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How do YOU get Portrait Subjects to Relax?

Image: Image by Priscilla Lumbreras Fernández

Image by Priscilla Lumbreras Fernández

This is a question I’m often asked and its one that there are many answers to – so I thought it might be a fun discussion question for the wider dPS community.

When photographing people – how do you get them to relax and be at ease in front of the camera?

Some people are naturals as portrait subjects but many people ‘freeze’ – particularly when sitting for a photographer that they don’t know – so what techniques do you use to help them to loosen up?

I’d love to hear your answers on this in comments below but here are a few answers from those on our Facebook page who I asked this to last week:

“Smiling always helps, be in a good mood yourself even if you don’t feel like it. Your mood will often set theirs.” – Alisa Lillico

“To get an honest smile, I put myself out there, make dumb jokes, make fun of myself and find what made them break “self consciousness” for a real laugh, then riff on that. I ask a challenging question for a serious or unconventional portrait. The ability to make a connection across cultural and language barriers, across age and income differences, across all the walls that enclose and define us is the most important talent a photographer can bring to the moment.” – Stacy Ericson

“Music.. I ask them to bring a favorite CD… or sometimes, i’ll put on an old stand-up comedy CD… or have a comedy DVD playing on the TV behind me. Natural smiles are the Best!” – Scott Garland

“I usually talk the whole way through the session, asking them questions about them, also I do the poses I am asking them to do so they see that I would do it to, then I explain to them why (ie. this will make you look even skinnier, more curvy, draw attention to your eyes, etc.), then I go back to talking about whatever we were before the posing like it’s no big deal and take the photo.” – Arpil Roberson Huggler

“I usually do a meet up with them. That way they can meet me and my team on a comfortable atmosphere. Hang out, chit-chat and get to know each other. Then on the day of the shoot we have some things to talk about!” – Jay Rodriguez

OK – now it’s over to you – how do you help a portrait subject relax?

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Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the editor and founder of Digital Photography School and SnapnDeals. He lives in Melbourne Australia and is also the editor of the ProBlogger Blog Tips. Follow him on Instagram, on Twitter at @digitalPS or on Google+.

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