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Getting your portrait clients to behave can sometimes feel a lot like babysitting. To be fair, being in front of the camera is so hard, even for me. If I didn’t have my own advice racing through my head, I’d freeze up too. But when you’re shooting, you don’t always want to be in conversation with your clients. Especially if you’re trying to capture something real and effortless. Talking through every step with your client can make the whole thing so stiff and contrived. Here are 3 ways I get my clients to do exactly what I’m thinking without saying a word. Well…maybe one.
1. Get High – If your client is sitting on the ground or anywhere you can get higher than them, just say a quick, “stay right there” as you hop onto a nearby wall, bench or simply stand higher. They will naturally look up. This will likely give them great catchlights from the sky above, eliminate superfluous chins and, especially for women, it’s a sure-fire flattering point of view. If they don’t look up, take a couple shots before they do. For kids, I focus on their eyelashes, lips or curly hair in that moment before they look up.
2. Awkward Moment – This is always awkward just before it pays off. When a client is sitting there nervously and blankly staring into my lens, I sometimes stare back for a few extra uncomfortable seconds. If I’m close enough, I’ll just barely whisper from behind my camera, “Don’t laugh.” And they always do! Not only do they laugh, but they ‘get it’ from this point on and often, the nerves are gone. They’ve felt awkward. You’ve felt awkward. You’ve shared an awkward moment and now you can move on together.
3. Copy Cat – This works really well with kids. Especially in the studio, I find that kids naturally copy me when we’re looking at each other. Instead of painstakingly explaining poses and movements, I do them as I shoot and they do them back.
In photography, it’s so important that we learn to understand and connect with people on a deeper level. On the whole and as individuals. When you’re able to do this, you will find that your times spent photographing them feel less like babysitting and more like portrait sitting.