For All the Portrait Haters

Recently, as a client of mine was leaving mystudio after her session, she said to me, “Thanks!  That wasn’t terrible!” Which struck us both as funny, and then she told me I could use that as a testimonial.

When Audrey came into my studio for a session, and when she was driving downtown, even when she was looking for a portrait photographer to begin with–she had the same idea that almost every single person who steps in front of my camera has.  I guess I have to do this, but I’m going to hate it.  Seriously, I’d say about 95% of my clients are thinking that same thing when I meet them.  And I know they’re thinking it because they say some variation of it out loud to me when they arrive–their disclaimer and in some way, a sort of apology in case they don’t hold up their end of the bargain by being a good subject, whatever that means.

I’ve been a little curious about the psychology behind why we hate having our pictures taken.  Professionally, that is.  It’s ironic to me that the same person who loves taking a selfie every time the thought occurs will also tell me she’s “terrible in pictures” and hates photos of herself.  …Uh, what?  So I’ve been doing a little bit of my own research into the subject and here is what I’ve found.  When I look up articles, essays, posts on forums–places where people are giving the why of it, here are the things they say.  Tell me if these sound familiar to you:

I hate posing.  It’s awkward waiting for the camera to click while I’m smiling like a doofus.

I don’t know how to smile.  It feels too fake, and I’m not good at fake.

I don’t look like myself (actually, though, there’s science behind this one–your eye is trained to see your mirrored face as the most attractive version of yourself since it’s the one you see most often)

It seems to me that there are a lot of reasons, but what they all boil down to is a lack of confidence.  When you feel uncomfortable and you think the result will be awful, you lose confidence and then start judging yourself for not being good enough at the whole thing.  But here is the truth.  It’s not up to you to be a ‘good subject’.  In fact, I would so much rather have people come into my studio a little nervous than having practiced their winning smile and “The Art of the Smize” in front of the mirror all night (thanks, Tyra).  Sometimes people make those crazy eyes at me and I have to tell them to shake it off–it may or may not be coming across as a little possessed.

I actually love photographing non-models–prefer it, even.  I love getting the chance to take their idea of what it’s going to be like, and turn the whole thing upside down on it’s head.  I love bringing people into my space, helping them ease into the shoot in a way where the focus isn’t all on them, getting them to just talk and laugh with me, and then seeing them as they start to relax.  That’s when the real expressions start to come across, and I hear from clients all the time things like, “Thanks!  That wasn’t terrible!”  It’s about as genuine of a compliment as you can hope for, and it makes my day every time.

I’m not saying I won’t pose you or ask you to do things that feel a little silly.   I am saying that we create a space where it’s ok to feel silly, and that way you’ve still got ahold of your confidence, which is about the most attractive feature any of us has to offer.





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