5 Tips for Relaxing and Posing Your Subjects

Written by: Glyn Dewis

Published: June 24, 2011

Category: General

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 🙂

#2: PROPS
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.

•     •     •

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.
Enjoy 🙂

•     •     •

Keep up with Glyn ‘Day to Day’ on Twitter
Get more ‘Behind the Scenes’ by becoming a ‘Fan on Facebook’

 

You may also like…

Interviewed by Ron Clifford
Interviewed by Ron Clifford

A few weeks back I was invited onto Ron Clifford YouTube LIVE Channel to speak with him about all things photography....

17 Comments

  1. Kristin Lanier

    Periodically showing a person a great shot I just took manages to get them to relax. The excitement really shows through in the eyes when they know the shoot is going so well!

    Reply
    • Glyn

      @Kristin…Yeah totally with you there 🙂

      Reply
  2. Francis Peacocke

    Glyn,
    Good words and great thinking here. Thank you. One of your points I do very well – the talking gibberish bit!
    Again ta for your generosity in sharing working methods, thoughts and good advice.
    Regards
    Francis

    Reply
    • Glyn

      @Francis…Ah yes talking gibberish…I’m fluent you know 🙂
      Oh and you’re welcome mate…thanks for stopping by.

      Cheers,
      Glyn

      Reply
  3. Barbara Thorbjörnsson

    First: My forte is NOT portrait photography but I have done some and some of my favorites was when I photographed them doing what they loved to do. Musicians play instruments, dancers dance, etc., etc. and I invite them to show me what they do so I can do what I do. I hope that made sense.

    Reply
    • Glyn

      @Barbara…Yeah totally with you there; great way for them to get relaxed and be themselves.
      Thanks for stopping by,
      Glyn

      Reply
  4. Terry

    Awesome, besides the tips which are brilliant, seeing your images together like this really shows what a talent you are.

    Reply
    • Glyn

      @Terry…Very kind of you to say so Terry, cheers

      Reply
  5. Jonathan Thompson

    Great post again Glyn. This is a very important subject.I still find I stop talking bolleriks when I put the camera in front of me. I’m sure there are people who wish they had a camera to hand when I get started but hey, not even I’m perfect 😉 Music on a studio shoot is good, ask the subject to bring their iPod with their favourite music or ask what they like and download it yourself and build a music library. If you go to the subjects home its good to find out where their favourite spot is, a chair, a room, maybe on your initial meeting find if there is a location near that has great memories for them, a local beach or park perhaps. Often you’ll find a CEO of a big, drab corporation could love motorcycling or sailing. Do some research on them, learn a bit about what they like, right there the drab corporation is gone and they want to talk passion and hobbies, you may find, in the corporate world, that you get more than your allocated 5mins with the director and it’s one more reason why they’ll remember you. Who knows what that could lead to, the very least it’ll be the best shot anyone has taken of them.
    I’d better put my camera back to my face, I warned you at the start.

    Great blog Glyn. We all really appreciate your time and sharing your knowledge.

    Speak soon

    Jonathan

    Reply
    • Glyn

      @Jonathan…Talking ‘bolleriks’ … love it 🙂 lol
      Yeah definitely agree with you regarding the music…I usually have it blasting out and lifting the roof in the studio but at times it can be a little embarrassing when I put the iPhone on Shuffle…lol

      Research is a must too so yeah thanks fort posting that one up too. Great comment mate, thanks for taking the time to post it.
      Cheers,
      Glyn

      Reply
  6. Melissia Griffith

    As usual, great information. Thank you!

    Reply
    • Glyn

      @Melissia…You’re welcome, thanks 🙂

      Reply
  7. Nat

    Hi Glyn
    Food for thought as always. Thanks so much. I also have done music and sweeties- well chocolate, but then I love chocolate so that was always going to be a given. ;)! Always enjoy looking at your work.

    Reply
    • Glyn

      @Nat…Chocolate..hmmm like your thinking 🙂

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting Nat…I really appreciate it.

      Reply
  8. Shivakumar

    Lovely post Glyn. Just the right one i wanted cos its this inability of mine which is causing some problems during my people shoot during travel. Esp the “talk talk talk” part – wonder why i become dead silent when i start taking images ( probably i try to use the same approach when am shooting wildlife/nature 🙂 ). I have been trying to improve on it but sure this will be a bookmarked reminder tips for me before any shoot.

    Thanks a ton mate – have a great weekend.

    Shiv

    Reply
    • Glyn

      Hi Shiv…Thanks for comment and it’s great to hear it’s useful. Yeah the talking one definitely makes a huge difference I’ve found, even when talking gibberish as I tend to do alot 🙂

      Reply
  9. steve bryson

    Not entirely sure how I’ve missed this article. Cheers for pointing it out on Facebook. I’m still struggling with inanimate objects but this is good insight.

    Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *