If you freeze whenever a camera is pointed in your direction, you're not alone. It's very normal and completely natural. But if you have your heart set on gorgeous family photographs, or can’t put off having those new business photographs taken any longer, how can you relax and walk away with photographs you love? Here are eight strategies you can use to feel more relaxed at your next photo shoot.
Get to know your photographer
Chemistry plays a big role in how relaxed you're going to feel during your photo shoot. Find a photographer who you 'click' with, whose approach suits you and who you get along with, and chances are you'll be starting the shoot from a comfortable place. Finding out whether that chemistry is there is a good first step to making sure you’ll feel relaxed on the day.
I always talk to my clients at least once or twice on the phone before a session, and ideally one of these times is before they book. It gives me an opportunity to understand the client, their personality and what they're hoping for from the session. Importantly it also gives my clients a chance to get to know me, and make a decision about whether they'd like to hire me.
Use this opportunity to find out how the photographer works, see whether you get along easily with them, and importantly whether you trust them to do a great job. You might also find my series of posts on choosing a photographer useful at this stage.
Practice being in front of the camera
If you’re uncomfortable in front of the camera, chances are you probably avoid it at all costs - perhaps you’re the one amongst your friends or family who’s always taking the photos instead. In the run up to your shoot practice stepping in front of the camera as often as you can. As with any habit, the more often you do it the more comfortable it will become. Hopefully you’ll be feeling much more relaxed by the time the shoot you’ve invested in comes around.
Whilst you’re practicing you might find these tips on looking good in photos helpful.
Visualise the photo shoot going well
Many athletes use visualisation to prepare for a game or a race - Wayne Rooney apparently visualises himself scoring goals the night before a game, and before the 2012 Olympics Jessica Ennis Hill said “I use visualisation to think about the perfect technique. If I can get that perfect image in my head, then hopefully it’ll affect my physical performance.”
This may be a bit too woo-woo for some, but it’s actually a tactic I use myself when I have to do something I’m nervous about. I try to spend time imagining the event going brilliantly - what I’ll be doing, what I’ll be saying and how I’ll be feeling. I always find that things go much better when I do this - probably because I’m not approaching them as a bag of nerves. If you want to give it a try, think about what would happen if the photo shoot went really brilliantly; what would you be doing, what would you be saying and how would you be feeling? Try to revisit this as often as you can in the run up to it.
Allow plenty of time
None of us are likely to feel relaxed in front of the camera if we’re against the clock. I recommend keeping the rest of the day free when you have a photo shoot booked, so that you have time to prepare for the shoot without rushing, and aren’t worrying about what time it is whilst you’re being photographed. I usually find that my clients relax more and more as the shoot goes on so allowing plenty of time to relax and enjoy the shoot is really important.
Wear something you love
We’ve all been there - you buy an outfit because it looks great online or on a mannequin, but it’s just not quite right on you. Perhaps it’s a bit shorter than you’d like, perhaps a bit shapeless. Chances are you don’t feel great when you wear it. On the other hand we all have some clothes that make us feel great. If you’re wearing something that makes you feel fabulous, you’ll feel more relaxed and this will shine through in the photographs.
Not sure where to start? My series of posts on what to wear for your photography session might help.
Have something to do
Having something to do, that distracts you from the camera focussed on you can be a great tactic for overcoming camera shyness. If you’re not sure what, talk to your photographer - on my outdoor family shoots there are always games or activities to play. If your shoot is for business, how about asking your photographer to document you at work? You can see some examples of how we’ve captured activity in my sessions in the photographs below.
For those times when you just have to stand still and smile at the camera, having something in your hands can help to relieve the awkwardness. Something as simple as holding a mug of coffee, or a tool of your trade, or leaning your hands on the back of a chair can be all it takes.
Ask for direction
Hopefully your photographer will spend the session talking to your constantly! There’s nothing worse than an awkward silence to make you feel uncomfortable, so most photographers will deliberately talk non-stop. Hopefully some of this conversation will involve your photographer giving you direction on exactly what to do - they have the benefit of seeing the whole picture from behind the camera, and can direct you to perfect it. And if your photographer isn’t giving you direction, don’t be afraid to ask for it.
Give the photographer feedback
On a similar note, don’t be afraid to tell your photographer if something isn’t working for you. If you’re feeling particularly uncomfortable about a particular pose or shot let the photographer know so you can work together to find a better way. If that chemistry that we talked about at the beginning is there this shouldn't be a problem at all.
I hope you find these strategies useful in overcoming your nerves in front of the camera, and soon have some photos of yourself that you love. Find more of my answers to frequently asked questions here.