I was at a photography group meeting a few weeks ago and someone expressed interest in how I get people to respond to the camera...I was surprised (and encouraged) because I have never consciously thought about that before. I compiled a short list of tips and tricks that seem to work for me and wanted to share them with you. Be sure to comment below with other things that have worked for you (whether you were the photographer or the ‘model’)!
1) Set the Stage
At the beginning of each session I make sure my clients know to make whatever pose I suggest into something comfortable, even if it involves changing my original idea. If it doesn't feel comfortable to them, it probably won’t look natural in a photo. Obviously if you aren't going for a ‘natural’ look than this doesn't apply! I also tell them to stop me if they see a spot they like or have an idea they’d like to try. This gives them the freedom to participate in the creative process; plus sometimes people have really awesome ideas that I didn't immediately think of! Definitely balance this with Tip #3 (Take Charge) because you’re the expert and probably understand lighting and composition situations better, but the more interactive your sessions are the more enjoyable they will be for both parties!
If you are shooting a wedding, be sure to spend a little time with the bride and groom before the big day and over-explain what you will be doing/ideas you have to make sure they are comfortable. This way you inadvertently give them permission to stop stressing about the photos and put their energy into all the other aspects of the day. Also make sure to ask if there are any specific photos that they want and bring the list or snapshot examples (I use my phone) so you don’t forget them. Chances are the bride will forget most of the shots she wanted since she has so many things to think about that day!
2) Be Friendly
This might seem like an absolute no-brainer, but it involves more than just smiling and nodding like you can sometimes get away with in group situations. If you talk and lead conversations, people stop thinking about how awkward it is to be ‘modeling’ for an hour and start settling into the experience. Tell them how good they look and get excited...truly excited...when you get a perfect shot. While you’re walking around the location ask them questions about their lives and find ways to connect. Become friends and not only will you have a better chance at good referrals, you’ll have a new friend!
3) Take Charge
Depending on what kind of photography you specialize in, the likelihood of your clients being trained models is probably pretty low. Your clients have seen your work and chose you because they trust your eye and style. While they may have ideas here and there, they want you to make decisions about backgrounds, posing, and timing. Don’t be afraid to try something that doesn't look amazing at first because oftentimes you can adjust to the situation to create something beautiful. Contrastly, don’t be afraid to admit when something just isn't working and move on...there’s no use in wasting time!
4) Share the Excitement
One of the very best tips I can give for getting clients to respond well is to show them some photos on the back of the camera during your session. It helps people to see what they look like so they can change what they don’t like or simply get pumped to see the final product! The more excited they are the more they will talk to their friends about the experience...and we all know how important word of mouth is in this industry.
Showing little kids their photos on the back of the camera works MAGIC in getting them to respond to the camera. Their attention spans can’t handle smiling at the camera for very long, especially if they’re young enough to not understand what’s actually happening. My favorite trick with kids is to bribe them with funny faces. I promise that if they give me their very best smile I’ll let them do a funny face...and then, of course, show them the funny face picture as leverage for another smile. It’s hilarious how big of a kick they get out of it, plus mom and dad get some realistic photos to cherish ;)
Don’t forget to comment below with tricks that work for you or things that have made you comfortable as a client, I’d love to hear your thoughts!