How Photographers Can Make Photography Less Awkward for the Model

This post is a guest post by Judd Green of Brisbane.

People are interesting creatures.  When preparing to attend a wedding, they frequently spend an inordinate amount of money on clothes so that other people will notice them, but as soon as they see a camera, they dive for cover. Some though, actually try. They try to ‘act normal’ and keep their conversation going while they are being photographed, which is all good and well, just they have that face on, that “I’m being photographed” face where they are still talking yet their eyes are looking sideways at you. Others go for the “scandal celebrity” pose with their hand blocking the photo. Then there’s that truly weird breed of person that will not leave you alone to do your job because they are convinced every photo NEEDS to include them.

So how do we reduce the awkwardness in this relationship between model and photographer?

Camouflage

Old man sitting on a chair

Candid photo by Judd Green

Yes, camouflage. I’m not saying you jump into your khaki with twigs taped to your helmet and shoe polish on your face. I’m meaning going stealthy, which can be hard with a “big” lens on like a 70-200mm f/2.8, but try shooting through conversations to get the desired result. People tend to relax a bit when they think you’re taking photos of someone else and not them. Which means you need to understand your lens and it’s focusing capabilities, being quick enough to get the shot.  Try and use your surroundings, reflections work good, be on the lookout for mirrors etc.

Whenever I shoot a family event or a party, I like to put on a long lens and go into the corner of the room and shoot for a while so that nobody notices me.  This helps me to achieve the best candid results.

Friend not Foe

Candid portrait photo of a woman looking into a mirror

Candid photo by Judd Green

We photographers are constantly misrepresented as the bad guy. Picture the old Westerns, John Wayne in his white cowboy hat, six-shooter at his side, facing off with some poor person wearing a black cowboy hat and a DSLR at their side, not so. Sometimes it’s up to us to give all evidence to the contrary. How do we do this? People skills! Now I know I’ve never been one to create small talk easily, I still struggle sometimes; but hey I’m a working progress. So the deal is, you could be the best photographer and know every aspect of your camera but lack the skills to know how manipulate a person’s mood and comfort, then you’ll still come away with an average photo. It’s the art of bringing out their best, relaxing them and allowing them to be themselves for the photo. This could entail a quick joke, a one liner, or a compliment. Be their best friend for that moment in time, like they’re the only one in the room with your complete attention.

If only photographing people were easy, but then we wouldn’t have any fun right? I hope these couple of tips are useful in bridging that gap of awkwardness for your next shoot, or just wait till they nod off like I did at a wedding recently ;)

This post is a guest post by Judd Green of Brisbane.

Comments from the I.P. Community

  1. says

    Love what you guys do. They are insightful for pros but simple enough that newcomers can follow along. Some tips to add to the conversation:
    – Talk while you shoot. You may get a few strange expressions when they are answering you, but it keeps everything more relaxed.
    – When posing couples for weddings, I always give them 5 minutes of “alone” time after the ceremony where we stroll around the grounds and I get shots with a longer lens. They’ve just been on the biggest stage of their lives and are dying to connect in a more intimate way. If you can get them to drop their guard you will get amazing shots and they’ll be more relaxed when you move in with a wide lens or start to pose them.

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