A Portrait is Given

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Dear Maundy,
I love photography, but I can’t get people to do interesting things without seeming awkward. Any pointers or tips?
Samantha W.

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Dear Samantha,

It’s been said many times that a great portrait is not taken; it is given.  Aside from actors and models, almost everyone begins a session by saying, “I hate having my photo taken”.

These are some of the things that work for me:

Start by sharing your plan for the shoot—not every detail, and not in a technical way, just the gist of it. In order for someone to give a great portrait to you, they need to be able to trust you. Once your subject knows that you have a plan, they’ll be better able to take direction from you.

The next thing you may have to do is address their insecurity about being photographed. Acknowledge that being in front of a camera can be intimidating. Assure them that they will look amazing on camera because you know how to capture them at their best.

Next, give direction and take a few photos. Show them a good one on the back of your camera. Keep talking to them. Get them talking. Let people interact and be themselves, but be prepared to give almost constant direction. Joke around. Don’t be afraid to be goofy. If you don’t open up, they probably won’t. Now that you’ve set the stage for trust, relaxation and open communication, you’ll see their expressions become less awkward.

I hope this helps you get closer to the results you want.

Maundy

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