1. Inspiration
  2. Techniques

Getting Subjects Comfortable in Front of Your Camera

Intro by Skip Cohen

Over the years, I’ve looked at thousands of portraits and co-authored six books with four of the finest photographers in the industry. With every great portrait from each artist, there’s been a prominent ingredient of trust with the subject.

  • The legendary Don Blair spent time talking with his client. His smile and laugh alone were enough to relax a subject, and in turn, it built trust and resulted in great expressions.
  • Joe Buissink talked about the importance of the engagement session in building the relationship. When the wedding day finally arrives, he’s a trusted friend – an emotional oasis in a sea of stress and confusion.
  • Bambi Cantrell knows just about everything about her clients before the sitting or event even starts. She spends time on the front end, getting to know them with great questions and always listening.
  • And my good buddy Scott Bourne most often behind his camera photographing critters talks about being the voice the animals because they don’t have one. He knows their habits and behavior because he’s studied them. He knows when to click the shutter.

Four great friends of mine over the years and each one supporting everything Chamira Young wrote about in today’s post. If your subjects feel comfortable in front of your camera, you’ll get those natural expressions and capture their personality. It’s all about building trust.

By Chamira Young

It’s no surprise to you that most people don’t like being on camera. There are rare occasions when you work with someone who truly loves being on camera and having their pictures taken. If you do have a client like this, be sure to revel in the opportunity to make your life easier for just a little bit.

However, most people are not as comfortable in front of the camera, and it can be tough to loosen them up to make them comfortable. Regardless of when you are meeting them, who they are, or what the occasion is, it can be hard to coach someone into looking comfortable and natural in the pictures you get.

When you think about photoshoots in a studio, these are the places you’re most likely to get a chance to really zone in on a customer and help them find a way to be comfortable. There are a variety of ways to help your clients be more comfortable from the moment you book the session to the moment they receive the pictures.

  1. Setup is Essential – Before you even have the booking marked on your calendar, before any payments have been processed, you still have time and space to make potential clients feel comfortable. From the first phone call or email communication, you can set the tone of the shoot before they have even decided they want to book one with you.

Your language in your phone calls and email communication is crucial in making someone feel comfortable enough to get into the studio with you if they are at all hesitant.

  1. A Warm Welcome – Once they have made a choice to book and made their way into the studio, this is another excellent time to put effort into the customer to make them feel great. Have pictures of people like them visible for one thing. For example, if they are a senior in high school, have a few framed images of seniors around so they can see what their pictures might look like. Likewise, if they are from a corporation getting headshots done, have a few business shots visible to them so they feel confident that you can replicate a great image.

Similarly, some photographers offer light snacks or a drink before they start shooting. This breaks the ice and studies have shown that sharing food, offering and accepting food, builds trust. Maybe it’s the caveman part of us, but it almost always helps take the edge of the situation.

  1. Covered in Compliments – Now, don’t go overboard, but never underestimate how far a good compliment can go. Yes, even for boys and men!

It might be more uncomfortable for you, but by making a strong effort to compliment, coach, and encourage the person in front of the camera, they will feel more and more comfortable as time goes on during the shoot. In fact, if they are not used to being on camera, they want to be coached! They want you to help them, coach them, on where to place their hands, how to tilt their heads, and more. You are the expert, after all, and they need you to be that expert in making them look their best.

  1. A Confident Conclusion – Now, the shoot is over, but your work is not. After the camera has been put down and the files are transferred to the computer, your work is not done yet. Along with the compliments you have given them during the shoot, you can casually scroll through the images and show them some of the best ones directly out of the back of the camera. They are likely going to be impressed and really have a sense of pride as they leave.

Similarly, the week or so after, as you are deep in the editing process, shoot them a quick text or email saying something like, “Wow, going through these images again and I cannot find a bad one! You were great to work with. I can’t wait to show you these images.”

It gives them a sense of pride that you are thinking about them and that you are impressed with the images that they are the center of. It’s all part of using human psychology to your advantage. People want to know that they are remembered and that they have impressed someone- especially doing something they didn’t think they were “good” at.