I’ve worked as an event photographer an average of 40 to 60 events a year for the past 10 years – and at every single one there is at least one person (sometimes more than one) who says to me, “I hate getting my picture taken!” This happens at weddings, at corporate events, at press launches, promotional shoots, conferences, even family portrait sessions where I’ve been specifically brought in to do the portrait. As an event photographer, you need to jostle shoulders and work with and amongst, hundreds of strangers all the time. You can’t afford to have a thin skin or take comments like that personally, but I have to admit – every time I hear it, it stings a tiny little bit. Even though I know I can make whoever is saying that look great, there’s just something so definitive and forceful in the way people say. But I have also learned that the real reason some people hate having their photos taken is because they have some level of low self-esteem, or a sad way of seeing themselves that doesn’t focus on what makes them beautiful. As someone who has looked at, and found, beauty in literally thousands of unconventional faces, I have a few tips to share that might help you if you happen to be one of those people that hates being photographed.
- Smile. This is really painfully obvious, simple and often very hard to do. Especially for adults (which I’ve written about here). But I guarantee that whatever you may think you look like and however you may be feeling towards the photographer taking your picture, a smile will make your whole face look more attractive. Even if you don’t feel it, take a page from AA and “fake it to make it.”
- Be patient: if you give the photographer just a few seconds of your attention – and pay attention to what he or she has to say – you can greatly improve the way you look in photographs. For heavier-set people, or people with broad faces, standing tall with a straight back and a very slight projection of the chin towards the camera can create a thinner, more streamlined look for your face.
- Work the angles: a full frontal image is often the least creative and most unflattering look for anyone. There is a reason it’s called a mug shot. Even if you are just chatting away with a friend at a cocktail party and the photographer asks for your attention, you can still take a second to pose with one shoulder turned slightly away from the camera to create a more dynamic image of yourself.
- Ask to see the photo: While not all photographers may accommodate your request, I always without fail show the photos I’ve taken to anyone who asks. I fully appreciate that people like to control their image and want to be okay with what gets shown and possibly used by event organizers on websites or other distribution means. I am happy to have the subjects approve their photo and often delete images at a subject’s request, even if I think it is a good shot. Looking at your photo also gives you an instant understanding of what you can do to change your pose or look to achieve the kind of image you will approve for wider release.
- Have fun with your photo: There is no rule that says you need to be serious or pose sedately with a demure smile when asked to do so at an event. If you are being photographed it is because you have been invited to some kind of memorable party or event. You are a guest in the wedding, an employee at a company sponsored event or someone of influence whose been invited in by a big brand to hopefully be encouraged by the experience to blog something positive about the brand. Regardless of why you are there, the fact that you are there at the event means you are a guest and you should be having as much fun as you feel comfortable having. Let that show to your photographer and you will help create a spunky, happy, maybe a bit silly but always cheerful type of image that event organizers love. Feel free to pose playfully – as these often make great photos that event organizers will likely use as they “show people having fun at the event” (a phrase I’ve seen written into several event photography contracts).
Finally, it’s important to understand that if an event photographer has been hired to cover an event you are a guest at – it’s his or her job to take photos. He or she is going to flit around the venue for hours and hours and take lots of pictures, some of which you will probably end up being in. You may ask to be excluded from an image, but if you find that the lens is on you for whatever reason, rather than turn away (and risk showing an exaggerated oversized distorted arm), the best thing you can do is grin and bear it. Life is a camera, so keep smiling.