One thing you can do to improve your portrait photography
Possibly the most clichéd photographer’s phrase next to “say cheese”, is something about being more comfortable behind the camera than in front of the camera.
We’ve all been there – that moment of discomfort when you have to be photographed. But I say it is time to confront this. You need to own it and become used to being photographed. Seriously. I would even go as far as saying that you have an obligation to your subjects and clients to be comfortable about being photographed. You need to know how to handle yourself in front of the camera. How to pose, and how to feel at ease.
I feel so strongly about this – that you have to discard that deflective thing that you’re more comfortable behind the camera. Even if you are, no one else is finding it amusing. Suck it up, and happily appear in front of the camera and be photographed.
How can you possibly draw the best from someone you are photographing, if you yourself aren’t okay with the presence of a camera? You can’t possibly instill confidence in your subjects if you whinge about being photographed.
You’re holding yourself back with that excuse. If you’re not comfortable posing or positioning yourself in front of a camera, take some time in front of a mirror to regularly see how you can improve your posture and stance in front of a camera. This is a valuable tool in learning how to pose someone – pose yourself in front of a mirror.
Another way to consider this – do you dislike it when people drag their feet to gather in a group for your camera? Well? Then don’t be that person yourself. Again, that silly excuse of being more comfortable behind the camera, doesn’t amuse anyone. Just never say it again. You owe it to yourself and your subjects you are photographing.
Become used to being photographed – I am convinced it will help you improve your portrait photography.
There’s an important side benefit to this, which is one of the epiphanies I had while attending a workshop by David A Williams – there need to be photographs of you with your family. It is important to your kids, and their (eventual) families. Photos which include you, are part of your legacy. Your kids and grandkids would want to see photos of you some day. Make sure it happens.
A little bit of homework
A few questions you might need to answer for yourself. (Or post it there as a reply.)
- Photographers – inspiration, and overcoming fears
- When was the moment the magic happened for you?
- Make your personal photography more than just snapshots
- A passion for photography
- Photography clichés
Articles on posing people
- Posing normal, everyday people for portraits
- Posing tips – the leaning pose
- Becoming more confident in posing people
- Adjusting a pose with incremental changes
16 Comments, Add Your Own
1Ian Scott says
Nice one Neil, I remember years ago listening to a celeb saying she practised poses in the mirror so that they became natural to her, she was always ready to be shot whether at a shoot or not, and rarely disliked photo’s of herself; I followed her advice and posed in front of a mirror until it became second nature whenever someone pointed a camera at me ! and as a consequence I find it easier to direct a model or family member.
2Peter (Barnet UK) says
I have loads of family photographs, but all missing one person. I do crop up now and again mainly in a reflection.
But I have noticed that the world of smart phones has changed all that now. I’m in a lot of these and the better ones of me are always the ones where I don’t pose.
3Joseph Le Pera says
Neil cool hat!
Great Picture, however you should tie your left shoe before you trip and break a camera.?
5Neil vN says
Yup, the über-cool attitude offset by my dangerously loose shoelaces.
It might amuse you to know that that shoelace caused me to fall off my bicycle a few days later. It got caught in the pedal, and when I paused at a traffic light, I couldn’t put my foot down on the ground … I slowly topped over and hit the tarred road with my left knee. My weight pinned the bicycle down on my leg and my foot, and I couldn’t immediately bounce up again. It took embarrassing effort to extricate myself from that.
5.1Frank Palmeri says
Where was a photographer when you needed one to capture THAT, Neil! LOL!
5.2Nick C says
Well – doing it on a bicycle is many times better than on a motorcycle. At a standstill, tried to go, not enough gas and ploup – no motion, no momentum, and I couldn’t get my foot down quick enough which was quickly pinned under 300 lbs of aluminum and steel. Worse thing was that it happened in my driveway and my wife came out to hear who was swearing loudly (through a helmet) at 7 o’clock on a Sunday morning…..
On topic – good post. Something to keep in mind as I’m quick to lose patience when there is a need to take endless pictures of me…..
Well, with that hat you look like Elvis Costello, and with that shoelace I can feel one of his songs coming on….
“I can’t stand up for falling down”
6Ed Posthumus says
Thanks for the bump in the right direction. I have just finished Picture Perfect Posing (bought on your recommendation by the way), and was trying to figure out who I am going to practice the techniques with on my way through the book a second time. I found the book to be as technical about posing as any camera manual and the methods he uses definitely require practise before being put into service. I guess it is too obvious that I should grab my remote with a 5 second delay and practise on myself. As for including yourself in the pictures, I have the U1 mode on my camera set so I can just hand the camera to anyone to take pictures with.
I also want to thank you for all the other great posts. I don’t comment nearly as much as I should, but be assured that you are on my favourites list so I can regularly check in.
Yeah Neil, thanks for all the work. It’s much appreciated. You’re an inspiration!
One size does not fit all. You can’t make sweeping statements like “. . .discard that deflective thing that you’re more comfortable behind the camera. Even if you are, no one else is finding it amusing. Suck it up, and happily appear in front of the camera and be photographed.” The fact is, many people – photographers included – are just not comfortable being photographed. It’s simply the truth. I’ve made that statement before without being deflective, and never in an attempt at amusing anyone. I don’t try to slip away from being photographed with family & friends and I happily oblige, but I’m also not a “selfie” sort of person who loves the attention of the camera.
9Neil vN says
Christopher – you can’t expect others to follow where you’re not willing to lead.
Understood. But great directors are not necessarily great actors. :-)
10Don Tod says
Neil, I too want thank you for all your posts. Your site is the first one I go to each morning to get photographic inspiration for the day. I’ve learned a ton and put it to good use teaching flash techniques to others both inside and outside our camera club. And yes I do practice my modelling poses in front of a mirror and practice my lighting techniques on a mannequin – Manny is in the basement! I even dolled her up with a little makeup.
I think quality posing really sorts out the men from the boys, my biggest challenge is remembering a variety of poses.
I tend to pose with my wife taking images with the articulating LCD on my camera.
I struggle to remembering the poses, I keep some copies on my iPhone and refresh now and then