People are often nervous about having their portrait taken, especially by a professional photographer when the whole thing seems suddenly more important and serious. I wanted to give some pointers to my blog readers, since I have many engagement sessions coming up. Here’s my best advice, from years of experience taking photos of friends and strangers.
- Wear something you feel comfortable in, both physically and appearance-wise. You want to be able to move and run and jump and do whatever without fear of a wardrobe malfunction. And obviously, you want to look your best. If you have a physical feature that you don’t want to show-off, wear something that conceals it or draws your eye away. You don’t want to be concerned with only standing a certain way during the whole shoot so that nobody can see your belly. Wear what makes you feel good about yourself. And bring a change of clothes or two if you’re just not sure.
- Don’t be afraid that you’re “unphotogenic”. A good photographer will be able to pose you and light you in ways that will make you look great. She will also never show you the images that you don’t look so great in, and everyone has them (just look at a tabloid magazine). Most people think they’re unphotogenic because they’re used to seeing terribly lit and composed snapshots of themselves on Facebook.
- Bring something to play with. I sometimes ask people to bring props, or I bring some myself, just to get them playing and relaxing in front of the camera. It can take your mind off of posing and trying to look perfect, plus it makes for different and creative photos. Some ideas: umbrellas, frames, balloons, fun hats or accessories, signs, furniture, sporting equipment, musical instruments, toys, etc.
- Go to a location that’s familiar and comfortable to you. I love it when people choose a place that showcases their personality, like a beach that they walk to often or a coffee shop that they’re a regular at. I think it also makes them feel like it’s just another day and takes their mind off the shoot.
- Choose a photographer who can make anyone look beautiful. If everyone in her portfolio and blog is a size 2 and has tons of makeup on, and that’s not you, move on. Find someone who showcases people like you, or at least a variety of different looks, and makes them all look amazing. If retouching (i.e. skin smoothing, Photoshopping the eyes) is important to you, find someone who does that. I very rarely retouch (and then usually only on request) because I think people are beautiful the way they really are and I think skin should look like skin, not plastic. That said, I’ll take out a blemish or some other minor imperfection that will be gone in two weeks anyway.
- More on choosing a photographer – once you’ve made contact by e-mail or phone, choose a photographer who is friendly and genuine. Choose someone who seems excited to work with you and gives you the attention you deserve. If you’re looking for something big like an engagement and wedding photography package, meet with her in person if you can. You’ll want to make sure that her personality meshes with yours well and she listens to your ideas.
- Be yourself! This is really easy if it’s a couple shoot, because you can play off your significant other and focus on them instead of the camera. If it’s just you in the portrait, consider bringing a friend to either split the session with you or just to keep you company from outside the frame. I try not too pose people too much because I want their personalities to show. I talk to people during the shoot and tell them to talk to one another.
- Get silly. Make faces, run around, jump, dance, do your best Zoolander impression. Even if those things don’t make for great portraits, the expression on your face after you finish will.
- Tell the photographer how you feel. If you’re nervous, don’t be afraid to share that. I often ask people how comfortable they are in front of the camera and gauge their reactions. If they’re nervous, I will sometimes pose them more, show them some photos on the back of the camera to assure them they look awesome, or spend more time getting to know them and warming them up before shooting a lot.
For more wedding planning tips, check out my wedding magazine by clicking on the image below.