As a photographer who specialises in photographing people, it stands to reason that ‘people skills’ are vital because we’ve all seen those photographs where the subject looks uncomfortable and the smile looks forced. Being able to adapt to those we’re working with, be likeable and someone they feel they can trust plays a huge part in how the final images will turn out.
Take Joe McNally for example…a truly gifted photographer for sure but not just in the technical side of things, but in his ability to relate to those he’s photographing and bring out the very best in them; that skill alone is inspiring to watch.
So, on that note I thought I’d share with you 5, techniques I guess you could call them, that I use when photographing people and that seem to go a long way in helping them to relax and then naturally pose…
#1: BLUFF IT
Quite often the shots I take that end up being ‘keepers’ are the ones that the subject/client didn’t consciously pose for; let me explain…
Even when I have all the camera and lighting set and ready to go I’ll say that I’m just taking some shots to test everything is set correctly so “Just ignore me for a moment and chat amongst yourselves…we won’t be using these ones“. The minute I say this I can see them visibly relax so I shoot away making the most of it. Obviously I can only get away with this for so long with the client, so the minute I have a ‘winning shot’ I’ll show them, they’ll begin to feel good about themselves and then we’re game on and I can start being honest with them 🙂
So how many times have you been asked by the person you’re photographing…”What should I do with my hands?”
Just giving them something to hold, lean against or even just saying for them to put their hands in their pockets can make a whole world of difference and help them to relax that much quicker. I may even ask the client/subject to actually do something such as rub their hands as if they’re washing them as in a couple of the shots above…
#3: TALK, TALK, TALK
Ever notice how the person you’re photographing seems quite relaxed before you start taking photographs but then the minute you bring the camera up to your eye the mood changes and they freeze?
This used to happen to me all the time until one day the penny dropped and I realised the problem was me! I would talk and talk before taking the shot but then the minute I started using the camera I’d go quiet which would then have a negative effect on the client. Solution? I now just keep on talking total gibberish if I’m shooting or not which seems to do the trick 🙂
#4: GET THEM THINKING
Now, I’ll do this once we’ve taken quite a few shots and I’m looking for a completely different expression. I may for example ask the client/subject to think about something positive or negative that has happened to them during their life.
Now here’s the thing…it doesn’t matter if they manage to think of something or not because most of the time it’s when they’re actually trying to think of it that I get the shot.
#5: MEET UP BEFORE THE SHOOT
Meeting up at least once before the shoot is something I’ve always done, in fact it’s not unheard of for me to meet up with a client 3 times before we actually work together. Now don’t get me wrong, these aren’t ‘heavy’ meetings where we’re labouring over what is to be done, it’s a chat over coffee getting to know each other more and yeah talking through ideas. In between each meeting I’ll suggest to them that if they see pictures they really like the feel of in magazines, newspapers or on the net, to collect them or if possible email them over; that way when we meet up each time we have something more to talk about and have a more thorough understanding of what we want to achieve. Most importantly though we are beginning to build a relationship which goes a long way to helping them relax when they’re eventually in front of the camera.
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So there you have it, 5 tips/techniques that I regularly use to help relax a subject and that help to ‘get the shot’. Sure it’s not an exhaustive list and we all have our own methods that work well for us and these are just some that I employ…but what can kind of things do you do? I’d love to hear what tips & techniques you have that help so please as always feel free to make use of the comments section below and share them.
So, to kick things off I’ll add just one more that I’ve thought of for now…
#6: KNOW YOUR CRAFT
Our clients are paying good money for us to work with them so knowing our craft should go without saying, but not only that, if you’re stood there scratching your head not knowing what to do when an ‘issue’ comes up, your client is going to see that and very quickly move from being relaxed to being concerned; voilà all your hard work has been undone!
So feel free to share your thoughts, tips and techniques in the comments section below, I’d love to ‘hear’ what tips/techniques you use.
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