It’s not uncommon to get nervous before a photo shoot. In fact, I’ve worked with stage actors who perform in front of hundreds of people and even they tell me that having a camera in their face can be nerve-wracking.
I wanted to share some of the things I’ve learned over the years to help you go into your photo shoot feeling more optimistic. I’m including some samples of headshots I’ve taken for clients so you can see how it looks for when individuals are feeling on top of their game, in front of the camera.
One sentiment that seems to help calm nerves is that the camera doesn’t actually worry too much about how you look. In the right hands, it captures energy on a more subtle level, and it is much more about how you FEEL.
You want to roll with what you’re actually feeling. So, if you’re feeling nervous before your photo session, you might not be able to get yourself feeling relaxed (although a glass of wine might help!). But you can probably get on top of the nerves and feel confident or fun or excited.
A good photographer will be able to distract you enough with banter so that you forget about the camera. For instance, I usually try to make jokes, which I’m not particularly good at, so me making a fool of myself will get more attention than the fact that a camera is pointed at you.
Still, I’m a take-charge type, and when planning for my own headshots, I like to have proactive steps I can take in advance to make sure the photo shoot goes more smoothly. If you’re like me and you’d like some practical steps, here’s what works for me:
1) Stockpile sleep. Get at least 8 hours the TWO nights before your session, more nights and more hours, if you can manage it. I find rest is the best healer, information processor, and nerve-calmer there is. If you have trouble unwinding, try things like lavender, a sleep mask, ear plugs, and cultivate a relaxing atmosphere by turning off all devices a couple of hours before you’re going to bed.
2) Hydrate. Drink extra water the day before the photo shoot. It keeps my complexion looking smooth, brightens my eyes, and overall improves my disposition. My doctor recommends getting a high-quality water filter. You can also carry a bottle with you throughout the day if you know you forget to refill your glass.
3) Plan your wardrobe, try it on with shoes and everything. Already knowing it fits, the zipper doesn’t stick, etc., will go a long way towards making the process of getting ready easier. (Women: see below for wardrobe ideas!) I tried on everything I wanted to wear a few days before I was having my headshots taken to make sure the shoes worked, I had the right undergarments, and to consider the shade of lipstick I wanted to wear.
4) Breathe. Last year, I learned a technique called “belly breathing.” You can learn it from a yoga instructor, or you can look it up online. I used belly breathing in the car on the way to my shoot in order to calm nerves and feel more relaxed. You’ll also find you probably hold your breath when you’re being photographed — most people do. I remind my clients to breathe a few times during the shoot, but you can also remind yourself as you go into the shoot. Deep breaths help slow down your heart rate and make you feel more centered.
5) Marketing strategy. I ask my clients to tell me what kind of uses they have coming up for headshots. Try to think beyond social media. Do you have any press opportunities coming up or other places you’ll want to use your photos? Having a sense of these things in advance can help achieve more variety during your session, which means you’ll get more leverage out of your shoot. Also, by thinking of your goals, you can embody the traits you want to play up during your session — having a positive focus helps keep nerves at bay.
Even trying 1 or 2 of these tips that feel natural to you should make a big difference to your disposition. If you give them a try, let me know. I’d love to know how they work for you.
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P.S. Here’s a women’s wardrobe tip: I’ve been loving the concept of renting clothes for special events — keeps my closet minimalist, and lets me try new things. Plus the dresses I wore for my photos won’t get old when I see them in my social media profiles every day, because I have long sent them back and can simply enjoy them in the photos.
I have used Rent the Runway, and they carry high-end designers that photograph beautifully. You can take 20% off your first order with code FIRSTRTR20P. FYI, their customer service is not the greatest if you have any issues. (Their automated emails don’t show consistent info with one’s online account, which they told me they are working out the kinks on. But their phone online chat services have limited hours, too.) When it works, though, it’s a cool service, and I love the clothing selection.
(I’m affiliate of RTR but opinions are my own.)