As someone who has taken photos of people, and been photographed, I can fully appreciate how nerve-wracking it is to be in front of a camera for the first time. Or even twenty-first time, if it’s not something you are used to. I know that I often have the same questions running through my mind; what should I do with my face? Where do I put my hands? Is everyone looking at me?!
With everything, being comfortable in front of the camera is something that takes practice and confidence built overtime. But, what do you do when you’re all out of ideas or have no clue where to start? Well, here are five things to remember when being photographed…
I am working with you!
When shooting, I want my subject to know that we’re a team. I want to produce shots that we are both happy with, and so am always on a mission to create an environment and safe space that allows for this to happen. If joking around throughout, playing some music to pump you up, or walking you through the experience as we go is what it takes, then BRING. IT. ON.
Additionally, it’s always worth telling me if you would prefer to shoot in quieter areas, or would like to take a break to have a breather. Keeping me posted on how you are feeling allows for me to be as accommodating as possible.
This also extends to the editing process. The first thing I do following a shoot is sift through the images for the best ones, and delete those I don’t think you’ll be happy with. Eyes half-open, a gormless mid-sentence-style, or just an expression not quite turning out the way we had envisioned in our heads; we have ALL been there. But have no fear, any photos that could be deemed as unflattering will be left on the cutting room floor - never to be seen again!
You can tell me the look you are aiming for or ask for help
Sometimes people come to me with a specific idea in mind for a shoot, other times they don’t have any ideas past wanting their photo taken. Let me tell you now, I am a total people pleaser! I love it when I can bring a vision to life, or work with someone to create one. And if there is ever the opportunity for a mood board, you can bet that I’ll be running face first into it with my arms outstretched.
If we’re shooting on location, and you find yourself (like me) unsure what to do with your face or limbs, don’t be scared to ask for direction. This just means we can be more experimental! The more I play around with my camera and you with poses, the more likely we are to find something that clicks. When something magic catches my eye, I can give prompts to direct you, and we can work on capturing that spark.
Or is a simpler vibe, without a big song and dance in front of the camera, more your style? That’s cool! I get it. Instead, we can have a big ol’ chat. I find that talking throughout a shoot not only builds a relationship between photographer and subject, as well as ease any nerves, but also create opportunities for natural-looking shots. As our conversation ebbs and flows, you move around and I snap away, there will be pauses that offer the perfect chance for capturing relaxed portraits.
Something else worth noting is that when I first had my photo taken, I let the photographer know parts of myself I was conscious of, and that I would be grateful if they could avoid shooting in ways that would highlight them. Just knowing that they knew and respected this calmed me, and let my mind wander to other things. So, ask questions, make suggestions or voice concerns throughout the process. If we’re both clued in on your thoughts and feelings, it will help us achieve rad shots!
Opt for a look and poses that suit you
Oh, ho, ho. This is something I wish someone would have told me before I chose to wear a fitted dress that highlighted my sweat patches, Dr Marten sandals I hadn’t worn in, and have my make up professionally applied for a shoot. Picture me slathered in suncream, my eye watering from either the sun or the heavy falsies in my eyes, wading through a lavender field whilst trying not to anger any bees… It is a credit to the make-up artist and photographer that the photos turned out well, but let’s just say I felt WAY out of my element.
My choice to try a new look was intended as a confidence booster, but it soon turned into something for me to worry about. Whilst it makes sense to me now, I hadn’t considered that fixing lashes that are determined to fall off, pulling the skirt of a dress down for the 3758th time because it keeps riding up, or trying to get along with rubbing shoes could make me feel all out of sorts... Yet the discomfort I experienced held up a magnifying glass to things I wouldn’t normally batter an eyelid at.
From having this experience I now opt for clothes that I love and feel comfortable in, because they are what I look and feel good in. If you aren’t sure what to wear, I’d suggest putting together outfits you would rock every day or during a night out, and style your hair and make-up in the ways you would normally.
They are called a ‘passerby’ for a reason
Sit for a second. Cast your mind back to the last time you were in a public place. Can you picture five people you walked past? Do you remember their faces? Could you draw them from memory? I sure as heck can’t, and not just because I don’t have the drawing skills to.
When a camera is pointed in your direction, it can suddenly feel as though all eyes are on you. When in reality most people are so caught up in their own lives that they walk on by; not realising what is happening or being interested enough to take the time to find out.
On vary rare occasions, someone may stop to watch. This seems to born from curiosity or, from the look in their eyes, an attempt to work out if they have seen you on TV before! Whilst I now use this as fuel for confidence (because if they think your famous why not act like you are?!), understandably it can feel intimidating.
The main thing I suggest to keep in mind is that a ‘passersby’ is called that for a reason. They pass you by; both physically and mentally. Meaning the likelihood of you seeing them again, outside of the shoot day, and them remembering you is so very minute. I also use this mentality when dancing at gigs because, quite frankly, it’s good to know that no one will remember me or my Dad-dancing.
It takes time to get comfortable
Lastly, not not leastly, it is normal to feel overwhelmed.
Having your photo taken is a whole new experience, and it can feel unfamiliar time and time again. It can be nerve-wracking the first time, feel a little odd when getting back into the swing of being in front of the camera, or a bit unfamiliar if you are working with a new photographer and learning how they work.
It is important to remember that, like every single thing you have ever done for the first time, and felt as though you would never get, it takes time. And on that note, let me leave you with these two portraits from the first and most recent shoot where I had my photo taken. Almost unrecognisable, huh?