Tips For Shooting Portraits of Timid People

Dressed in Cotton

“I’m not photogenic,” is what you hear from people sometimes, even if they know you’re a great photographer. There are people that are timid about their photographs being taken and sometimes we forget how to get around those problems. Here are a couple of methods that you can use to make people get over their self-consciousness and bring out the best in them.

Play Dress Up and Put the Person In Their Element (or take them out of it)

There is a part of every human being that loves, “playing dress up.” Whether it’s Halloween, a special event or something else we all put on different clothes for different purposes. People act differently in business attire than they do in their pajamas. In the above photo, this girl pictured is having fun with the stuffing of a pillow at the pillow fight in New York City. She was originally a bit wary about having her picture taken but when I presented this idea to her, she loved it.

As a photographer, you need to let your creative juices flow right there on the spot. It’s essential that you are able to use what you’ve got right there too.

Christine and the car

What also helps is being able to take a person out of their element and make them bring out another side of them. This works very well with musicians, artsy types, or enthusiasts of some sort. In the photo above the girl was more than happy to dress 80’s style. Putting her in front of a car (which was another photographer’s idea) was something made the model comfortable and also put her in the situation and moment.

Extra Tip – there is a current trend where everyone loves vampires and the whole Twilight phenomenon. Why not make someone dress up as a vampire and do a photoshoot with you? It’s guaranteed to be heavily promoted on Twitter or be popular with at least one person in your social circle amongst others.

Use Masks/Props and Have a Vision

When a person is “in character” or they have a mask of some sort then their timidness cannot be shown. Add in props to this and explain your vision to them and you’ve got yourself a winning formula. The image above was taken for a class project that I had to do: photograph someone’s emotions without showing their face. This can be done through body language, doing something like that can make some people feel awkward.

When I explained the project and my particular idea to the subject, they thought that it was controversial and because his face wasn’t being shown, he liked it even more. Using the props that were available in the studio and adding in the extra creepiness factor made the images work and satisfied the subject quite a bit. Additionally, because the idea was “out of the box” it scored extra points for creativity.

Of course, keep in mind that your vision should be flexible and be able to accommodate to the person you are shooting’s demands, needs and wants. However, keep your project on track.

Red Riding hood

Give Into Their Demands

As stated earlier on in the post, models and the people you are photographing always have demands. Sometimes they are more quirky and weird than others. However, you should give into them or find a way to negotiate in such a way that both of you are satisfied. In the above photo (shot at Comic Con ’09) the woman said that she is only allowed to be shot screaming, with a knife to her throat. In contrast, I wanted to photograph her Little Red Riding Hood costume. She said that wasn’t allowed so I let that pass with the understanding that she worked for After Dark Films and they have strict rules as to how certain people can be photographed. That’s how this expression was captured. It sure beats just seeing her in an over-sexed costume.

Additionally, her eyes are piercing–which brings us to our final tip.

Sofia Regan After Crying For 3 days

Accentuate Their Positive Features

This should be kept in mind at all times when photographing timid people. They usually have self-consciousness issues with their bodies or looks and are particular about how they are photographed (if they are at all). In the case of the actress that was photographed above while I was DP on a college film shoot, the actress just really wanted to be able to have the photo if it came out great looking. It did, but in order to get it this way her better features needed to be accentuated while still keeping the idea of the film in mind (which was about her playing a suicidal artist). She has beautiful skin, eyes and a natural beauty to her in addition to lovely hair: plus she wanted to ensure that it all looked flawless. All of this was captured while showing the fact that she had been crying for the past three days in order to keep her in character for the film. It was done with the use of precise lighting, make-up, and during a time that was convenient for both of us while the other details for shooting were being setup. In this case, it satisfied our portfolio needs and the needs of the film.

How do you bring out the Let us know of any other tips down below in the comments.