The Human Side of Photography – 4 Tips for Natural Looking Portraits

Here’s 4 tips on how to work toward those beautiful, natural, genuine portraits that make our hearts sing, end up framed on our walls, and/or sell like crazy post production.

1. Handle the Hands
Give your subject something to hold. If their hands are busy it’s generally enough of a cognitive distraction to curb their camera anxiety.

2. Pull up a Chair
Try to carry a stool with you in every shoot… ALWAYS. When people sit, they will 9 times out of 10 loose the nervous rigidity they have when they’re standing. The situation automatically steps away from the formal air of photographer/photographee and instantly feels more casual.

3. The Attraction of Distraction
Distract your subject. Get them talking about something you know they’re interested in, ask them questions about their family, pets or favorite super heroes if you get desperate. Do whatever you can to pull their attention away from themselves. Shifting their attention to you by making fun of yourself is a trick that’s tried and true.

Try to start barking like a dog to inspire spontaneous laughter… quacking like a duck is also a good bet… Once you get a couple of good laughs out of your subject… it’s all a breeze from there. Laughter releases endorphins and thus a general sense of well-being, at least that’s what “they” say… 

4. R.E.S.P.E.C.T
Remember that your subjects deserve your respect… whether it’s your own kiddos or you’re on hire. If you’ve got a subject or two or more who are just plain uncomfortable, seek out privacy for the shoot as much as possible. If you’ve got something in your head that you’re working towards and your subject just isn’t diggin’ it… drop it and move on to something else.

Ultimately you want nice pictures AND a nice memory of the shoot as a whole. If your subject feels understood and respected, that’s your first step in breaking them out of that awkward little box and truly capturing their essence.

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