When you have bride and groom waiting for you for formal portraits, or are meeting a client in a local park for a portrait, what goes through your mind? Do you have a moment of fear, wondering how you’re going to pose them for a dramatic effect? When you look at your images, do you wish they “popped” like the images you see from photo greats online?

Everyone faces that, especially in the beginning. But there are some tricks to help you create a more natural portrait experience for you and your clients.

1. Start by having fun. If you are happy and enthusiastic, your clients will be too. Don’t make things too posed, too drawn out. Get your clients involved in action, and they’ll remember the experience as a happy one – so the photographs will automatically be better because they remember it as so.

2. Go digital. When you shoot film, every click of the shutter has a cost associated with it. But with digital, you can bring the files into your computer and select only the best.

3. Create action. Especially with a couple (bridal, engagement) set the mood by giving them something to do. Choose a great location in the middle of the city, and have them walk slowly up and down the street holding hands and talking. Have the groom pick up the bride and spin her slowly around. Have the groom pick up the bride, or sweep her away in a wide dip. The more you introduce these movements, the better they will act – they know what you’re trying to accomplish.

Break Your Fear Of Photographing People

4. Use telephoto lenses. If kids have a hard time sitting still, or are nervous around you, have them play at the playground with mom and dad. Then focus on getting perfect images from afar.

5. Set up with a perfect backdrop. There are dozens of places in your community that make perfect backdrops for your images. Find the perfect spot first, and bring your clients in with ideas in mind.

6. Critique. The best part of being online is everyone is a critiquer. Put your photos into forums, and have open discussions about your images. Follow other critiques from other photographers as well. And if you can, attend national associations with print competitions. You’ll learn tips from amazing photographers, and improve your image quality in a very short period of time. One caveat: don’t take any of this too seriously – just learn. I’ve been in print competitions where one judge wants an image to be the clear winner, and another says it’s the worst he has ever seen. Just learn from their tips, and improve from basic composition techniques.

7. Be natural. In many cases your clients will automatically start doing something. If you tell them to sit on the ground and give each other a big group hug, tweak it from your camera view. Simple instructions can often lead to natural placement for the client you are working for. Because it’s natural, they’re happy. And that’s all that really matters.

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