Most photographers have found themselves photographing someone who stiffens up the second you pick up your camera. Their hands become tense, their shoulders creep up to their ears, and they can’t crack a natural smile no matter what joke you pull out of your back pocket – a full Chandler Bing situation. Instead of getting frustrated and potentially making it worse, we have tips and tricks up our sleeves that help anyone relax in front of the camera.
Here they are:
Break the ice
Before you pick up your camera, chat to the people you’ll be photographing for a bit. You can talk about your process, what to expect through the shoot, and maybe throw in a funny story of something that happened to you that day. Helping the couple feel like they know you will make a huge difference in their comfort-level, and result in better photos.
Prompt conversation while in a pose
Get their mind off the camera by asking them to talk about something specific that they’re excited about. If you’re photographing a couple, ask them about how they met or what their first date was like. Having them focus on a topic of conversation can help them get out of their head and loosen up a bit. Plus, it opens up the opportunity to take candid photos of them interacting, and hopefully laughing, together.
Suggest familiar locations
Encourage your couple to choose a location they’re familiar with, especially if they’re nervous or uncomfortable in front of the camera. Try to schedule the shoot (or a portion of it) in their home, where people are naturally the most at-ease. Shooting them in their element can quickly calm any nerves, while also making the shoot more personal and sentimental.
If their home isn’t an option, opt for a more private location – like a secluded beach or in the woods – instead of on a busy street corner. Having the space to themselves will help the couple feel more free to goof around, get more intimate, and be themselves without worrying about passerbyers watching them.
Have your subject bring something else to focus on and interact with during the shoot. Staring straight into the camera can make anyone feel nervous! Bringing other elements lets them break their focus from the lens and help them stop overthinking. We like to have our couples bring props that are meaningful to them – like a pet, a guitar, a board game, a bottle of wine, or their favorite book. To shake off the nerves, we start them off in a pose with the prop and then gently phase it out throughout the shoot. By the time we take the prop away, they’re much more relaxed.
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, music is a great addition to a shoot! Complete silence can make people uneasy, especially in an already uncomfortable situation. Some fun tunes will encourage dancing, fill the awkward silences, and also give the couple an opportunity to speak to each other without feeling like you’re listening into their conversation.
Guide them throughout the whole shoot
You can usually tell right away when a subject will need some guidance through the shoot. If you notice that they look stiff and unnatural, guide them through a pose – tweaking as-needed until it looks comfortable. If you like the pose, tell them! Often, people think the pose they’re in looks super awkward but it actually translates really well on-camera. Plus, a little bit of a confidence boost never hurts. If there’s a pose that isn’t working no matter what adjustments you make, feel free to scrap it! Struggling through a pose with lots of adjustments will just make the subject feel even more self-conscious.
What are your tips to get your couples to loosen up? Let us know!