How to Photograph Camera-Shy People

The advent of smartphones means more people are snapping photos every day. Whether it’s an endless supply of selfies or taking pics of friends and family, the average individual doesn’t mind stepping in front of the camera, but toss in a professional photographer and suddenly even the most photogenic of people can become uneasy. From bashful children to self-conscious adults, here are a few tips to have a successful shoot no matter how camera-shy your subject:

Do Your Part to Make Them Comfortable

It’s easy for a person to become shy if they’re not used to being photographed, or they don’t know the photographer. Since the entire shoot depends on the collaboration and relationship between you and your subject, it’s your job to make them feel relaxed enough to create the shot you are looking for. Form a connection with the person, just like you would with anyone else — by talking.

Get to know your subjects before you start shooting away in order to build a brief but important relationship, where you become more than just the guy or gal hitting the shutter button. That little bit of trust can make it much easier to direct poses, gain access, and help your subject feel at ease enough to look natural.

Pro tip: Break the ice by asking questions, finding a common interest to talk about, and communicating clearly throughout the shoot so that your subject feels relaxed, safe, and included in the process.

Keep Them Busy and Moving

For whatever reason, people being photographed are more likely to feel awkward when they’re standing still. Folks who love it in front of the camera have no trouble holding a pose for a while, but the same can’t be said for the rest of us. If your shy subject is looking stiff, keep them moving.

Since your camera shy subject is probably not a professional model, be prepared to offer suggestions, directions, and compliments throughout the shoot. You are the director as well as the photographer, and offering leadership in terms of movement and position can help an uneasy subject. Focusing on your orders will give them little time to worry about whether they look weird or not, especially if you’ve already built trust and established a rapport.

Pro tip: Though it might sound silly, asking your subject to do things like stretching and jumping can help them shake off nerves and get out of their heads.

Make Them Feel Awesome

Speaking of giving orders, make sure that’s not the only thing you’re doing — or else you’ll risk making the subject even more anxious. Offer positive feedback throughout the session so they get a boost of confidence. Even if you’re still searching for the shot, be sure to be vocal about what they’re doing that’s working.

Giving your subject complements outside of their poses and movement is also key. Again, you’re working on establishing a rapport, so finding positive ways to encourage your subject and pay them compliments — even if the compliments are not about photography.

Pro tip: Remind your camera shy subject that they are brave and bold and doing something unique and positive by stepping out of their comfort zone for your photo shoot!

Make it a Fun Experience

Even the most timid person can let loose when they’re having a genuinely good time. Having a sense of humor, staying relaxed, and keeping your sense of humor handy as the photographer works wonders when you want to create a pleasant photography environment.

Another idea that works great with both kids and adults is introducing props. Bring along some funny photo props so your subject can come out of their shell by being goofy and creative. Even camera shy people can ham it up for a photo with silly hats, masks, or costumes.

Also try playing music during the shoot, so your subjects don’t feel pressured to fill the silence. Music can also help set the mood for the shoot, so choose your playlist carefully — or invite your camera-shy subject to choose music that makes them feel comfortable!

Pro tip: If you’re not relaxed or having fun, your camera shy subject probably isn’t either. As the photographer, you can lead the way by having a good time, being considerate, and setting the mood for a professional and fun shoot.

Learn more about Photography at the New York Film Academy.

How to Photograph Camera-Shy People by

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