How to Slay Your Next Portrait Session (Even If You're Not a Model)

As a photographer, I notice a lot about my subjects -- especially their insecurities about having their photos taken. Not everyone is a natural model, and even those who are get camera shy. I know firsthand how awkward it sometimes is to be in front of the camera. It's also awkward for the photographer! You don't want to be that photographer telling corny jokes or constantly telling people how to pose, which looks too forced. The trick is making the shoot as natural as possible, which is something that comes with practice on both sides. Here are some tips for you -- the subject -- on what to do during your next photoshoot to make it less awkward and more fun for all involved.

  • Come Prepared -- Planning is always key for both the photographer and subject. For example, always have a small bag that holds your makeup essentials for quick touch-ups. If you're doing individual shots, see if a friend can come along to carry your phone and bag so that they're not in the way of any photos (not all photographers have an assistant with them to do this). Also remember to bring any accessories (great way to change a photo without doing a full outfit change) and props. Have a second pair of shoes (flats if you're already wearing heels) for both comfort and variety. If it's an engagement shoot, be sure to have the ring! But souvenirs from trips you've taken together or items from special events you've went to can also serve as unique props. You may also want to bring the wedding invitations to document. Same with family and pet photography -- bring props! Your child's favorite toy can simultaneously put them at ease while adding to the memory. A chew toy can be used by the photographer to grab your dog's attention so Fido is looking in their direction and not towards the strangers walking by.
  • Research Photos Beforehand -- As the subject, it can make your job much easier by having some poses in mind before going to the shoot. If you're having engagement photos made, look online at Pinterest or simply Google example engagement photos to see what your aesthetic is and what poses you like. You can even screenshot some of these to show to your photographer so that they can get a better idea of the style you desire. You can see what looks stiff or what will show off your best assets, and you can even practice poses beforehand in a mirror so get a feel for what looks natural to you.
  • Try to Ignore Me -- By "me," I mean the photographer. I know this will all depend on your photographer's personality, but for me, I often like when the person or couple gets in his/her/their own world. Looking away at your surrounding environment or thinking of a happy memory can give a different, natural expression on the face that doesn't look forced. Having conversation with other people in the photo and making each other laugh will always yield wonderful, organic results. These "candid" moments usually end up being the best photos.
  • Consider Color -- Depending on the location of your shoot, what you wear can make or break the photo, regardless of your own insecurities. If you're shooting in a colorful city, try to wear something flattering that's more neutral. Busy patterns will clash with your background. If you're going to be in nature or around a lot of greenery, try to go for something that's still solid but perhaps brighter in tone. Know what colors look best on you -- ask a friend or two if you need to! If you have your outfit planned ahead of time, and it's something you feel comfortable in (that will go with a variety of backgrounds), it's one less thing to worry and feel self-conscious about during the shoot!
  • Keep Perspective -- A lot of this goes along with staying out of your own world, but try to remember that the photographer is usually just as nervous as you are. It's stressful when you're trying to make sure the lighting is right and that you get a good number of quality photos within the time frame of the shoot. We're constantly hoping for the best outcomes and that our equipment doesn't decide to go haywire that day. If you realize that you're both probably feeling a little anxious, it can help put your mind at ease and not be so self-conscious. We want to capture your natural look, so try to relax and enjoy the attention. You're gorgeous and deserve it!

Hopefully, these tricks can make all your next shoots Instagram-worthy... but what are your tips on making your photos look effortless? Let us know!