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How to get People to Relax

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  • How to get People to Relax

    I have been doing several portrait shoots with family, friends, strangers, etc. None of them are professional models, and as soon as they see the camera, most of them get nervous. Is there a list somewhere, or do you have any tips or tricks for getting people to relax?

    Also, when a client is completely stiff and at a loss for movement or flow, do you just pose them? Do you pose them for every single shot?

    Any help or pointing in the right direction to website/articles/etc. would be great!

    Thanks so much!
    Canon 50D and a bunch of other fun stuff.

  • #2
    You are certainly opening up a can of worms here!

    Some people advocate no posing, they say shoot 1000 shots and hope that one or two are usuable. Those using this method usually pay attention to nothing at all, just put the camera on "auto everything" and blaze away. I call it "spray and pray." That may work if you have all day to shoot and don't care what the final image will look like, and there is no guarantee that you will get even one good shot.

    The way I shoot is to have as much control over as much as possible. I take accurate meter readings. I always shoot in Raw. I always shoot a gray card. I leave nothing to chance. By checking EVERYTHING prior to the shoot you have a much better chance of at least getting a well exposed, in focus image that has proper white balance, the posing then is all one must "worry" about. I usually have a pose in mind, but will allow them to pose themselves and then modify it is needed.

    Nervousness. About the only people I have met who actually like to have their portrait done are girls between the ages of 6 and 10. Most boys hate them, and most men would rather donate blood and have a tooth pulled on the same day over being photographed. If you are nervous, they will be nervous. If you are upbeat, funny, and relaxing to be around, they will become more relaxed as you are around them. Some tips:

    1. Have the camera room ready before they get there. No one likes to watch you set up five lights, the background, taking multiple meter readings and a gray card reading while they contemplate what is about to transpire.

    2. Get into their world. Find out what they like and ask questions about it. If you are genuinely interested in what they are talking about they will sense it and open up.

    3. Tell them you know being photographed is not the most fun thing they will do all year, but tell them they WILL have fun, then make it fun by telling jokes, and funny true stories.

    4. Right before you press the shutter button tell them to relax, but don't ever allow them to relax so much they slump over which will make them look fat.

    5. Show them the image after you take it. NOTHING will get them involved in the session like showing them you know what you are doing and that they actually look good!

    6. Play music in the background and don't allow ANY distractions. NO PHONE CALLS. No texting, no waiting on customers and so forth.



    • #3
      Thanks Benji! I do most of my portrait work on location with natural light, so I don't have too much to set up. But I do want to get studio equipment in the next two months, so I will definitely remember that! We have a huge empty room in my house that we are going to use as our studio, so I am hoping that with practice and time, we will know the lighting well and set up won't take long.

      I have noticed that showing clients pictures while you shoot helps get them involved and relaxes them a little.

      I thought about the music thing, but I haven't come up with a creative wa to bring music to a location shot without being annoying to other people. Ipods are great...but headphones are not good. I have a little portable system, but that is another thing to carry around.

      I have definitly talked to my clients about their interests to get them to relax. Funny though, I had a chatter box once and it was so hard to get her to stop talking so I could take a picture

      But every now and again, I get a client that is soooo unbelievably nervous, usually someone I have known for forever and they feel wierd becauese it is "me" behind the camera... then I am at a lost....

      Thanks for all the help Benji!
      Canon 50D and a bunch of other fun stuff.


      • #4
        I did a portrait session a little while back, and as an experiment I was shooting tethered (camera connected directly to my laptop, storing images straight onto the hard drive and also opening them up in Canon's DPP software). The model was a little shy, and was having trouble getting properly relaxed into the session - a little way into the session I got a particularly good one, and when I saw it on the screen and made a comment about it she said "Ooh, can I see?" - I turned the laptop around so she could see it, and when she did, and realised how great she was looking, her whole attitude to the shoot changed, and I ended up getting some really really great shots out of it that we were both really happy with.

        I've used the same technique since - shooting tethered (with a VERY long cable) and having the laptop turned so that the client can see how they look, with similar results. Obviously, that's not going to work with everyone, but it's a useful one to have up my sleeve.

        I shoot Canon, and use Elinchrom lights.
        My Flickr Page - feel free to leave comments


        • #5
          I did a portrait session with a co-worker and her fiance for their engagement photos. They and I were having a tough time getting comfortable. Then I pulled out my remote. I stood away from the camera so that they didn't see me right there focusing, etc. After a few shots, I gave them the remote and told them to shoot away, making sure to hide the remote as much as they possibly could. Great shots ... every one of them. When I "took control" again, they were more relaxed, and the rest of the shots came out very well.
          My flickr


          • #6
            Ask them to tell you their story-you'll get some wonderful expressions! Ken