11 Tips for handling camera-shy models

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11 Tips for handling camera-shy models www.sleeklens.com

The photo session day has arrived. You organized everything carefully. You feel confident. Everything is going to work well. You are going to rock it! You meet with your client at the scheduled time. It is a couple session. You have been talking with her these last 2 weeks and got everything set. But you don’t know him. And it is right now, just some minutes before the photo session starts, that you discover that he is camera-shy and he hates photos!! Oh no!!! He is not cooperating… he looks as lively and happy as a salted fish and his skin tones are even paler… Your confidence vanishes. How are you going to take nice photos when he doesn’t even want to be there? You are supposed to take photos of the couple showing that they are happy!! What can you do now? Sessions including camera-shy models can be challenging, but they are not impossible. Keep in mind these tips for handling camera-shy models. They can truly change the mood of the photo session.

This is Avraham, my husband. He agreed to be my model for this photo session.

#1 Don’t jump the gun (or the camera)!

Spend some time talking with them before you get down to business, even before you take out the camera, if possible. Get to know them a little before taking the camera out of your bag and let them to get comfortable with you. Try to ask them about things that put them in a good mood: what they like to do in their free time, about travelling, their favorite restaurant… As a photographer your responsibility is to keep a relaxed atmosphere along the photo session. In fact, the best thing for you to do is to make the photo session not to feel like a photo session at all. It should be more like a friendly meeting.

#2 Explain to them how the photo session is going to be

Shy people usually don’t like the feeling of not knowing what is going to happen next. Give your client an explanation about the photo session. Make them feel like they don’t have to worry about anything. Let them understand that the experience should be fun and that they are not being judged by anyone and that they are not obligated to do anything they don’t want to do.

#3 Ask them not to look at the camera

Looking straight at the camera can be intimidating, and it is not necessary in order to get great photos. They can look to the infinite or at somebody else and the results will be awesome.

Looking at the camera can be intimidating. For that reason I always tell my models that they don’t have to do it all the time. Photos like this one of Avraham looking at the side have a more candid look and they are also interesting. What was he looking at?

#4 Take out stress about posing

Tell them that you have a list of poses (even better if you show them the poses briefly using a tablet, a phone, or even a folder with prints) and they don’t have to be imaginative or creative about the poses. Even if they don’t know how to do, you can rescue them with your poses list. However, make clear that they don’t have to copy the poses. They are just an inspiration and they can adjust them to their taste. This is kind of magic. You will see that they check the poses’ list at the beginning, but soon they won’t need them anymore. It is like a placebo. If they get to the point of proposing you some poses, let them do it, even if you don’t like their ideas. First of all this will bust their confidence and second, you might be surprised of the result. Never underestimate the ideas of your clients.

#5 Pose with them

I do the poses with them and I tell them my experiences posing. I like trying the poses I prepare for my clients because then I can understand what they will feel. Honestly, there are some poses that look awesome but you feel pretty stupid while you are doing them. Have you ever tried posing? It is not so easy! Do it and you will have an insight of your client’s perspective. Joke about this. Make them understand that you relate with them.

#6 Start the photo session with easy poses

Make it easy at the beginning and keep more complicated poses for when the client feels at ease. Easy poses are those in which they are doing something (fixing their clothes, talking with somebody, and holding a prop they like…), sitting or leaning on something (a tree, a wall or a fence). There is nothing worse than leaving a camera-shy person posing doing nothing in the middle of an empty space. They will feel like running away from you and your camera.

If you just tell your model to stand in an empty space, in front of the camera without anything to do, they will feel uncomfortable for sure. Look at Avraham’s face in this photo. I was sure he was going to tell me that he was done with the photo session.
If you give the model something to do, things will get better. Here I just told Avraham to sit down and the improvement from the previous photo is clear, isn’t it?

#7 Make them move

This tip is related with the previous one. Standing still can feel awkward. But tell people to start walking towards you or far from you and good mood will start flowing again. A fun one is making them walk away from you and at some point you tell them: Look at me!! This is the moment when you take the photo. People usually like this strategy: easy, they don’t have to be looking at the camera (or you) for long and have good results.

Tell your model to move. Just a simple walk will give them something to do that feels natural.

#8 Make them do something silly and do it with them

There are a lot of silly things you can make them do. The idea is to take photos of all the process and especially of the laughs after! Some things you can try are: make them show emotions like happiness, sadness, madness, disgust… You can have a list ready and go from emotion to emotion fast. The faster the better. At some point they will start laughing and here you will have your best shot! You can also make them fake their laugh. This will make them laugh a lot after it.  Remember you are making them being silly. It is important that you will be silly too!! Making one person to look silly meanwhile you look wonderful is not fair. You are all in the same boat!

I told Avraham to be silly! And he did!! Here he was exaggerating his facial expressions so much that even I was laughing. Is this picture good? Of course not!! But I was not aiming for having this photo. I was aiming for the photos after the silly face.

After doing some silly faces, models can’t hold their laugh any more. You can see here Avraham laughing after all the silly things he did. He is showing a beautiful and natural smile. Note that he is kind of blurry. I was laughing so hard from the silly faces that I was not able to hold the camera without shaking it. Be aware that this can happens and wok with fast shutter speeds!

#9 Encourage them along the photo session

Show them the photos you are taking and tell them how well the photo shoot is going. Positive feedback encourages people and keeps them in a good mood. Let’s face it. We all like to know how well we are doing!

#10 Create an ice breaker

It can be useful to have something ready to make people laugh and relax. If you are good telling jokes, go for it!! I am not so good on that, so I use a toy as an ice breaker. Yes, you read well: I use a toy. It is mostly for family sessions, but I use it for both kids and adults. My toy is not a common one. Besides being a photographer, I am a biologist. For that reason, a friend gave me a plush Herpes Virus doll as a birthday present. It is in fact lovely Herpes. For kids it looks like a sun. Adults can’t stop laughing when I explain to them the story of the toy “A friend gave me Herpes for my birthday” and I say things like “Eihhh everybody…look at my Herpes”. I guess it is so unexpected that it is fun. You don’t need specifically a Herpes toy, but it is good to have something that will make your clients relax a little”

Here is my Herpes. Isn’t it lovely? It is great for kids because it looks like a sun and also for adults because it gives a humoristic relieve.

#11 Ask in advance if there are camera shy people in the photo session

Knowing if you will need to work with a camera-shy person will help you to organize a more appropriate photo session.

I hope you find these tips useful. Although they are mostly for camera-shy people, I admit that I use them on all my clients. They are helpful even just to create a good vibe. They also help when your client is stressed (for their own problems) or tired. Making your clients feel relaxed and laugh a little is always a good thing. It doesn’t matter if they are camera-shy or not.

Let me know if you tried some of these tips and how it turned out! Have a happy shooting!!

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I am a biologist and a self-taught photographer based in Barcelona (Catalonia). Buddhist philosophy has a strong influence on me: I have a deep appreciation to life and I give a huge value to the little things that makes our days happier. I became a passionate about photography when I got my first camera and I understood that photography allows me to express my way of approaching life. I love learning so I am always willing to trying new things. These days I am shooting mostly nature and portraits.

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