In the last 15 years, photography trends have changed dramatically.
Believe it or not, I remember the days when having “professional” photos taken required a studio and a backdrop. It wasn’t until I entered my twenties (about the time that a camera came standard on every phone) that high-quality candids became more mainstream.
By “high-quality candids,” I mean crisp, bright photos that appear to have caught the subject in the act of (truly) laughing, glancing (spontaneously) back over her shoulder, or even browsing through produce at the farmer’s market—natural actions that look to have been captured in real-time, though clearly shot on an expensive camera by someone who knows what she’s doing.
Now that these sorts of photos are mainstream, everybody wants them—but if you’re working with a photographer you’ve never even met before, how do you get them?
If you’re building a lifestyle brand or online personality and you know exactly what I mean, you’re in luck. Today I’ve got 5 tips to help you control your next photo shoot, and get the images you want!
Wait! Before you read the tips: Talk with your photographer for at least 30 minutes before the session.
Insist on this. It has never been easier to set up a conversation—if you aren’t able to meet in person ahead of time, then you can schedule a video call using a free app like FaceTime or Zoom.
Use these 30 minutes to make sure your photographer makes you feel comfortable and relaxed. Basically, you want to be sure that the conversation carries without long pauses or awkward interruptions, and that when you describe what you’re hoping to do, your photographer is able to repeat your ideas back in her own words.
Any photographer with experience should understand why you’re requesting this time, and there should be no charge. If your candidate is a bad fit, she also ought to handle that revelation with grace. When you find the right photographer, you should know it!
Trust me, this half the battle. Once you’ve won the first part, you can focus on “your part” of making sure the photos come out the way you want, and that’s what the 5 tips are for!
Tip #1 - Do everything you do with 15% more energy than you normally would.
Smile 15% wider, walk with 15% more sway; stand 15% taller, and laugh 15% harder.
Photos are funny things. No matter how much technology we add to our cameras, there will still be some of the “life-likeness” that is lost in a photograph. It’s our job as humans to set ourselves up to see as much life as possible in our photos by injecting them with color, light, and motion!
If you smile timidly in a photo, you’re going to come off like you have a sour candy in your mouth. It won’t feel that way, but when you get your photos back, you’re going to think you look unhappy, and wonder how that could have happened.
So in all you do, add a little “pomp” by going in with 15% more than you normally would, in your facial expressions, motions, and actions.
Tip #2 - Consider using props.
Once we’re in front of that giant, professional lens, what exactly we normally do with our hands becomes a hard thing to remember. If you put an object into your hands, though, you start to regain some muscle memory for how you use them:
If you have a pen in your hand and a notebook under it, then you’re probably going to doodle a little. That’s great! It’s a natural action.
If you have a mug of coffee in your hand and it’s a chilly day, you’re probably going to wrap both hands around it and pull it up toward your face so you can take a deep inhale of the delicious steam. That’s great! It’s a natural action.
If you have a brightly-colored umbrella, you might find yourself getting incredibly creative with it, and almost forgetting about the pressure of having your photos taken, instead wanting to be a part of the exciting process of creating playful photos that come out just right. And that’s great! Your photos are likely to be full of life, and used for years in your business.
Tip #3 - Tell your photographer that you’re going to throw back your head and laugh at nothing.
Fake laughing almost always results in real laughing. The more ridiculous you feel, the more it works!
You may have to do it several times before you actually start to laugh, but that’s okay. One of the other benefits of this exercise is that you’re adding motion to your photo—so it’s not just your head laughing, but your whole body. Your hair will fall back from your face, your shoulders will straighten up at first and then your body will naturally lean forward when your stomach is taut with laughter. You’ll add a lot of variety to the shots you get to choose from!
Just tell your photographer what you’re doing first, so she knows to start snapping photos rapid-fire!
Tip #4 - Think of yourself as a model, not as a subject.
This is easy for someone to say when she used to model—but trust me, there’s actually a pretty big mindset difference between the person who thinks, “It’s the photographer’s job to make me look pretty,” and the person who thinks, “It’s my job to find that pose that’s really going to sell in the final photo, and the photographer’s job to recognize it.”
Assume that the photographer is doing her job—that is, looking through her viewfinder or at her LCD screen—and choosing only to snap a photo when what she’s seeing lines up beautifully. If there’s no snap sound after a couple seconds, then you can try something new! Your photographer will tell you to “hold that” if she sees something brilliant but needs to adjust something on her end.
Also, thinking of yourself as a model can actually add a lot of confidence to your session. Instead of thinking you have to pretend the camera is invisible, you instinctively may start “hamming it up” for the camera, like there’s a playful dance happening between you and the photographer—and you want that!
Tip #5 - Remember that the photographer wants these photos to come out well, too.
This probably doesn’t sound like a tip, but it may be the most important insight in the whole list. Your photographer isn’t a random person with a camera taking pictures of you by chance. She doesn’t wonder what you’re doing or what gives you the right to think you’re so cute.
Your photographer is a professional, and she’s bringing her A game to ensure you get the photos you want—so it’s a safe space for you to do that same thing!
This means that as much as you have power over it, don’t feel self-conscious experimenting with poses or suggesting new ideas. Don’t feel awkward if your photographer tells you something isn’t working—she’s just trying to make the best use of your time by letting you know before precious minutes of your session are lost.
So bring your best, think of the shoot pragmatically, and stretch yourself beyond your immediate comfort zone!
Was this helpful? If so, show me your photos on Instagram! Tag me @alexisthegreek and tell me which tip helped your shoot come out A+. And if you have any questions before then, feel free to drop me a comment below!
Hello! My name is Alexis.
Coffee lover, day dreamer, foodie, and creative. Currently working and living in New Hampshire, I’m an eclectic mix of forward-looking and completely old-fashioned.