As a full time, professional portrait photographer, I have taken 1000’s of portraits for business professionals, athletes, actors, musicians, models, teenagers and children. And the most important role I play as a photographer is not about knowing how to use a camera or how to light a person correctly, (although both essential) it’s how to make the person or people having their picture taken feel relaxed and comfortable.
It's true to say that many people shy away from having their picture taken professionally and keep putting it off, often resorting to what they can capture on their smart phone. I would even go as far to say that as many as 75% of people that visit my studio start off by saying “I should just let you know that I hate having my picture taken”.
So why do so many of us feel uncomfortable in front of a camera or feel that we hate having our picture taken? It’s a combination of things:
1) When we look at photos of ourselves, we often pay more attention to the things we don’t like about the way we look. Lets be honest, we are our own worse critics. We may say to ourselves, “I don’t like the way I smile” or “I have a double chin”, “My teeth are bad”, “I don’t like my grey bits”, “I’m over weight”.
2) Most pictures we have of ourselves, these days are taken with a smart phone, which lack the ability to control light or be able to use the most flattering focal length for a portrait. So, although phones have quite sophisticated cameras these days, they are still huge differences in the quality of results between a smart phone camera and a $5,000 professional camera.
3) The person taking the photo doesn’t know how to pose or direct us. This is a big deal! Even if a friend or family member owns a nice new, shiny expensive camera, it takes years of practice and experience to know how to pose and direct someone to ensure the most flattering results. And what looks good for one person may actually be less flattering for another!
So, to help alleviate these fears and previous experiences, I wrote this guide to provide five tried and tested easy tips for people who don't feel comfortable in front of a camera or are nervous about the whole idea.
I hope you find the guide useful.
- Stuart Beeby
Planning Your Outfit
Plain white or blue dress shirts are classic and clean looking. Solid shades of gray or navy are also good. Pinstripes or plaid patterns tend to distract the eye.
Layers on men look great on camera. Another layer will bring extra dimension and visual interest to your photos. For example, blazers, vests and jackets enhance any look. Or add a v-neck sweater with a pop of color from a long-sleeved collared shirt and tie underneath.
Don’t be afraid to get a little creative with layers!
When choosing colors for your outfits, I recommend selecting softer, lighter tones or more muted shades. Try to avoid ultra-bright, bold colors. The camera loves delicate shades, mixed with sophisticated light neutrals like heather gray, creams, brown and white.
A single plain top with neck jewelry with subtle earrings looks great, but adding another layer over your top, enhances any business portrait.
If you choose to add another layer, try a slightly different shade or tone rather than an exact match to the layer beneath.
Constantly looking toward the camera and holding a pose, causes your eyes to glaze over and your smile will look forced, consequently your expression will develop into a "hard stare" after a few frames.
To make your expression more natural, I always have my clients "look away" from camera between each shot. When prompted, I'll ask them to turn their head and eyes towards me, at which point I capture a much more natural expression.
Lean Toward the Camera
For those who would like the camera to take a few pounds off, my favorite trick is to make my subjects head larger in proportion to their body.
I achieve this by asking my subject to "lean in" towards the camera so the closest part of their body is actually their forehead. This may feel awkward but it works, because everything further away from the lens (i.e. your body), appears smaller in the photo!
Never lean back when anyone takes your photo, if your goal is to appear a few pounds lighter.
Stool for confidence
I use this trick for the most camera-shy people and it works every single time!
Having a small "physical barrier" between you and a camera lens, really helps boost confidence.
I keep a high back bar stool in my studio for when I see someone having a hard time relaxing. I place my stool between us and ask them to lean on the back of the stool in a folded arm position.
Having this little barrier, instantly boosts confidence, which helps you to relax.
Relax and Have Fun
To sum everything up so far...
1) Plan your outfits
2) Don't stare at the camera and look away between shots
3) Lean in towards the camera
4) Use a stool to boost confidence
And my last tip is to simply RELAX and HAVE FUN!
If you relax and trust your photographer to coach you through your session, it will make all the difference in your final images.
ENJOY the experience and just "let go". I can assure you that your investment will be so much more worthwhile.
If you’re needing to update your professional profile images on LinkedIn or your company website or if you’re a performing artist and you need an updated acting portfolio, launching a new business or creating a new website, our photo studio is located in Metro West Boston, and we serve clients from Sudbury, Wayland, Weston, Marlborough, Framingham, Acton, Concord, Lincoln, Ashland, Wellesley, Natick, Newton, Worcester, Southborough, and Boston.