'I hate having my photo taken' is something I hear regularly and when someone says that to me it's usually at the very start of their photo shoot session. It's just before I take the first photo. Many people experience a range of emotions and concerns when it comes to having a photo shoot. These feelings are perfectly normal and can vary based on individual personalities, past experiences, and personal insecurities. People often worry about how they'll look in the photos and they feel awkward or unsure about how to pose in front of the camera. Even just the presence of a camera may be intimidating if you are not used to being photographed, and nervousness about being the centre of attention can contribute to this anxiety.
I often wonder what has made someone think this way. Is it because of the prevalence of mobile phones with cameras? In a time when everyone has a camera in their pocket there is a lot more opportunity to create photos of our family, friends, colleagues and strangers. Being able to capture a spontaneous moment is a positive side to this but the photographs we often see that show someone's embarrassment or difficulty is something entirely different. This creates occasions when you might have good reason to wish your photograph hadn't been taken!
When you arrange to have your photo taken professionally, there is a (often unspoken) pact between the person being photographed and the photographer: You want great photos where you look good, and as your photographer I want to achieve that for you. So what makes a great photo?
For this to happen there are lots of factors which need to come together at the same time: technical skills such as composition and lighting are definitely important. Good lighting doesn't just illuminate the subject of the photo, it can set the mood too. Good composition helps too and new or unusual compostions can also make a photo stand out from the rest.
I believe there is one thing more important than the technical skills though and that is the person being photographed. Allowing someone to relax and become their true self in front of the camera is the single most important part of taking a portrait photograph.
I like to chat to people before I start photographing them as well as throughout the photo shoot. It's partly because I'm interested in what people have to say but it's also an opportunity for people to relax and to think about something other than having their photograph taken. I always find that after a few minutes of being photographed people are more relaxed and by the end of their photo shoot they have enjoyed the experience!
Here is some feedback I got after a children's photo shoot. It was a few years ago but writing this brought it to mind:
"Paul made the experience a special and thoroughly enjoyable experience for all. My teenage sons were reticent to attend a photo shoot but came away having had a brilliant time! Beautiful photos...very impressed and thrilled with the results. Thanks Paul for giving us some special memories of our family to treasure."
- Kirsty [studio portrait photography]
After all, it is your photo shoot - so what's not to like? You get time to relax and unwind and your photo shoot is all about you.
It's a time to be yourself, to be natural and I do my best to create an environment where that can happen. It's a great feeling for me to achieve this. A week or two after the photo shoot when I see people excitedly choosing their favourite image for a frame to display on their wall or to create a photo album, I know it's because they love the photos I have created. You are choosing photos you'll love looking at for years to come. They are photos that show the real you.