"Say Cheese!!!" How many professional photographers say that? None that I know of and you want to know why? Because that is what mom has been saying to you since you were a kid. It's what she said to you when you were blowing out your candles on your 5th birthday cake, what she told you on the first day of school and most likely every time she took a photo of you all dressed up for a middle school or high school dance.
Now no matter how much you love your mom the last thing you want to be told on your wedding day or at your engagement or portrait session is "Say Cheese". You want to feel like you; the most beautiful, amazing version of you. When you say "cheese" trust me it's not a natural smile and my goal is to capture the naturally happy you not the cheesy version. When you point a camera at someone 99% of people become at least a little self conscious.
"does my hair look ok?" "is there something in my teeth?" "do I look fat?"
There are three main things that I do as a photographer to help avoid these self conscious questions.
1. I get to know my clients. Before I ever put a camera in a clients face I'm going to talk to them. Hopefully I've met them before the day of the shoot and not only have we chatted about the shoot details but we went off on some crazy tangent about our mutual love of dogs, wine or even cupcakes. We have built a relationship, however simple. They know that I am not going to ask them to balance on one foot and touch their nose while crossing their eyes to create a photo. All my clients have seen my images and can see the natural feel that they have. This instantly puts them at ease knowing that my expectations are not of some high fashion, over the top look.
2. I give positive reinforcement. When we are shooting and the images are beautiful I cant' help but blurt out things like "WOW" "You guys are SOOO CUTE" "uggh I love this". The moment I tell my clients that they are ROCKING it they smile, they take a deep breath and feel immediately more secure. If they anyone is stiff or having a hard time realizing I tell a joke, make a funny face and often ask them to just take a deep breath. Especially brides and bride and grooms together. Often times they forget to breath!!! So just telling them to snuggle and relax into one another and take a deep breath can make all the difference between stiff and romantic, authentic images.
3. I always tell couples to "Just be cute" and families to just "be yourself" mostly this tip applies to couples at engagements shots or on the wedding day. A lot of times they kind of look at me like "umm thats not much for directions" and if they give me that look sometimes I'll give them a little something to do like: hug, hold hands, give her a kiss on the cheek. Most of the time saying things like "just be cute" can work wonders. They end up snuggling up together in each others arms and stop paying attention to me. I also will sometimes put them in a great spot with killer light and tell them to just relax while I get my setting right- then I never tell them when I start shooting and they don't even realize I'm taking photos of them for real (not just testing light) until I've already grabbed 10 or so great images of them just being THEM. When it comes to families- The last thing I want is mom's and dad's telling their kids to smile and look at me. Of course we want to try to grab at least one image of everyone looking at the camera but most of the time when the kid is actually looking and smiling mom is looking at them trying to make sure they are looking at me. My goal for all my family portrait and lifestyle sessions is to capture the family as a family. Smiling, laughing, playing and interacting. Thats the true beauty of a family and the same goes for couples- their interaction IS the photograph not the forced smile.
The key for my style of photography is to capture moments and emotion. For me to be able to do that I have to have my clients comfortable with me camera in hand. There are lots of good tricks out there and these just happen to be the three that I use all the time. Clients love to feel beautiful and confident and the more time they feel good about themselves while in front of the camera the better images I'm going to get- so my goal is to get time comfortable with me from the start.
If you are a photographer what are some of your favorite tricks to get people to loosen up and be themselves in front of the camera? Leave a comment below and one lucky person will win a Starbucks gift card- which you should totally use to try their new Blond roast... soooo good :)