an eccentric octogenarian, looking back and remembering how happy you were will trump remembering how ‘perfect’ you were, and I swear you will definitely not be judging yourself on any of the little things you are making out to be a big deal. Being yourself always looks better than trying to be something that’s a poor fit. Be silly if you’re silly. Be reserved if you’re reserved. Be you. I’ll take care of the rest.
04. Smiling is always worth it
I’ve met people who hate their teeth or fear their wrinkles and avoid smiling. You might think you’re concealing flaws, but really you are keeping yourself from enjoying our time together. If you smile bright, bold, and fearlessly enjoy the adventure, I promise you will look better! Here’s the thing. Just looking at me and smiling IS NOT ACTUALLY SMILING. Smiling involves actually having a good time—not saying cheese. Instead of forcing a smile, just let yourself enjoy the experience and smiling will happen on and off, naturally, just as they should. In my books, genuine smiles are the key to looking your best, and those genuine smiles require genuine feelings, so instead of focusing on yourself, focus on your partner and/or loved ones, and how great they make you feel. Cross my heart, if I think you’re forgetting, I’ll remind you in no time flat.
05. “Do we look at you or not at you?” Answer? Both!
When it comes to working with me, our portrait session is meant to be a rad adventure that you get to have with the folks you love, while letting me tag along so I can tell the story. That means that most of the time the adventure is about you having a great time together! That said, I am not a hide-in-the-bushes-and-pretend-I’m-not-there photographer (creepy!). It’s totally fine for you to sometimes be focused on each other, and sometimes on me (aka, the camera). No ‘pretending I’m not there’ necessary, nor performing for me! Including me in some of your moments is awesome, but you are encouraged to make your adventure about each other, not about me. That’s why we’re there, after all. Should I need your attention I will let you know!
This sounds so obvious to many, but I swear, most people go into full freeze mode that first time I raise my camera and look through it at them. Holding your breath could lead to such consequences as no longer being alive. Breathing is the most basic way to release tension and relax muscles, and the first thing we forget to do when we get a little nervous. Let it out, y’all.
07. Shift your weight
Lemme get all dance background on you. Shifting your weight means putting all your weight on one of your legs, not split between both. Splitting your weight might make you feel powerful—your stance is like you’re ready for an attack. That’s not really what your photos are all about, though, huh? Put all your weight on one leg and you’ll look (and feel) more at ease.
08. Leave those hands alone!
People in front of cameras are always traumatized by their hands. Where do they put them? How do they use them? OH GOD WHAT DO I DO WITH THESE BIZARRE APPENDAGES?! Truth? Doing nothing with your hands is normal! Once you start putting them all over the place that is what looks and feels unnatural. That is what is uncomfortable. Your hands don’t usually need a purpose when you’re just hanging out with others. The minute a camera pops up, I assure you, they do not transform into toys you must put away. You don’t have to try and be a model. Hands hanging by your side is a totally normal thing! Other natural places for hands: pockets, clasped together, playing with your hair, or playing with your clothing or accessories. You know, or just hanging there by your side. That is absolutely normal. When in doubt, though—use your hands to tickle your loved ones. Obviously.
09. When in doubt, snuggle up!
When you’re feeling self conscious and full of “you’re pointing a camera at me, oh god!” uncertainty—stop making it about interacting with me. Set me aside, and focus on your partner, spouse, fiancé, kids, friends… grab them like you always do. Kiss them like you always do. Tickle them like you always do. Make a face at them like you always do. Lean in, just like you always do. You are not performing for me, you’re enjoying each other. Anytime you start to feel self-conscious, take comfort in those you are with. Because our time together should always start with the good time you’re sharing with each other!
10: Arrive early!
Listen up, y’all. I’ve experienced the last-minute nervous frenzy. I completely understand the desire to make sure everything’s perfect before you leave the house, redoing makeup, running back to get just one last thing… four times in a row. I understand because I know the anxiety of getting in front of a camera myself. BUT… when I think back on the occasions where I’ve had very stressed-out clients, it often had to do with the fact that they were running late. Running late is basically the best way to make yourself ultra-stressed. And if you show up ultra-stressed, that shows up on-camera. So do yourself a huge favor and build extra time into arriving (like, 30 minutes—not 5), because session timing generally cannot be extended.
Remember that kids have unpredictable meltdowns or messes. Remember that traffic may throw things off. Remember that it sometimes takes time to find parking, time to pay a meter or find a parking attendant, and walking over from a faraway parking spot may also take time. Remember that if you’re coming from afar (if it takes an hour or longer to drive out), traffic can *really* throw timing off. In that case, my STRONG recommendation is to drive to the area we’ll be meeting and actually have lunch or a drink in advance, giving you an extra time buffer, and an opportunity to relax (bonus: a bit of booze might just help calm the nerves). Show up early, and you’ll absolutely have better results in your shoot!
——–If this article helped to power you up so you can totally dig your photoshoot, please let me know in the comments below, or better yet, share it with others!