10 Ways to make your subjects Feel Relaxed, Encouraged, and Confident
Hey all! I am SO overjoyed and excited to hear all the positive feedback on my upcoming workshop The Confidential! It’s going to be 3 inspiring days of hands-on shooting, presenting, and learning. Between now and the workshop in October, I will be posting weekly helpful tips, knowledge, and anything else I can give of value right here on my blog. So today I am writing about something extremely important in the world of wedding and portrait photography. One of the top elements that is key to getting great shots of your couples is to make them feel relaxed and open. I’m often asked how my clients become so relaxed while having fun in my shoots. So I decided to write about the factors that go into how I approach this subject. I originally titled this the “5 ways to make your subjects feel relaxed, encourage, and confident”, however, as I began writing I clearly needed to up that to 10. As always, I would love to hear from you! Feel free to leave a comment and let me know your thoughts.
Be sure to check out some behind-the-scenes footage from my shoot with Jessica and Russ in Bermuda. It’s a great example of how I engage, direct, and most importantly, have fun!
1. Check-In with YOU! One of the first things I do when entering into a photo shoot is check in with my attitude. If I’m having a bad day or stressed out, my clients will pick up on that energy and may not be confident in engaging in the shoot. If I exude excitement and confidence, it will get my clients excited and assured that they’re going to have a great experience. Even if I find myself not in the best of spirits, I do my best to compartmentalize personal from work and never let it effect my job.
2. Be Relatable. It’s probably safe to say that this is the first time your clients have gotten professional photos together. I always like to chat with them for a few minutes before I begin. Small talk like, “How was your weekend?” or “Can you believe that game last night?” Anything to make them realize that you’re a normal person just like them will make them feel at ease. I am constantly trying to relate with my clients whenever I can. It makes me more approachable and relatable.
3. The first 15 minutes are THE most important. In the beginning moments, it is imperative to LEAD the shoot. Your clients will look to you to give direction and be in control. This is the foundation of how the shoot unfold. Know where you want to begin shooting beforehand so you don’t waste time scrambling to find a good space. Start out simple and place them in a simple pose to allow them to get comfortable. From there, slowly guide them with relaxed direction and lots of encouragement. Before you know it, the shoot is smooth sailing.
4. Communicate and Encourage. Throughout the shoot, it’s extremely important to always continue the communication. Whether it’s through direction or telling them what is working beautifully in the shoot. Give them encouragement whenever possible. Like, “Great job!” and “Wow! I am LOVING what I’m getting right now!” This really allows the couple to feel good about what they’re doing and be more open and relaxed. It’s in these moment that you really start to capture the couple.
5. It’s OKAY to give direction! When I explain to my clients that it’s my job to direct them to get the best of who they are, I see a huge feeling of relief come across their face. They are looking to ME to give them direction and and help them feel comfortable so they don’t have the deer in the headlights look. I call it “Organic Portraiture”. The art of providing just enough direction while still allowing them to move freely together. It’s very much like a dance between you and your couple. You are the leader and the subjects follow. If done correctly, their relaxed expressions will unfold through your lens like butter!
6. Know when to move on. If you’re NOT loving what you’re capturing, it’s good to know when to move on from that certain scenario. Maybe it’s the lighting, the background, or their pose. If it’s not working, don’t waste time trying to make it work. You will lose the momentum you have gained with your clients.
7. Connect with your subjects. Each and every couple is different with their own unique personalities. While some of my couples are great with jumping in a fountain with their clothes on or rolling around on the grass, not all of them are comfortable with this. It’s my job to CONNECT TO my clients and get to know who they are and what they are open to doing during their shoot. I’ve learned to never assume anything. For example, I may have a couple that appears to be preppy and conventional, but are but are looking for me to suggest my creative ideas. On the other hand, I could have a couple who is laid back by nature, but when I’m shooting they become extremely uncomfortable. It is my responsibility as their photographer to connect with them, and help them find their comfort zone while pushing their limits, within reason, and always staying aware of their feelings and their overall experience.
8. Have a backup plan. One of the biggest disappointments during a shoot is having the original plan your couple was all excited about be scratched due to an unforeseen circumstance. It’s a good idea to be prepared and have an alternative equally awesome plan B. I remember, I had an engagement session in Savannah, GA that could NOT be rescheduled. The one day we had there about an 80% chance of rain. I had to get creative. My assistant and I went to a nearby boutique and bought two big colorful umbrellas that were to be our saving grace. Not only did we pull it off, It resulted in some of the best imagery, that came from an unexpected challenge. The result of my positive attitude during the bad weather, resulted in my clients gained confidence, giving me relaxed rainy images with a splash of fun!
9. Engage your subjects with props. Enlisting a few props here and there can really help your couples relax as it gives them a sense of purpose during the shoot. It allows them to engage with each other, resulting in a few cute laughs, and ultimately breaking the ice. It also adds to the story. I will sometimes have my couples opening and sharing a bottle of wine, clinking their wine glasses together and smooching. This interaction allows me to capture them having fun and doing something more natural. There are so many great ideas for props. I encourage you to look around your house and see how many cool prop ideas you can come up with. An antique book, vintage quilt, or parasol all great props! (Not to mention write-offs.) 🙂
10. Practice, Practice, Practice! Most importantly, it’s always good to continue practicing and growing in your craft. If you are new to photographing couples or finding it challenging to get them to relax and have fun, keep working at it and it will become easier in time. The factors I listed above come from my years of experience with couples and families. There are always bumps in the road so be aware when something worked and what you can learn from when something doesn’t.