Raise your hand if you’re uncomfortable in front of the camera. Raise your hand if you’ve never had professional portraits taken. Raise your hand if the idea of a photo session gives you the worst anxiety. I’m a Professional Photographer and I raised my hand two times. I get it, because I have been in your shoes. I am an awkward, often anxious human being and I’m here to tell you that your feelings around having your photo taken are 100% valid.
So many Couples contact me and the first thing they say is that they are either 1) awkward in front of the camera or 2) anxious and unsure about having their photos taken. Everyone has some level of discomfort in front of the camera whether it be the attention (hello introverts, I feel you), self conscious about their body or not knowing what to do. All of these feelings are totally normal. After having photographed hundreds of other anxious, awkward and uncomfortable humans, I decided it might be helpful to address these feelings and maybe ease your anxiety a bit.
Choose a Photographer You Feel Comfortable With
You can kind of get to know Photographers personalities via Instagram or TikTok, but we all know social media only shows the good side, so consider scheduling a zoom call with potential Photographers to get to know them better. This way you’ll know if you vibe with them before booking.
Do you need a hype photographer who is going to be your own personal cheerleader or a down-to-earth grounded photographer who is gentle and empathetic? Or perhaps a little bit of both! Yes, loving a Photographers work is important, but getting along with them, feeling comfortable around them and having trust in them are also very important.
Communicate Your Feelings
Let your Photographer know what feelings are coming up for you around having your portraits taken. Let them know of any insecurities you might have before booking with them. This way you can see if you’re a good fit to work together and help your Photographer understand where you’re at emotionally and how to best serve you.
Book An Engagement Session
If you are planning a Wedding and you are really concerned with your portraits looking awkward or just really uncomfortable with having your pictures taken in general, BOOK AN ENGAGEMENT SESSION. Even if you feel like “we don’t need pictures”, you need the experience in front of the camera BEFORE your Wedding Day!
-Engagement Sessions will get you comfortable with your Photographer’s process
-You might feel more comfortable and less stressed on Wedding Day
-You’ll be able to decipher if you’re more comfortable being posed or just being natural and loving the moments unfold
-You’ll know which poses work for you, and which ones you want to avoid on Wedding Day
-You’ll know the level of affection that you’re comfortable with in front of the camera
-At the very least you’ll have some gorgeous photos together
Things You Can Do To Relieve Some Stress Before Your Session
-Meditate, Get Grounded, Listen to music that suits your mood (relaxing or HYPE), Take a Bath
-Get Pampered, Get a Massage or a Facial a few days before your session
-Wear your outfits around the house a few days before your session to get comfortable in them
-Practice posing in front of a mirror
-Talk to your therapist about your upcoming photos and get their feedback
SIDENOTE: If you are a drinker of adult beverages, by all means have a beverage before your session… HOWEVER… I do not recommend showing up to your session tipsy or drunk. I’d prefer you not drink and drive and we don’t need anyone hurting themselves during their session. My sessions involve walking, dancing, skipping and moving around a lot so if you show up completely intoxicated, you could end up hurting yourself. If you are a smoker of natural things, I 10/10 do not recommend smoking before your session because no amount of eye drops or Photoshop will fix your eyes. Save the smoking for after your session, please and thank you.
Session Ideas and Inspiration
Choose a ridiculously amazing location. If you don’t love being the center of attention and want your photos to be more about the landscape, express this to your Photographer. Seek out a beautiful location that gives your Photographer the freedom to create amazing images of you while also mostly capturing your surroundings.
Plan Activities! Before your session, brainstorm together on places that you love and activities you do together as a Couple. Here are a few ideas that might inspire you.
-Visit your favorite theme park
-Sharing an ice cream cone
-Cozying up at your favorite coffee shop
-Playing a board game at home in your pjs
-Kayaking, Skateboarding, Paddleboarding, Rollerskating, Surfing… whatever your hobby is
-Visiting your favorite book store, thrift shop, comic book store, Target, farmers market
Sometimes adding this meaningful place or activity into your session can help put you focus on each other and kind of forget that you’re taking pictures.
