Getting comfortable in front of the camera.
As a photographer, it’s my job to help people feel comfortable in front of the camera, in order to create a final product that my clients love. After photographing thousands of people, I’ve learned some highly effective tips and tricks for increasing your confidence in front of the camera. If you take these five secrets and apply them to your upcoming shoot, no doubt you will be more comfortable when a lens is pointed at you.
#1 Your Thoughts are Completely Normal
Right off the bat, it’s important to understand that everyone feels uncomfortable in front of a camera. I’ve been a part of literally thousands of photo shoots in a wide variety of places, and every time I pull my camera out to point it at someone, the same thing happens — they freeze up every single time! This includes models and other professionals that make a living being in front of the camera. Yes, they get nervous too!
I say this because I want you to know that this is completely normal to feel apprehensive being in front of the lens. In fact, it’s so normal that it would actually be odd to me if you didn’t feel somewhat uncomfortable! So now you know you’re not alone in this feeling, my advice is to embrace it. Embrace that you’re not weird, you’re not alone, and you are not bad at this; you are just like everyone else.
Almost every person I photograph is convinced they’re the worst person to step in front of my lens. That’s kind of funny when you think about it, right? That we all assume that we’re the only ones that feel nervous, insecure, and awkward. But, I’m here to tell you that even the people that look beautiful, calm, and collected in front of the camera have a few butterflies. The difference is figuring out how to get them flying in formation.
Even if you stop reading this right now, your only takeaway should be you’re not alone in the way you feel when stepping in front of the camera.
#2 Embrace Your Nervous Energy
Instead of letting your nervous energy work against you, try making it work for you. Let’s take the negative perception of being nervous, and turn it on its head — creating a positive asset you can use to make great photographs.
The first step is realizing that nervous energy is still energy! At a photo shoot, there’s nothing worse than when your subject shows up with low energy. They may be tired, disinterested, or just uncomfortable. Either way, it doesn’t give us much to work with in terms of creating images that speak volumes.
The best photo shoots, on the other hand, are when someone shows up exuding energy. This instantly brings photos to life. I personally believe it is the secret sauce to why some photos, are so much better than others. In a nutshell, photographers have more to work with your nervous energy than no energy at all.
So now back to those nerves you have during a photo shoot — be grateful for them, use them, and EMBRACE them. Let that nervous energy fuel you and give you the extra pep in your step, the twinkle in your eye, and your real, genuine smile.
Instead of thinking, “I’m so nervous about my shoot!” try thinking, “I have so much energy today!” Although it sounds simple, this one shift in mindset can make a huge difference. Be grateful for the energy, because I promise you, it makes for the best photos.
#3 Practice and Prepare
If you have an occasion coming up where you know you’re going to be photographed a lot, why not prepare by taking some pictures of yourself? Now stick with me, but you’re simply going to break out your cell phone and start taking some selfies of yourself.
The beauty of this is that no one has to see any of them — the pressure is off. When you’re done, you can stick them in a ‘Never Show Anyone’ folder, or just delete them. The practice of taking a photograph of yourself creates awareness of what makes you look good in a photo. This ultimately will increase your level of comfort when being photographed.
If you’re preparing for a monumental photo shoot, such as one for your engagement or wedding, remember back on how much time you’ve spent preparing for other important events such as big meetings, vacations and the like; take some time to prepare and practice to get the results you want.
Here are a few steps to practice:
- Pull out your phone and try capturing yourself from different angles. If you’re preparing for an engagement or wedding photo shoot, get your fiancé involved. Most importantly, have fun with it!
- Go through your images and see if any poses or angles jump out at you — either in a good or bad way. What do you like or not like about them? Taking the time to consider this will increase your self-awareness, and in turn, your confidence.
- If it’s a video shoot you’re preparing for, repeat the steps above, but try FaceTiming or video calling your friends, your mom, or anybody else you can think of! The purpose is to practice seeing yourself live on video. It’ll get easier every time, I promise!
- Take your new insights and share them with your photographer. It’s a great way to kick off a shoot. I personally LOVE it when someone brings me information like this, and any photographer worth their salt will feel the same way; because you know what you like best which shows that you’ll be confident in front of the camera.
#4 Treat Yourself
When you feel beautiful and confident it shows — it’s just that simple. So how do you make yourself feel good the day of a photo shoot? By treating yourself the days leading up to it.
Remember how you feel the first time you wear a brand new outfit that you love? Or ladies, how about when you have your hair and makeup up done? To prepare for being in front of the camera, go above and beyond; think about pampering yourself with a manicure, a facial mask, and by whitening your teeth. All these things will make you feel your best, and guess what? This confidence shines through in photographs.
Here are some additional ideas on how to pamper yourself (especially before your wedding!):
- Take a few days off work. Sleep in (it’s called beauty sleep for a reason you know).
- The days leading up to your event hit the gym, go to brunch, relax, and immerse yourself in joy and positivity. I’ve found, again and again, that there is a direct correlation between a hectic morning and tense emotions, and a bad photo shoot.
- Find a hair and makeup artist that you connect with! Professionally done makeup and hair can give you a huge boost in self-esteem boost.
#5 Fake It Until You Make It
You may have heard this elsewhere, but it’s highly applicable here too! When you find yourself feeling nervous in front of the camera — fake it. Overreact like Jim Carrey, smile too big, laugh too hard, move around too much.
Why? Because this ‘faking it’ and overacting can only last for so long. You’ll have created an abundance of energy, but soon that will start to diminish. Then, all of a sudden the smiles are full, and no longer fake, the movements are real, and not forced, and the interactions with your loved ones are genuine.
And here’s the thing: the first photo taken will be deleted. As will the second, third, fourth, etc. Those initial, goofy photos will be gone (unless you inadvertently create some gold!), but the energy they create will be there to stay.
I promise, that if the shoot starts with everything a little amplified and over the top, it’ll quickly settle down and those forced laughs will turn into genuine smiles and emotions.
So there we have it — five tried and tested techniques for taking the awful dread of being in front of the camera and using it to make stunning, emotional, and natural images you’ll cherish for years to come.