I love emotions. I love lively and vivid images of people at their best. I try to capture and bring out every sparkle and every expression and here is a confession I have to make: it’s hard. Sometimes very hard. I wish there was a magic spell that would turn rubber smiles and stiff poses into happy, laid-back images! When I started as a photographer my biggest question was how to help my models relax in front of camera, or better still, forget that camera altogether. Here are a few simple things that helped a lot along the way and help me still.

#1 – Fall in love
The best advice for making an excellent portrait is to be in love with your model. You should be in love to see her beauty, to catch her moods and expressions, to tune your camera with her vibes. The truth is, people love to be loved, everyone does. They adore being the object of someone’s (yours!) sincere attention. They take off their masks and put their guards down, when they’re in company of someone who cares about them.

#2 – Ask questions
Nine times out of ten people tell me before the photoshoot that they can’t pose. Neither can I, I reply. Posing in front of the camera is a job that few do well and most of them happen to be professional models. Everyone else, you and I included, feel uncomfortable in front of the camera. And the more we try to force that “natural look” the worse it becomes. It’s really, really hard to be yourself, to shut off a tiny voice in your head repeating ‘What should I do? How do I look? Am I too fat?’.
Well now, when you take pictures of people, how do you make them pose without knowing that they are posing for you? I suggest to distract their attention from posing to something more interesting. Ask them questions! Everyone likes to speak about himself.

#3 – Smile
People tend to be empathetic. They feel your emotions and return them to you without even knowing it. So, smile if you want them to smile. Russian portrait photographer Sergey Sarakhanov once said that sometimes he shows the best shots to his models and asks them ‘Why were you looking at me like this?’ Many of them reply ‘Because this is how you were looking at me.’

#4 – Make it fun
If you are photographing children, the simplest way to take happy pictures is to make them happy and capture their emotions. Blow balloons, find swings, give them lollipops, bring a puppy, make a mystery cave under the table. Play with them. Tell them jokes. Make faces. And, I assure you, it works with adults too!

#5 – Have enough time
Whenever I am short on time I stress. Will I make it? Do I have enough pictures to choose from? I bet, my model has the same thoughts. In most cases it is absolutely impossible to take good pictures when you’re in a hurry. That’s why I never do shoots that last less then 2 hours. Even if I take pictures of my friends and family. They feel comfortable with me, not with my camera. Often, the better you know the person, the harder it is to switch to the working mode. And there is always a ton of things to talk about!
The bottom-line is, your model and you need time. You have to get used to each other. Have a walk. Have a talk. Take your time. And take great pictures!

Written for http://fairiesandco.com