Feeling nervous about your upcoming photo session? You are not alone! As the countdown creeps closer to your engagement pictures, wedding day, or boudoir shoot, I’m constantly fielding comments of uncertainty from clients who are anxious about being in front of my camera.
“I don’t know how to take a photo.”
“My partner is camera shy.”
“We feel dumb posing for pictures together!”
The list goes on, and guess what? You’re right! Unless you’re a model, or actor, or whatever, taking professional photos is not a normal, everyday thing people do. It feels weird and awkward, because it is weird and awkward!
Instead of pretending it’s wrong to feel that way, I actually do the opposite when I work with my couples: I embrace it.
Here’s why: Right between your ‘pretend like I’m not being photographed’ face, and that extra wide, strained smile you find comfort in, lies exactly what I’m trying to capture: You! Your personality, love story, and natural self is waiting to be seen, and the only way to reveal that authenticity is to embrace the awkwardness that comes right before it.
Last month, I gifted a photo session to a couple who had to postpone their original wedding plans. They warned me in advance that getting their photos taken wasn’t their favorite thing in the world. Actually, they were dreading it.
The bride-to-be mentioned they were ‘older,’ which gets air quotes because they both look younger than me. She said they needed coaching, and that her fiancé was not excited. I believe her direct line was:
“He’s ’too cool’ for this stuff, and feels silly, so we never got to take engagement pics.”
I laughed. Challenge accepted!
We chose to shoot at Hartwood Acres around sunset, one of my favorite locations near Pittsburgh. It’s got lots of green space, beautiful gardens, and a peaceful calm about it. At the time, there was a huge field of black eyed susans blanketing the ground. It was so magical!
That evening, the mood felt very end of summer, as the flowers were a little beat. With the warm light, it looked more like mid-September instead of mid-August despite the heat in the air.
Beforehand, I recommended they wear something comfortable that they felt good in, and they both dressed up like it was a casual date night. I truly believe that wearing clothes that make you feel good can really help make your photos less weird!
After we met up at Hartwood Acres, I picked a spot we had to walk out to, so the pressure to ‘hop out of your car and start right away’ wasn’t there. I’ll often do that, or go to the farthest spot for photos first when a couple feels awkward to loosen them up.
On the walk over, we spent some extra time talking and laughing. I do 90% of the chatting to help distract them from the feeling of anxiety photos can bring on. With most of my couples, I tend to tell stupid stories, ask about their wedding plans, and sometimes show people poses on my phone for them to replicate in their own style.
When I sense the awkwardness coming on, I straight up tell them to laugh when it feels dumb, and lean into the awkwardness. That really worked for this couple. An uncomfortable laugh creates better emotion than a forced smile, and here’s another pro tip: A quick beer before the session didn’t hurt, either.
From there, I really focused on getting them to open up and have fun for photos, so I didn’t give a lot of direction style-wise. I adjusted my plans based on their outfits and how they interacted with each other!
By the end of the session, I knew I got some amazing shots. That night, I got to work in post production, and edited 50+ photos to deliver the next day–I was looking forward to their reaction.
After receiving their photos, I got the sweetest reply back:
“They look so great, I am so happy with them, and I can’t wait to show my fiance!
We felt really great about it last night, and were so glad that we made the decision to do it. You made it fun and not feel weird at all, and now we know what to expect and have more confidence.
I was worried about having a hat and those are my very favorite ones now, haha! Thanks again for this opportunity, I really can’t thank you enough for giving us something “normal” to do as a couple and to get us more excited for the wedding. “
That right there is why I love what I do. For every ten awkward shots, there is one stunning, real, and ‘omg that’s us,’ photo, and it’s worth the work to get that magic. Those in between moments are the images that will be framed in your living room. They aren’t posed and perfect, but they’re you!
Still feeling uneasy? I’ve got a few pre-session tricks up my sleeve to help!
Have a drink.
I know I said this before, but it bears repeating! A favorite cocktail or glass of bubbly is a great way to take the edge off.
Do something relaxing beforehand.
What puts your mind at ease? Maybe it’s a quick yoga class, a fresh manicure, or watching your favorite TV show. Make sure the hours before your session are spent doing something low key. You’ll arrive refreshed and ready to enjoy every moment!
Heading straight from the office to a photo session might seem like a good plan on paper, but if you had a crazy day, hit traffic, or spend the walk out to your location refreshing your email, your photos will reflect that! Give yourself time to separate your day to day, eat a comforting snack, and soak in these moments with your future spouse.
Trust. Me. During our pre-session phone chat or coffee date, I will ask you all of the questions to curate a session that is true to who you are as a couple. Whether that’s hopping on an airplane at sunset, or simply letting your insecurities go in a field of flowers, I got you. Embrace the awkward photo. It will be weird, but it will be fun too.
Plus, the end result will be beautiful:
Dawn Derbyshire Photography loves love.
I strive to create an inclusive, welcoming space for my employees, vendors I work with, AND my clients of all races, religions, sexual orientations and identities. All of my clients (and their love stories) deserve respect, are cherished, and are valued by me and my business. You are welcome in my business, my life, and my heart.