How to not be awkward.
Updated: Apr 5, 2020
You're staring at the camera, the camera is staring at you. It's a face-off and you feel like your smile definitely looks like a grimace. You have tons of worries and feel so incredibly vulnerable. What the heck does "look into the distance and act natural" even mean?!?
A few weeks ago I really started to dig in to the chief complaint I have to deal with when photographing people: awkwardness. I have a counseling degree, so this is my kind of thing to figure out, and so for starters I took a workshop on how to kill awkwardness in photoshoots. Well, this engagement session with Brittany and Jordan was NOT a prime opportunity to practice what I learned because they are 0% awkward.
This is how I want every session to look: sparks flying.
I never want a clients to feel insecure in front of a camera. If they aren't feeling comfortable it's not their problem- it's my problem. I'm running the show, and part of my responsibility is to make sure I create a comfortable environment so clients can relax and their personalities can shine. People-skills of the photographer are like 70% of a good photo.
Back when I was just getting started with doing family photo sessions, I noticed that if I would have people walk away from me their bodies would visibly relax. That does no good if they are facing away from me, but it did teach me a lot about how to help people warm up and stop fretting.
Fast forward to the day when I get excited about people who feel awkward: I love a challenge and I have a bunch of specific things I do and say to shake off that awkwardness and help clients enter their safe zone and have genuine emotions. I am very strategic and calculated when I am photographing people so I can set them up for success and give them memories that look as great as they felt.
This isn't a "how to photograph people" type of blog because mentoring photographers isn't my area of interest right now, so I'm aiming to help clients feel less uncomfortable when they're being photographed by sharing a few tips:
1) Pick a photographer with good people skills.
a) First, ask, is this a fun person to take as a friend to a family event? Do you vibe with the photographer? Do you genuinely enjoy talking to them?
b) Look through their portfolio- do people look tense and posed, or are the pictures spontaneous, unposed, telling stories of people having a good time?
2) Don't make the photo session the activity. That's your greatest way to set yourself up to be awkward. Instead, pick an activity you actually like to do (it's Christmas, so how about decorate your tree with a photographer?) because this is supposed to be about you and your loved ones, not about a camera.
3) The photographer is a third wheel. Establish with everyone who is in the picture that this is a family adventure or a date. The goal is to enjoy each other and make a memory.
What if one of you is awkward and the other one loves to be in front of the lens?
Well, 4) Talk to each other. Make lame jokes if the setup is just right. Compliment each other. Ask each other questions about where you want to go for lunch or what errand you need to head to. Tell them an awkward thing your coworker did the other week that you keep forgetting to mention. Chat about the stuff on your mind! Kill off that awkward silence.
MERRY CHRISTMAS and best of luck with all your holiday photo shoots!!!