Portrait photography for nervous and anxious people. Tips and help.

Has your employer said that they need some new photos of you? Do you need some portraits for your website or social media? Are really nervous, anxious or afraid of being in front of a camera? If you answered yes then read on.

I would say around 80% of my portrait shoots are with people who are nervous in front of a camera. There is plenty you can do to alleviate much of your fears. Here are some of my top tips to beat nerves and anxiety over a portrait or headshot session:

Tip 1

Dress in something that makes you feel good. Wear neutral colours, remove jewellery that takes the eye away from you. Let the focus be on your enjoyment of how good you feel in the clothes you’re wearing.

Tip 2

Book extra time to compensate for the time you feel nervous. I always say the first 15-30 minutes are when the nerves are peaked. As we talk and joke, those nerves start to go away.

Tip 3

Communicate your worries and fears before the shoot. Let the photographer find the right locations based on your anxieties. There is no point going to a packed town centre when the thought of hundreds of people watching you would send you running for the hills. The photographer should be able to come up with locations based on your fears and needs.

Tip 4

Bring a friend or chaperone. Moral support is always good. Few photographers would begrudge you bringing someone with you.

Tip 5

Ask to see some of the shots in-camera. I always show the shots as I go along. It builds confidence in you and it also lets me know I’m doing all the right things.

Tip 6

Ask what to expect from the shoot and what the photographer will do to negate the nerves as much as possible. Portrait photographers work with many people with anxieties. We will find a solution!

Tip 7

Ask to speak to them on the phone. You can quickly judge how someone is by the way they talk and come across on the phone.

My real-life example:

Tania was extremely nervous and anxious. She didn’t believe in herself and was afraid. We discussed her portrait shoot via text and also on the phone.

In our case, it was the phone call that allayed most of Tania’s fears. I am a very gentle, bubbly and warm person and she instantly got that vibe off me when we spoke on the phone. I explained what I would do to calm those fears and how the session would go. I chose a location that was really beautiful but also fairly quiet. We still had access to multiple locations within a minute or two of walking. As the confidence grew, we simply moved to the next location.

The way I start off the session is really easy and simple. Just some walking shots, some posey shots and some play shots. The first part of the session nearly always has nervous smiles. As we talk, joke and have a giggle, those natural smiles start appearing and then the session can really get underway.

I usually suggest a two-hour session for nervous people. It takes time to settle into the shoot. It takes time to build up a rapport between us. The first few sets are warm-up and test shots.

During this time I would show you some of the shots I’ve taken. I know you’ll be nervous and your smile may reflect that. But I think it’s important to show that yes, you do look good in the shots. It releases a lot of nerves when you can see what it is taken.

Nervous smiles are common at the start of a photoshoot!

Here are two examples of those first few photos while the nerves were still really strong and obvious…

It’s obvious Tania is nervous, these were the first few test shots after all. We worked on her posing, had some giggles and quickly we started to gel and work together well.

Tania soon relaxed and I was able to get the shots she was after. Here are a few examples of the change once we had that time to move at a pace Tania was comfortable with. As we giggled and she smiled her natural smiles, I took the shot. Her portrait photography session quickly went from the above to this…

Now the nervous smiles were gone and we had a lot of really lovely shots of a naturally comfortable and smiling Tania.

Her kinds words in her email really sum up what I am like to work with if you’re nervous or anxious…

If you would like a portrait session but you’re of a nervous deposition, follow my tips and it will help. If you would like some portrait photography or headshot photography please let me help you beat your nerves and worries.

Simon Day

If you have a wedding, portrait, event or festival coming up please contact me. Likewise for portraits. Check out my social media channels: Instagram | Facebook | Twitter