Let’s be honest. Getting someone to smile without looking like they’ve just been injected with botox can be hard. When you’re photographing someone, especially someone who doesn’t know you very well, they can feel a bit awkward in front of the camera and their pose and expressions might appear quite rigid and forced. The best pictures are the result of a moment of genuine emotion. But what many people struggle with, at least at first, is how to engage the person in showing those sought out expressions.
Every photographer goes about this process differently. After experimenting and going through the process numerous times, you will find the most beneficial and comfortable way that works for you. Reading about how others approach this can be helpful when you are figuring out your course of action.
From the moment you meet up with your subjects, and even in communication before the shoot, you should try to find out as much as you can about your subject and start building a relationship to shorten the bridge between client and photographer. Having some sort of relationship and knowledge about their personalities will help you best figure out what you could say or do to evoke laughter or a sincere smile for their photos.
After you’ve found out every little detail about them and have them sign over to you their firstborn child, you can figure out and gauge what types of jokes they might laugh at, what little things they enjoy or what phrases to say when smiling for the camera to get a natural demonstration of happiness. Trust your gut instinct on what to say to them and be confident when you execute your plan of action. The more confident and under control you appear to have things the more comfortable your clients will feel that you will produce a product they will like and as a result, they will become more relaxed and compliant with whatever you ask them to do.
Abruptly saying or doing something unexpected is sure to get some type of reaction out of your subjects. No one is expecting their photographer to bark like a dog, or to say something about the invisible man who is sitting at their feet. Sometimes they will laugh at it or they will laugh at you because you’re not funny, but either way, they laughed right?
Little kids can be even more cautious and nervous in front of a camera and so exercises like shaking it out or wiggling to get ready for the camera are helpful interactive ways to get past those first barriers. Let them run around and explore the area that you are shooting in so that all their curiosities about the new scene are satisfied and they will be less distracted during most of the shooting. As a child is exploring, follow him around and you might catch candid shots of him playing, finding something that excites him, or capture the pure joy of running around.
Little details can make all the difference. If a person doesn’t know what to do with their hands, it will show in their face. Give them something to hold, even if it isn’t in the shot. If one doesn’t know how to stand without looking like a Ken or Barbie, give them a chair. If a child has his favorite stuffed animal with him and will cry without it, let him have it. One thing to keep in mind is that by allowing them a prop, a chair, or stuffed animal, doesn’t necessarily mean they will need it the whole entire shoot. Sometimes people just need to start off comfortably and then they will branch out and loosen up for the rest of the session.
Hopefully these few little suggestions will help guide you into finding your style of getting your subject to act naturally in front of the camera. If you have any other helpful little tips on this subject, feel free to leave us a comment below! We love hearing back from our readers and their experiences. If you use any these techniques in the future, we would be thrilled to hear about how it went and what worked for you and what else you tried!