6 tips to ensure your client is relaxed in front of the camera
When I am photographing experienced models, there is not much I have to do to make them comfortable. They already know what to expect and they know what to do. They've practised their looks and know where to place their hands and what to do with their expressions. But as a portrait photographer, I am generally working with people who are very uncomfortable in front of the camera and don't know what to do. So it’s very important to put your subjects are at ease before and during the shoot. The way your subject feels during their session and in front of the camera can make or break your final image.
Here are some strategies I use for relaxing a portrait client:
Tip #1 - People skills are everything
- The moment they walk in your door, you should give them all your attention. Put down whatever you were doing and focus on them. Make sure they are comfortable; introduce them to anyone else in the room, offer them beverages and snacks, etc.
- Be super friendly and personable. Always smile.
- If you can be funny, that’s a bonus!
- While they are getting their makeup done or just settling in, start conversations. Ask questions, talk about personal experiences that they can relate to.
Tip #2 - Be relaxed, confident and ready
- If you are not relaxed, if you are nervous or unsure, your client will be feel uneasy and won't relax either.
- Practise your lighting setups ahead of time, and know your gear.
- Don’t fiddle with your camera and lights too much while they are waiting on set. Tweaking the light is fine, but fidgeting and fumbling does not instil confidence. Have everything ready and tested before they walk on set.
- If something goes wrong during the session, deal with it privately between you and your assistant.
Tip #3 - Don’t expect them to know how to pose
- If your subject has little experience in front of a professional camera, they won't know what to do, so they will be nervous.
- Demonstrate what you want them to do. Make sure they know where to put their hands. Find a spot for them or give them something to do, like hold on to a chair, put their hands in their pockets, whatever it is, don’t leave it up to them to try to figure it out. it's your job to guide them.
- And be patient, some might not understand what you want from them. Some will keep defaulting to a certain pose and you just have to gently remind them every time.
- Always position them in the most flattering poses. It's up to you to know what they are. Put the attention on what works and take attention away from what doesn't work.
Tip #4 - Compliments! Compliments!
- Always tell them how great they look and be specific.
- Don’t lie, be sincere. Find something that does truly look good or is working well, and mention that.
- Always word things positively. If something doesn’t look right, don’t say, “ohh, hmm, that looks kinda weird, let me see if I can fix your hair…” instead say, “Your hair look fantastic, I’m just going to move this little piece so it doesn’t cast a shadow.” As long as what you say is sincere...
- Show them a great image of themselves on the back of the camera or laptop. Let them see how great they look.
Tip #5 - You do the talking! … and make it funny!
- Fake smiles can kill your image!! Don’t say “smile” … Instead say things that will actually make them smile, or laugh.
- Talk to them all the time. Keep them engaged. Assure them that the photographs are looking great.
- When you say something witty, the moment right before or right after the burst of laughter, is often the best expression, so be prepared.
- Every once in a while forget your camera, and give them full attention when they talk.
Tip #6 - If they are very uncomfortable, use a tripod
- I noticed that every time I lift the camera up to my face, my subject automatically tenses up. This happens mostly with adults.
- If you have the camera on a tripod, you can stand beside the camera, you can move around the camera, and you can engage in conversation and occasionally slip out a click. If they don’t know when you are about to click the shutter, they don’t tense up.
- But if you must shoot hand-held, don't wait too long between clicks while holding the camera up to your face. Their expression will become 'frozen' or they will fidget uncomfortably.
- Create a close bond between you and the subject and don't let the camera be the distraction that breaks the connection.
Last few important key points to remember:
- be yourself
- be confident
- use appropriate humour
- make your subjects feel important and beautiful
- And always smile, it's contagious.