How to Stay Calm and Have Fun During Portraits
There are plenty of people who love nothing more than to be photographed. You know them. They are the people who post selfies every single day, they are the queens of Instagram, they are outgoing, confident, and love being the center of attention.
And then there's you.
You scream and cover your face when someone points a camera at you. You tell people that you belong on the "other side of the camera". You think selfies are the most ridiculous thing ever. And if you needed to find a photo of yourself, good luck, because you avoid photos like the plague.
It is totally normal to be uncomfortable and nervous for your photoshoot. Especially if you're not used to being photographed, it can feel like a really unnatural thing!
Here are my tried and true tips for surviving- and actually enjoying!- your portrait photo session.
1. Hire the right photographer.
In most cases, the right photographer is actually not your best friend. Most people will feel more uncomfortable with their best friend behind the camera, believe it or not! You feel their judgement (even though it isn't there), they might make you laugh at the wrong time, or maybe you don't trust their photography skills.
Find a photographer you are comfortable with. I like photographers with a sense of humor, who are really positive, and who communicate with me a lot. Others like more serious, professional, to-the-point photographers.
Other things to think about: If you're like Stan in South Park and talking to women makes you physically ill with stress, maybe don't hire a female photographer! If you have concerns about race, your sexual orientation, your size, etc., make sure you hire someone who is going to be sensitive to those things. Look through their portfolio to see what types of people they have worked with!
2. Find the right outfits.
This is more about feeling good than looking good (okay, fine, it's about looking good, too). Pick several outfits ahead of time that you love and that you feel good in. Pick outfits that others have complimented you on. Also remember that fashion rules for photography are different than for real life! Try to pick outfits that you have been photographed in before and that you know look good on you in a picture. Consult with your photographer ahead of time to get their advice on what to wear. Also ask for your friends' honest opinions on what brings out the best in you.
3. Know your strengths.
Before a photo shoot, think about all the things you love about yourself, inside and out. Heck, even write these thins down. Practice a power pose, chant mantras, and remember why you are the most fabulous creature to ever set foot on this Earth.
Do you have a good side? Is your hair your pride? Make sure you communicate this with your photographer so they can capture the parts of you that you love the most!
4. Communicate your insecurities.
EVERYONE has insecurities. I find it is helpful to address these before a photo shoot. Most insecurities that people feel are not visible to others, so if you think your arms are hideous, I might not think they are hideous, and I might take a lot of pictures that show your lovely arms. Let your photographer know ahead of time what features you want to downplay.
It is important that you have realistic expectations going into a photo shoot, as well. Talk to your photog about what you expect. The miracles of Photoshop have really messed us all up. If you expect a really Photoshopped look, make sure you tell them that. The more realistic your body image is, the more happy you will be with your photographs.
5. Practice makes perfect.
First, examine old pictures of yourself. What do you like about your favorites? What about your least favorites? Study your outfits, poses, and facial expressions and make a mental note of those things.
Next, practice in the mirror! Seriously. Practice smiles and relaxed faces.
This will help you avoid Chandler Face.
6. Find the right location.
For most people, this is a secluded location. The majority of us are nervous enough having our photos taken. We don't need random strangers staring at us as they walk by. Super awkward!
This is one reason I try to make my photo clients get up super early. Not only is it the most flattering lighting, but there aren't that many people out! With photography, the early bird catches the worm! If you want me to photograph you in Forest Park at noon on a gorgeous spring Saturday, okay, but you're going to have an audience!
7. Pretend you are a supermodel.
Yes, I actually am serious. The day of your shoot, get in the zone. You might feel silly at first, but you aren't just posing, you are acting! Act like you are the world's hottest super model and that you do this all of the time! It will give you confidence. Trust me. Make love to the camera.
8. Drink up.
This controversial tip is hotly debated, but I've found it to be effective. For my 21 and older clients, having a glass of wine before the shoot can relax them just enough to let out their inner goddess.
The downsides of alcohol consumption are that they can flush the skin, amongst other things, so keep it to one drink, and if you have strong reactions to alcohol, or you aren't of legal drinking age, stick to Sleepy Time tea.
9. Props are your friend.
Most people have no idea what to do with their hands during a photo shoot. Posing can feel super awkward, and multiply this if you have body confidence issues. Holding a prop makes most people a million times more relaxed. It feels more natural, and many props can be held in front of your body, which also makes people feel a little bit more comfortable. Ask your photographer about what kinds of props you could use in a photo. For online dating pictures, I recommend a cup of coffee!
10. It's not a photoshoot, it's a date.
I read a blog from a local St. Louis photographer who said her secret to great engagement photos was that she took the couples not on a photo shoot, but on a date. This is a great mentality to have. See it as a date, or just hanging out, and you will automatically feel more loose and comfortable.