Ask to See the Back of the Camera. Keep in mind you might not love the raw photos because many photographers will shoot their scenes very dark and bring them up in the editing process, so don’t let the photos deceive you. If you’re worried with how the photos are coming out, definitely ask if you can take a peek for some reassurance. Maybe not after every photo, but once or twice during your session should not be a problem.
Include Your Pets. If you are obsessed with your animals or find them to be your comfort, include them in your session. It’s a great icebreaker to start off your session and you’ll have some gorgeous professional photos with your favorite furbabies.
Movement. I swear moving around helps get the anxiety out. Dance.It.Out. Often times I’ll ask my Couples to practice their first dance… or walk towards me… or walk towards me like they are tipsy… these prompts always make my Couples laugh and create some really fun images and gifs! Definitely have fun with each other. Play, tickle, dance, jump, piggy back rides, whatever you have to do to get yourselves comfy and having fun together.
Play Some Music. Before your session, sit down and create a playlist together… of songs that will get you feeling romantic or hyped or just overall comfortable. Or this might be the perfect time to run through your Wedding playlist!!! If you have a mini bluetooth speaker, bring it to your session (or ask your Photographer if they have one) so you can set the mood with music.
Focus On Each Other. This session is about YOU and YOUR PERSON. Try your best to get out of your head and into each other. Focus on their eyes, their intoxicating scent, the sound of their laughter. Remember why you’re here, why you’re taking pictures and most importantly, why you’re getting married, right? I know all of this is easier said than done, but I’m telling you, connecting with your person really does help. Close your eyes, breathe them in and pretend it’s just the two of you. If you are feeling romantic, whisper sweet nothings to each other, get romantic and be vulnerable.
Book A Day in The Life Session. If posing and “being fake” is what you are anxious about, consider choosing a Photographer that offers Documentary / Day in the Life type Sessions. Your Photographer would spend anywhere from 3-12 hours following you around and documenting how you exist as a Couple. That probably sounds awful for camera-phobic humans, but honestly, it’s fun. There’s no posing to stress about. Just pick a few fun activities that you would normally do together and go for an adventure…. or stay at home and just exist on the couch. Documentary Photographers love finding beauty in the every day mundane things we do.
Ask For Direction If You Need It. Q: Where do we put our hands? A: On each other. There is no silly, stupid or obvious question. If you’ve never had a photo session, you simply just don’t know. I am definitely a Photographer that strives for natural and unposed moments, but there’s a time and a place for everything. If you’re both feeling super anxious and unsure, definitely ask for guidance.
Ask For Creative Portraits. If you aren’t feeling the typical lovey-dovey, mushy, romantic kind of Couples Portraits, then talk to your Photographer about other creative ways to document your session. I personally LOVE creative sessions that show off the Couple as a work of art instead of traditional looking at the camera smiling portraits. I’m not knocking the traditional sessions in any way, but Creative sessions give room for so much more.
Honest Feedback. After your Engagement session, your Photographer is silently and impatiently waiting to hear back from you. Let them know how you feel about your session. Did you enjoy it? Did your anxiety subside? Do you love the images? Are there certain poses you would not want to do again? Feedback will help your Photographer serve you better on Wedding Day, so do your best to communicate your feelings about your Engagement photos!
I hope some of these ideas and suggestions have been helpful for you. Sessions can honestly be therapeutic for some. When you get your gallery back try to focus on the moments, the memories, the love, the emotions, your connection and less on any imperfections you think you have. I hope your experience in front of the camera is therapeutic, magical and freeing and I hope you love your photographs. All I want for my Couples is for them to have an amazing experience AND love their portraits.
♡ An Awkward / Anxious Wedding Photographer