Have you ever heard this line? "We get a little nervous having our pictures taken.” You’ve probably heard this a dozen times and in most of those cases you know it’ll be fine. With a few reassurances, most clients relax and trust you. But there are plenty of us who, despite your best efforts, are just stiff, awkward and nervous. How can you help these people unwind and trust you?
Build The Trust
When someone tells you they feel awkward in photos and nervous about the session remember to be patient with them. They might have felt embarrassed saying anything in the first place, so don’t down play their concerns. Relay to them that it’s normal to have some worries, and that you’ll do everything you can to help out and direct them.
Let them know your shoot plan. “First, we’ll shoot some family photos of all of you, then we’ll move on to….” Knowing what the soft plan is can be very helpful to anxious people. If you find that while you're shooting they are a bit stiff, then take a break for a few minutes. Put the camera down, ask how they’re feeling, and speak casually with them.
When you start photographing again, model the poses or ask permission to help put them in those poses. If you want to get some more natural interaction and less posed shots, shoot “test shots” in between posing. As soon as a client thinks they are no longer on the spot, they tend to relax. The perfect time to grab these images is when you're adjusting your settings, especially as the light changes through the session.
Take Your Time
Next, be prepared to spend extra time at the session. I am always early to my locations so I can settle my own jitters. I’m a pretty outgoing person and find I need to reign it in with quieter personalities. That’s not to say I don’t keep my energy up because you shoot what you show, but we have to be mindful and not stumble into over bearing territory.
By the time my client arrives, I’m ready to go with a smile on my face and an outstretched hand. Introduce yourself to everyone, children included. Take a few minutes to chat with them. You can talk about the weather, the location, how glad you are to be working with them. Just keep it light and friendly. I try to keep my clients talking during the shoot, too. I ask about how they met, or about their kids’ hobbies.
Finally, you want to manage the client’s expectations. “My daughter gets a little rambunctious…” mom may tell you with trepidation. Right away you know she’s afraid you’re going to judge her and her kid. Being a mother to twins, I assure clients that there is nearly nothing I haven’t seen. And if her precocious child gets wound up, then we will just roll with it. Tell the family, “We may not get the magazine sit-smile-stay shot and that’s fine. We will get photos of your child being just who they are.” You want to let the family know that their session is uniquely them, and while we hope for smiles and good listening ears, we have to accept and be okay with knowing that might not be our reality.
Assure the client that you have plenty of time for a little playfulness and encourage tickles, hugs, and games because in the end, it will help the child feel more secure. If you are able to tap into and maintain that level of comfort with even the most nervous of clients, congratulations! If not, keep working on it. There is no deadline for this sort of thing. Luckily for all of us, every client and session is unique and presents their own unique challenges for us to work on overcoming and mastering. Clients put their trust in us to capture their personalities; including the quiet ones and aren’t we really the lucky ones!
Wendy Boyce is a family portrait photographer based in Cleveland, Ohio. She is known for her casual and friendly personality and her uncontrollable need to burst into song at any given moment; a trait she has passed on to her twin daughters with pride. Website | Blog | Facebook