1 – Model the behaviour you want
A shoot can be fraught with stress, so for the love of Annie Leibowitz, don’t add to it. When people arrive at a shoot, they are almost invariably nervous, and will be looking to you for all their cues. Take the lead in creating the atmosphere you’re hoping for, and your clients will follow suit almost subconsciously. You have a huge opportunity to model the relaxed, joyful, behaviour you want to capture, simply by setting the tone and mood of the shoot from the get-go!
This is so simple, but laugh. Crack jokes, if that’s your thing. Show them you’re willing to get weird, and it’ll liberate them to fall into a relaxed zone that brings out great images. It’s not about putting on a performance, but about being so yourself and comfortable in your own skin, that your clients can’t help but do the same.
2 – Learn to read people
In many ways you have to be a chameleon, ready to provide to whatever the client might need from you to make them comfortable. We usually talk a lot throughout our shoots, and have found that most people react well to constant positive feedback, but not everyone wants a running commentary. There’s a fun balancing act to figure out what your client will respond to, and this is a good life skill as well.
3 – Find an in
Whether it’s talking baseball, vintage cars, or Japanese flower arranging, finding some common ground can put even the stiffest of the stiff more at ease. They’ll loosen up, see you as a teammate, and get more invested in following whatever direction you have for them. We’ve established trust with clients by talking with them about everything from beers in Thailand, to Tom Brady’s throwing motion. Chat it out, listen for non-sequiturs and when you find an in, go for it.
4 Shoot between the lines
You likely won’t keep the image of the poor guy interpretive dancing, but you’ll probably keep the one of the couple cracking up together in between moves. Here’s the real secret to natural looking photos – the in-between photos ARE the photos. The unposed, unrehearsed, laughing at fart jokes, or because your photographer told you they were “just going to test the light” but really you’re capturing them enjoying life together. Those are the images that end up being keepers. Keep that camera at the ready and shoot between the lines to get the good stuff.
5 Get your own photo taken – often
If you are amongst the hordes of photographers and humans who hate having their own photo taken, this piece of advice goes double for you. You MUST MUST MUST put yourself in your clients’ shoes! Be uncomfortable! Learn what strange tics you have. Know how to comfortably have your photo taken, so you know firsthand how to coach your clients. Standing in their shoes is our number one piece of advice, because as you teach yourself to be in photos comfortably, it’ll become ever-easier to coach your clients to do the same. Get thee in front of a lens. You’ll be a better photographer for it.
6 – Keep those hands moving
Every once in a while, we’ll leave the open-ended coaching behind and give a people a very specific pose to try. And no matter what the pose is, no matter how natural it felt when they first tried it, it’s going to get clunky-looking if you make them hold it for long enough. There are a few reasons why someone might need to keep a general pose for a bit — if you’re grabbing different angles, shooting with unique lenses, etc. — but our big piece of advice for them is to always keep their hands moving. With the free-reign to move their hands in whatever way feels natural to them, they’ll avoid the stiff prom-pose look, while still keeping the general idea of the pose you gave them. It sounds silly, but this one seriously works.