In my opinion the world can be split into two groups: people who enjoy being photographed, and those who don’t. I am solidly in the latter group. I know how the camera can make you nervous, and in today’s blog post, I have a few basic tips for how to relax in front of the camera. Bottom line, it starts with your mindset.
Meet Kim and Kevin
Let me begin by introducing you to Kim and Kevin. They met online, and Kevin’s proposal to Kim was epic. Picture it if you will: a beautiful sunset behind a vineyard out east. Kevin gets down on one knee in between the vines and asks Kim to marry him. According to Kim, ‘It was very sweet and intimate and romantic.’ She said ‘yes,’ and that brings us to their FEAST at Round Hill wedding in Washingtonville, NY.
Kim and Kevin are definitely not fans of having their photo taken. For their wedding day, however, they wanted some solid portraits of both themselves and their families. And though they both swore to me they took horrible photos, as you can clearly see, they were mistaken. By the end of the evening, they were asking for extra photos here, there, and everywhere in the garden. If I can turn these two into photography enthusiasts, then I can do it with you too.
How to Relax in Front of the Camera – Your Mindset
So without further ado, let’s get into how you transform yourself from a nervous nelly to a relaxed, Instagram-worthy model.
Go into the photo shoot with a positive mindset. The camera is not your enemy. As with any activity in life, if you start out in a negative frame of reference, you will end up with a negative product. You want to achieve great photos of you looking your best, so start with the confidence that this will be your final result. Trust your photographer and just roll with it.
Good photos are essentially acting for the camera. No one is happy all the time. But for your 90-minute photo shoot, you need to be. I don’t want you to feel like you are putting on a sugarcoated acting job for the camera, but you want to bring your best self to the surface for your portrait session. That means thinking of happy thoughts and relaying these happy thoughts to your face. No one is born naturally photogenic. People simply learn how to act in front of the camera.
Remember, it’s only one shot. You may feel awkward moving your limbs in front of the camera, but remember that it is only one frame. What feels weird in front of the camera, like dancing, can look great in a single shot. No one needs to know that your dancing skills aren’t up to par. In a single frame even the funky chicken can be made into an elegant flap of the arms in just one frame.
Know that good photography requires work on your part. A good photo is not a matter of luck. It takes skill on the part of the photographer in order to know her craft and to select the best light and setting for your photo. But it takes two to tango, as they say. If you aren’t putting forth your best effort in terms of going all in for your photo shoot, then you can expect lackluster results. Yes, you are probably going to have to smile for the camera. And yes, there may be some posing involved so that you put your body is in the right position in front of the camera. If you are not willing to put forth the effort, then don’t expect much. You hired a photographer, not a magician.
How to Relax in Front of the Camera – You and Your Photographer
Your photo shoot should be fun, so plan it around an activity or place that inspires you. The location for your photo shoot might be the neighborhood of your first date, or a park you always visit as a couple. You might also try engaging in activities you can do together, like cooking or a shared hobby. Case in point, Ariel and Jeremiah started their engagement photo shoot by baking a very photogenic fruit tart together. They had fun, and that translated into great photos.
That said, don’t get so involved in your activity that you completely forget you are being photographed. Smile, laugh with each other, and only take small bites of the tart.
Make a plan to hide your flaws. All of us have physical parts of ourselves we would like to hide. The plan for any photo shoot should always be to accentuate your best attributes and hide these ‘flaws’ as much as you can. If you have anything you specifically want diminished in front of the camera, say a double chin, then speak to your photographer ahead of time so that these concerns can be part of the shot list. As your photographer, I want to make sure that your priorities are my priorities when I am planning your photo shoot. The key here is to speak with your photographer well ahead of time so that she knows your concerns going into the shoot.
Create a visual mood board. Speaking of the same visual page, take a look online and find some images you like. I always recommend that clients put together a Pinterest board so that we are all speaking the same visual language. Chat with your photographer ahead of your session to fully communicate the look and feel you want for your own session. Note that you should never try to exactly recreate another photographer’s image, but you absolutely can try for the same body position, mood, or location for your own shoot. Knowing what you want gives you ownership and confidence in your shoot. Likewise, knowing what you want gives your photographer a clear path to delivering great images.
Know that it takes time to warm up in front of the camera. It always takes at least fifteen minutes to warm up in front of the camera. This equation applies to photographer and subject alike. This is no doubt your first time in front of the camera, and this is also the first time your photographer has worked with you. So give yourself a break and know that your first photos will probably not be your best. But fear not, as time progresses you will start to produce your best images. Everyone’s best photos are always taken at the end of the session, not at the beginning.
How to Relax in Front of the Camera – The Planning
Practice makes the perfect portrait. I am not a fan of selfies. If you look on my Instagram feed, you will not see one. But before I take my own photo, I practice smiling in the mirror. If you’re not used to smiling for the camera, then take some time to try out your smile in the privacy of your own home. This gives you the power – and the confidence – of being completely in control of the photo-taking process. Learn what works in front of the camera, and what doesn’t, without an audience. A professional photographer will make things much better in terms of lighting and location, but if you know that you always close one eye slightly or that your lip kind of goes up on the left-hand side, then you can figure out a way to combat that.
