Monday, November 4, 2013

10 Tips for Helping People Relax in Front of the Camera

Q: How do you put people at ease during a photo shoot? I feel like I talk too much, laugh nervously, and stay stupid things because I want to avoid an awkward silence when I'm shooting. How do I make my clients relax when I'm feeling nervous?

People are always telling me that I’m good at ‘making people feel relaxed in front of the camera’. I always feel a little awkward about this compliment because I don’t really feel like I deserve praise for it. I don’t think it’s a special skill. Admittedly, there are plenty of people (and photographers) out there who are incredibly awkward, creepy, stressful, uncomfortable to be around etc… BUT the majority of us definitely have what it takes to ‘put people at ease in front of the camera.’

It’s an easy task if you’re a nice friendly person who is excited about photography, enjoys being with other people and saying “pretty” “pretty” “pretty” “cute” "really cute" over and over again.

These are my 10 best tips for helping your clients relax in front of your camera:

1) Smile (a lot)
2) Serve food & drinks - nothing like holding a glass or chomping on a carrot to help deal with awkwardness
3) Play Music (that your clients likes)
4) Keep talking with positive encouragement during the photo shoot - this makes a HUGE difference because people are worried about how they look and they'll start to believe you (and relax) when you say they look beautiful over and over again
5) Ask questions and listen when you’re not shooting, keep your connection with the client flowing & keep the focus on them because people love talking about themselves— remember, it's not about YOU
6) Have great eye contact, it helps you and your client feel grounded and connected and comfortable together (eye-contact is uncomfortable at first but it breaks down social barriers)
7) Get to know your clients as much as possible before or during the shoot — if they feel like you’re interested in them, they’ll feel welcome and relaxed
8) Give your clients an outline or timeline of their photo shoot & entire experience with - people feel more relaxed when they have a game plan & they know what's about to happen
9) Give really simple clear directions. Talk to clients like you're explaining neurochemistry to preschoolers. People are more relaxed when they understand (without a shadow of a doubt) what you want them to do.
10) Join them so they don't feel alone. If your client is nude, take off your parka and just wear a tank-top. If they're barefoot, kick off your shoes. If you want them to dance, you have to dance first. Don't ask them to do anything that you wouldn't do (right then and there). It's classic high school dance syndrome, nobody wants to be on the dance floor by themselves.
11) (Couldn't resist throwing in one more tip for extra credit)... SLOW DOWN. Nobody is rushing you. When I feel nervous about a shoot, I rush and my pictures get blurry, sloppy, boring and repetitive (the same poses over and over and over). When I realize I'm rushing, I take a deep breath, remind myself that the client isn't going to run away if I stop shooting for a moment to analyze the image, adjust shutter speeds or have them move into a different pose. I speak slower, move slower, shooting slower and pause in between shots to reassess. Shoot in (what feels like) slow motion. If you relax, your clients can relax.

How do you help your clients relax?