Let’s just be honest for a second, having your photograph taken can be nerve racking. Heck, it can be down right awkward at times! If you’re anything like me, I’d prefer to be behind the camera than in front of it. I’m never quiet satisfied with the way I look in photographs. I mean, I’m always thinking things like: “Where do I look?” “How am I supposed to stand?” “Do I look tough?” (for the ladies) “Do I look attractive?”
Through the years, I’ve noticed that most people are asking similar questions. We’ve all been on Pinterest, or on some photography blog, and have seen the gorgeous pictures that are out there. We see those perfectly captured moments and want them of ourselves; which can cause us to sometimes feel discouraged when we show up for our photo shoot and we feel kind of awkward. So how can we set ourselves up for a successful photo shoot?
Here are a few suggestions…
Find the Right Location!
The location and time of day can the most important thing when it comes to preparing for your next photo session. Think about what kind of scenery you want your photographs to be set in (i.e. urban, small town, country field, etc…). We love to shoot in both urban downtown areas, rural country areas with barns and fields, and plush green public parks/gardens.
Click Here to view a Pinterest board that we found online that gives many great local photo locations.
We’ve found that the best time of day to schedule your photo shoot is either during the early morning hours when the light is fun, cool and refreshing, or during the evening hours when we get the warm, intimate sun flare. The worst time of day for outside (natural light photo gray) is mid day when the sun is directly above. Mid day sun causes harsh shadows and unflattering bags under the eyes.
Let’s face it, when we look good we have confidence! And when we are “strutting our stuff” in front of the camera confidence and the right outfit matter. So when your picking out your outfits, start by getting together all of your favorite “complete” outfits and think about what would work best for the location and feel of your photo shoot.
Here are a few good questions to ask yourself:
- Do I look good in this? Does it compliment my body type?
- For couples- Do our outfits coordinate?
- On the flip side- Would these outfits look “cheesy” together?
- Girls- pack multiple shoes. i.e. boots, heels, flats, etc… Plan for any occasion.
- Guys- pack multiple outfits. Jeans, kakis, shorts, plaid shirts, polos, etc… Yes- go ahead and plan on changing clothes.
- Does this outfit fit the scene or location of your photo session?
- Think colors- Warm colors tend to work well in the fall. Cooler and brighter colors in the summer. Dark bold blacks and browns work well in the winter.
- Pack some individual quirky stuff too. But don’t go overboard! Think, in ten years will I think this looks stupid?
Also, be sure to think about the humidity and hair styles. Bring extra hair spray and make up. We don’t want runny faces or flat hair on our warm humid Southern summers!
Probably the biggest hurdle that we have to get over in a photo shoot is being comfortable being intimate in front of someone else. It will most definitely feel awkward at first. So I suggest practicing your cuddles!
I realize that this may sound a little weird, but bare with me a sec… think about how you like to cuddle: Do you normally hold hands while walking? Does she normally wrap her arms around your bicep or rest her head on your shoulder? Does he normally place his hand at a certain spot on your back? Does he normally brush your hair back over your ear? Do you cradle your significant others face or cheek when you kiss? etc… These are just a few things to think about when cuddling.
Also, it may be a good idea to practice with your partner. Grab a mirror and practice some poses. This will help you visualize what your body will look like in your pictures. This way when your photographer asks you to stand or sit somewhere, you already know what’s not flattering.
Kissing is fun! So we encourage it a good bit on our couples session…lol.
When it comes to kissing I’ve found that some people have no idea how to make it work for them on film. Let me just be honest- some people are just awkward kissers. They smash noses, kiss with their eyes open, or look like a face eating zombie! In my early years I would ask a couple to kiss and when they’d start doing the awkward kiss I’d just hope that I came away with just one frame where the guys eyes were not open or someone’s tongue wasn’t hanging out of their mouth. This sounds funny, but a bad kiss can ruin a photograph.
For some of us (guys mostly) we like to imagine ourselves acting out our favorite movie kissing scene. In our heads we think we look amazing, but the reality can be much different.
So to eliminate the awkwardness, I like to tell people to practice their kisses before they come (for some reason this isn’t that hard to convince people to do). I like to suggest trying out the sweet “peck” kisses and the slight open mouth kiss (no tongue…lol). These kisses seem to look the most natural when captured.
I also like to capture those “almost kiss moments.” You know, the moment right before or right after the kiss has happened- the moment when the couple is locked in a loving gaze and the world just seems to slip away around them… To capture this moment I usually tell people to kiss then smile at each other, kiss then smile… etc. This gives them a break between kisses, and the forced smiles between kisses usually turns into real smiles along the way.
So to summarize…
- Be wary of the smushed nose kiss. If you notice that your normal kisses have “smushy” noses, turn your heads slightly.
- Keep your eyes closed please. Even though open eyed kisses can be a sweet moment for you, they typically don’t look good on film. So as a general rule just keep you eyes closed.
- Don’t be a face eating zombie! Remember that the light airy kisses are the best for capturing that perfect moment.
- Kiss and Smile. Like I said earlier kissing is fun! So take a break between kisses and smile at each other. You’ll be surprised at the results.
What do I do with my hands?
I hear this question a lot. “What should I do with my hands/feet?” The answer is pretty simple- whatever feels comfortable/normal. Usually the poses that cause over thinking look “posed” or slightly uncomfortable. So do what comes natural. And if you’ve practiced cuddling, natural should be pretty natural to do by now.
Here are some suggestions…
- Brush your hands through her hair. Use your fingers to put her hair behind her ear.
- Hold hands. Interlock fingers if you want.
- Guide her face with your hand during the kiss.
- Hold the small of her back when your walking.
- Ladies- cross your legs at the ankles.
- Guys- be careful of the “rocker” stance.
- Stand up straight. No slouching.
- Stick you hand in your pocket.
- Ladies- put your hand on your waist.
- Ladies- put your arms around your man.
- Ladies- cuddle up around his arm.
- Guys- put your arms around your lady.
I’ve got to be honest, I have somewhat love hate relationship with props. I mean, random furniture or living room suites in the woods is a little overboard for me. If you have chosen us to do your photo shoot, you’ll probably notice that we don’t really suggest bringing tons of props for the session. Our reasoning behind this is pretty simple- we don’t want people looking back on your photos in 10 years and thinking “what was going on there!?”
With that said, I do have to admit that a modest use of props can make all the difference in your session. Props that make a series of images make sense are things that fit the scene. For instance, if your picnicking, it’s nice to have a blanket, basket, light snacks, and maybe a bottle of wine. Or if the scene is cold, bring a cuddle blanket to wrap yourselves up in.
Here are a few suggestions of props that we like…
- Picknick blanket and basket.
- A kite.
- An old style bicycle.
- A guitar or fiddle.
- A puppy or well behaved pet.
- Coffee from Starbucks and a few good books.
To reiterate my point- the key to a good prop is the surrounding scene. If your prop wouldn’t really fit naturally in the scene, chances are it’s not going to make much sense later down the road.
Prepare to have fun!
The very best advice I can give is come prepared to have fun. Realize that there are going to be awkward moments. Be willing to acknowledge them, you’d be surprised at how much quickly an acknowledge awkward moment goes away! I like to tell people at the beginning of our sessions that they are about to enter into the most awkward 10 minutes of their lives. Any portrait photographer will tell you that the first few minutes of any session take some time to get used to each other. I mean, you are having some random person photograph you… so it’s normal to feel a little weird at first. But you’ll get the hang of it as you go along and before too long it will feel like second nature!
I hope that my thoughts and suggestions will be helpful to you as you get ready for your next photo shoot.