Composition, lighting, angle, timing, settings — there are so many things to coordinate in one photograph, but it can all be in vain if the subject of your image looks awkward. Very few clients know what to do with themselves in front of a camera. They'll start second-guessing every tiny movement they make, fuss and fidget with their clothing, or they'll simply freeze up. However they respond to the clicking of your camera; it won't be pretty.
We've compiled our five favorite tips and tricks to help your clients look less awkward in front of your camera.
Build a Relationship
If you want to get your clients to relax and be themselves while you're photographing them, you're going to have to build a relationship with them. We don't mean that you have to be their best friend, but you do have to develop a level of trust — you can only achieve this by allowing your clients to get to know you.
From the moment your clients first make contact with you, start laying the foundation of your relationship. Use your regular check-ins with your clients to show them a little bit more about yourself with each interaction. Think carefully about the language you use when you email them, how you talk to them on the phone and the tone you set when you meet them. You don't need to put on a show; you simply need to reveal your personality through these interactions. If your clients feel like they know and understand you, they will automatically feel more comfortable when you do pick up the camera.
You can start this process even earlier by using your social media channels to pull back the curtain and allow your audience to see you as a person, not just as someone holding a camera. Social media humanizes our businesses and enables us to build trust and establish transparency. If your clients know what to expect before meeting you, developing your relationship in person will be much easier — they've already decided that they like what they see.
Give people direction
Don't be afraid to tell people what to do. Most people are awkward in front of the camera because they're overthinking everything. They can't just "act normal" because normal isn't something you usually think about. Give people specific directions to follow — by giving them a purpose and a distraction — you'll help them relax. Before long, their personality will begin to shine through and they won't be thinking so hard about what to do with their hands, or what their dress looks like.
Interact with your clients while you photograph them
It's surprising how many photographers focus so intently on their composition, lighting, and settings that they forget to interact with their clients. Not only does this leave your clients feeling awkward, but you're also not giving them any indication as to how they're doing or what you want from them. Consistent, genuine reassurance helps your clients feel more confident and comfortable, while positive feedback will help them relax, knowing that they're looking great.
What you don't say can be just as important as what you do. If you're finding that your clients are getting stuck on a particular pose or action that doesn't look so great, don't tell them they look terrible. Take a few snaps and encourage them to move on. Stay positive, tell them when they look great and make suggestions when you want something different.
Beyond encouragement and direction, try simply starting a conversation with your clients while you're shooting. Ask them questions, talk about their day, how they met (if you're shooting a couple), and get them to open up to you. Before long, they'll forget about the big lens pointed at them, and you'll be able to capture their genuine personalities that have been hidden under their nerves.
Back off a bit
If it's an option for you, shooting with a longer lens can allow you to position yourself further away. If your clients are particularly shy, or if you're trying to capture an intimate moment, removing yourself from their personal space and shooting from further away can be an easy way to get your clients to forget about your camera momentarily.
Share your favorite moments with your clients as they happen
If you've taken a photo or a series of images that you love, don't be afraid to show your clients the back of your camera. Not only will this reassure your clients that they're looking great, but it also gets them more excited about what you're asking them to do. You'll notice their energy lift, and they'll be more open to suggestions. They may even start experimenting with what does or doesn't look good. Don't forget; they'll be seeking encouragement and approval from you, so as we mentioned above, keep talking to them to let them know that they're doing great.
Before you head off on your next shoot, take a moment to prepare. Think about how you'd feel if the role was reversed and a relative stranger wanted to take photos of you. What would you want them to do to help you relax and enjoy this time? If you're searching for more inspiration around getting your clients to relax in front of the camera, watch our behind the scenes video of Paul Von Rieter as he teaches his students how to craft beautiful memories.