Better yet, practice together. While all of the advice in this article works for solo photos, if you’ll be taking photos alongside someone else – say in an engagement session – then practice your moves together. Do you have certain moves you always do together? Does he always kiss you on the forehead? Do you regularly hold hands or grab his arm? Whatever you normally do when the camera is not around, then this is what you absolutely should do when the camera is front and center. Take some time in front of the mirror to see how you look together. Take a few selfies together. Find some cute photos of both of you together and try to recreate these images. Better yet, send the photos to your photographer so you are both on the same visual page.
Bring some stories and jokes to the shoot. I always ask my engagement clients to tell each other the story of how they first met. I find that the story is often very different from one person’s perspective to another. The idea here is that you get lost in the story and forget that the camera is there. Come to the photo shoot with stories and jokes that you know will make each other smile. It might even make you forget that you are having your photo taken.
Treat the photo shoot as a celebration, not a chore. And by ‘treat,’ I mean treat yourself. Get your nails done. Have a makeover. Plan a special dinner afterwards to enjoy the rewards of a great photo shoot. You deserve it.
How to Relax in Front of the Camera – Clothing
Dress yourself in self-confidence. In addition to practicing in front of the camera, make sure that your clothes and grooming are on point. (For a much more detailed discussion of what to wear in front of the camera, check out this blog post.) Wear something you feel terrific in and something which you have received compliments on previously. Try on your outfit a few days ahead of your shoot to ensure you have full range of movement in your ensemble. No one needs any ‘wardrobe malfunctions.’ If you need to buy new clothes, the time to do this is a week prior to your shoot – not the day of your shoot.
The details definitely matter. Make sure that your shirt isn’t wrinkled and that you take a look at your nails – this applies to both men and women. Finally, everyone looks better in color. White clothing tends to blow out highlights on a very sunny day. So please, no wearing white unless you’re the bride.
How to Relax in Front of the Camera – During the Session
Start the shoot with a little exercise. I always start my photo shoots by having my subjects walk in front of the camera. Nothing to do but simply walk, hold hands and chat with one another. Physical activity is a great way to get out the nerves before you have to stand and actually look into the camera lens.
Your photo shoot should always be action oriented. Remember, the best photos are a captive moment of time, not a staged snapshot. Use your time in front of the camera to interact with your environment and with each other. The idea is not to be standing still, but to be moving constantly in a natural, realistic fashion to achieve a documentary-style tone.
Check in with your photographer mid-shoot. Most photo shoots are done with digital cameras, which means you can take – and retake – lots of photos during a session. I always check in with my client to show them the image on the back of the camera. This is to confirm with my clients that they look good and to give them a boost of confidence.
Note that you SHOULD NOT check in with the photographer after every frame. The photos still have to be edited, so what you see is not necessarily the final result. (The final image should be better!) Also, everyone takes a bad photo now and then so don’t be put off by one bad apple.
How to Relax in Front of the Camera – Posing Tips
S-curve equals sexy. ‘S’ stands for sexy, not stiff. While good posture should be applauded, everyone looks better when they have a little S-curve to them. That is to say, you want your posture in front of the camera to be as relaxed as your posture is naturally, especially at your waist, elbows, and knees. Most people do not stand stiffly at attention, unless under duress. Rather, if you are relaxed then there will be a natural curve to your posture at these points. For example, when you are holding hands with your beloved, then bend a bit at the elbows rather than having stiff arms. When you give someone a hug, bend at the waist to give yourself that S-curve, rather than standing perfectly straight.
Always connect with one another. As I tell all my engaged couples, if you’re not physically touching one another, then you risk looking like roommates. Hold hands. Use your free hand to touch his arm or touch her at the waist. This touch conveys the sentiment that you are connected with one another literally and spiritually.
Think soft movements and pay attention to your hands. One of the most difficult photos for any wedding photographer is the ring shot. For some reason when you suddenly turn the camera on someone’s hands, they stiffen up like little robot paws. Relax your hands from your wrist to your fingers to have the most natural look.
How to Relax in Front of the Camera – The Details
How to prevent your lips getting stuck on your teeth. First, make sure you are hydrated enough with either water, or perhaps a glass of champagne before the shoot. Second, if your lips are still getting stuck on your teeth, then try an old beauty pageant trick: rub a little Vaseline or Chapstick on your teeth. It works every time.
Breathe in… Breathe out. I hope you all are feeling completely relaxed in front of the camera now. Enjoy the images and I’ll have more photo adventures for you next week!
- Bride’s dress – Kleinfeld Bridal
- Bride’s hair stylist – Maria Lutz and Nichole at Lumara Salon
- Wedding rings – Gennaro Jewelers
- Venue and caterer – FEAST at Round Hill
- Florist – The Flower Petaler
- Wedding cake – The Pastry Garden
- DJ – A Perfect Blend Entertainment
- Special transportation – Red Oak Transportation
Still feeling nervous in front of the camera? Drop me a line and let’s talk about your photography needs.
If you would like to view more images from my wedding photography portfolio, then please visit my website – KellyWilliamsPhotographer.com
Great job taking portraits of a couple who is not fond of having their photos taken.
And wonderful suggestions.
Love these two points, especially:
“Your photo shoot should be fun”
“Treat the photo shoot as a celebration”
If you’re having fun, it will show in the photos!
Thanks so much!