As headshot photographers we’ve taken photos of thousands of people over the last 12 years, and there’s one common theme we can’t seem to get away from: most people don’t like having their photo taken. They get uncomfortable. They get nervous. Some have even panicked or cried in the studio. Did I mention we photograph adults?
There’s something about having a camera lens pointed at your face that puts just about everyone on edge. There’s even science behind the idea that once we’ve seen even one crappy photo of ourselves we tend to fear the camera and the possibility that whatever that machine produces is going to be a hideous image of ourselves that others will see and judge us on.
Therefore our job as photographers isn’t just to set up lights, backdrops, and push buttons on a camera, it’s now to make someone relaxed enough that they look natural, calm, confident, and at the very least not like they’re having a root canal done in their headshots.
After over a decade of getting people to chill in the studio, these are the most common tips we’ve relied on in order to get our clients to open up and reveal their true selves. And to prove they work, here’s a naked photo of Michelle. There is NO WAY she would have been able to take this photo without these tips.
Don’t pose. Models pose and there’s a reason they make as much money as they do if they’re good at it: it’s hard. Trying to find your “perfect” angle on your own is nearly impossible and just looks forced and stiff. Work with a photographer who helps you look natural in front of the camera and gives you direction while looking through the lens to find the best angles and most natural stances and tilts.
Don’t focus on or try to correct the things you hate about photos of you in the past. We can’t tell you how many people will start bugging their eyes out when we lift our camera because “my eyes get squinty when I smile.” If you try to keep your eyes wide open or tilt your head in exactly the same position that made that one photo of you on vacation in 2005 look so fabulous, it will just look fake and forced and like you’re trying to hold in a fart or something. Again, trust your photographer to help you get a natural look. Tell them the things you didn’t like in past photos so they can look out for them and correct things if they see it pop up, but then relax, act natural, and don’t try to over-engineer your facial expression or pose. Every time we get someone to successfully let everything go (usually by saying that if the photo looks like crap it gets deleted), we get the best photos and they stop looking at those individual features we all have and occasionally hate about our faces.
Remember headshot truth #1: know the purpose of the photo. A professional headshot should show you looking friendly, confident, and approachable. Not that you have really skinny arms. If you get too caught up in trying to look “perfect,” you’ll lose sight of the real reason you need this photo, whether it’s a bio photo for your website to attract new clients, or a LinkedIn profile photo for your job search.
Remember headshot truth #2: no one looks at photos of you the way you look at photos of you. A good headshot should have people thinking “man, he looks friendly,” FULL STOP. Nine times out of ten when someone in our studio has said, “oh man my eye/ear/hair/nostril/mouth/cheek/shoulder/top button of my shirt looks weird, we didn’t see it at all. It’s perfectly understandable to have eagle eyes for our photos: we’ve all seen hundreds of photos of ourselves over our lifetime and as soon as we see even just one where our nose looks weird or our eyes look puffy, it’s the first thing we check to make sure isn’t happening with this new photo. But NO ONE ELSE DOES THIS when they see a photo of you. So just make sure you look happy, confident, and friendly, and as long as your photographer is checking for hair sticking up or anything weird enough on your shirt to be distracting, you’re good.
If you’re still struggling with feeling like you look natural in your photos, pretend to be more confident than you are. Do something before the shoot or during the shoot that gives you fake-it-until-you-make-it confidence. There’s science behind forcing yourself to smile when you’re sad: it actually makes you feel happier. So apply that idea to confidence. Stand up taller. Wear that pair of shoes that makes you feel fancy. Get your nails done or put on cologne even those things aren’t in the photo—you’ll feel more put together and camera ready.
If you’re ready for your closeup, book a headshot session online now!