Today I was chatting with a prospective portrait client – a local small business owner – and she complimented how my portrait clients all look so good! “These aren’t models,” she said, “I know they’re real people. So how do they look so GOOD and NATURAL?” Then she went on to tell me – as nearly everyone does – that she doesn’t photograph well. That she isn’t photogenic. That she is sure I have heard this before but that no, really, trust me, she is really the least photogenic person in the world.
I don’t believe that people are either photogenic or not photogenic. In my experience, people who say they “aren’t photogenic” are usually people who get so nervous and uncomfortable in front of the camera that they freeze and blink and do funny things with their mouths and hunch their shoulders and act all weird. Then, to top it all off, they are hypercritical of themselves and their own photographs.
People who say they “aren’t photogenic” are also usually people whose only experiences with having their photo taken are family vacations, parties, iPhones, and various unflattering snapshots. People who say they “aren’t photogenic” almost never work with professional portrait photographers who know how to make a person feel comfortable and relaxed, who know how to craft the light, who know what background to look for, and who know how to get great expressions.
Feeling comfortable in front of the camera is the secret to great portrait photography. What I told my prospective client this morning, is that most people are a) afraid to have their photo taken and b) don’t trust the person behind the camera. So my secret to making great portraits is getting my client to feel comfortable, to relax, and to trust me.
I have never had a client tell me that they hated how they looked in their portrait. Instead, they look through their proofs and say “Wow! I didn’t know I could look like that!” or “That is so much better than what I normally look like!” My personality, my shooting style, my knowledge of lighting, my equipment, and my experience all combine to ensure that my portrait clients look great.
Next time you see a snapshot of yourself and cringe (and it happens to us all), remember that it’s only a snapshot and please don’t let it prevent you from hiring a professional photographer to make you a wonderful portrait for your business, your family, or your LinkedIn profile. I love the challenge of photographing people who don’t think they photograph well – the joy and surprise in their beautiful final product is a terrific reward.
Here are some photos of people who said they “aren’t photogenic” or “don’t look good in pictures” or “hate having their photos taken.” You be the judge!