Almost every time I get an inquiry, I’m prefaced with one of these statements... “I'm not photogenic” or “we’re really awkward in front of the camera” or “my guy hates getting his picture taken.” Sound familiar? I feel your pain! It's not something that comes naturally for a lot of people (including myself!!!) but with a little practice, you can absolutely get better at it, or help your loved ones get better! So, I'm going to share a few tips and tricks that I use while working with clients in the hopes that this will help you too! Following this checklist will help you take better photos that you'll treasure for years to come. And if you're a photographer reading this, heck YES you should incorporate this info into directing your shoots!
If you're anything like me, I feel so much more prepared for an event when I know what I'm going to wear ahead of time. I recommend either choosing something out of your closet that you can't live without, or buying something that you feel really good in. (helloooo, shopping day!) Try on your outfit well before your shoot to make sure it fits, and let your choice of clothing reflect you and your personal style. When you feel confident about what you’re wearing, you'll be way more comfortable… which leads to better pictures! (Stay tuned for an upcoming style guide that will be published in just a few short weeks) But as a general rule of thumb, simple is almost always better. Stay away from busy patterns or large logos. Instead, accessorize to add texture!
Knowing how to physically pose is actually only part of the puzzle piece to having great photos. The other part pertains to what is actually surrounding you. Prior to your shoot, discuss with your photographer what you'd like your photos to look like. It's important to know where you want them done, which directly affects the style of the photo. Do you want a formal or casual vibe in your photos? Do you want them done at a beach? In the park? In the city? At home or in studio? Does your outfit mesh well with your location choices?
3. THE SHOOT
Now we get down to the nitty gritty. I have all sorts of people in front of my camera ranging from shy high school seniors to professional models to CEO’s of companies. When I was younger, I dreaded getting my photo taken. But life has taught me that you can either continually fight the things you don’t like, or just learn to embrace them. Chances are, you are GOING to have to get your photo taken at some point… whether it’s for a professional business headshot, or your wedding, or a family photo shoot that your children will treasure. You might as well learn how to work it; all it takes is a little practice! Here is a list of easy tricks you can do to make you look BETTER when having your photo taken.
Body Language. If you're getting your photo taken solo, stand with your body at a slight angle versus directly facing the camera. Do you ever wonder why everyone in Hollywood looks so darn great? Check out how they are standing! Next, lean IN towards the camera. Instinctually, we all lean AWAY from the camera since we don’t really like getting our picture taken. Leaning IN towards the camera, head first, will not only make you look thinner (yes, please) but it'll also make you look more confident and engaged in the photo. (Try this at home with your smart phone’s self timer! It may feel pretty dang ridiculous but it'll be easier for you to see what I'm talking about.) If you are getting your photos taken with your fiancé, spouse, or kids... Squeeze in close to them! If you are even an inch away from them, it will appear like you don't like them. Make sure your bodies are always in close proximity. Be affectionate (have a glass of wine or beer if you have a hard time with PDA, it really does help! But don't overdo it ) Tickle and poke each other. Laugh freely and count your blessings that are right next to you. After all, our loved ones are the Joie de Vivre, yes?
Movement. If your photographer doesn’t give you much direction, just start moving around. Sounds corny, but think about it for a second. It feels really awkward to just stand and stare and smile at a camera, no? During an engagement shoot… Look away from the camera, look at your fiancé, hug, hold hands and walk toward the camera, look down and close your eyes and ask for a kiss on the cheek. Play and flirt with each other. (The same applies for family photos… Squeeze your children, throw them in the air. Have your spouse kiss you on the forehead. If your photographer sees something they like, chances are they will let you know!
Get out of your own head. I know it’s easier said than done… but try not to focus on getting your photo taken. Once your shoot begins, take a minute and close your eyes. Picture what makes you happy, or something that makes you laugh. Talk about anything that you love. Notice if your shoulders are tense and scrunched up toward your ears. Take a deep breathe and relax them. Use your energy to focus on who is next to you. Look at their faces. What's the exact shape and color of their eyes? Look for any freckles that maybe you haven't noticed before. Maybe you'll notice the smile lines that you probably put there. How cute are they!?
Have fun! I have never had a photo session where people having fun looks bad, period. Fun=Photogenic, in any way shape or form.
Smile! And I don’t mean that fake, posed smile. I like those real, big, toothy cheeky ones. No fake cheesin' with me, folks. I’m from Wisconsin and I like the real stuff. I can spot a fake smile from a mile away and I sure as heck will do whatever it takes to get you to relax and laugh! Even if I have to make an idiot out of myself, I'm all in. *** On a sidenote, you shouldn't ever “Say Cheese” when you're getting a photo taken. Your mouth, in that position of pronouncing the Z sound of S in cheese, is unflattering and unnatural. Find something else to say that makes you giggle! Experiment with ridiculous words or different accents.
Relax! Life is too short to take yourself so seriously. Enjoy the time that you have while professionally documenting your life, and keep it light. Encourage whomever you're with by smiling yourself... it's contagious! Also, try not to stress out the day of your session. Refrain from yelling at your spouse or fiancé or kids in the car on the way to the shoot. (at least wait until after it's done, lol.) Be patient, be kind, be happy. What's that saying... "Happy people are the prettiest."? I totally agree with Audrey Hepburn on that one. Know that you are beautiful, and your soul is like no other on the planet. And that, my friends, is always worth documenting.
Best of luck with your shoots, and stay fabulous!