Trusting the Photographer

My best friend Mandy and I have been taking photos together for the entirety of our friendship, dating back to the seventh grade. Before digital cameras and cell phones, we were doing selfies and photoshoots in our childhood bedrooms and bathrooms. That's pretty gutsy, when you think about the fact that teenagers like us who only ever had summer jobs in late high school had to convince our parents to pay to have film developed of these silly times.

Mandy and I know now, as a result of those times, how to get each other's good angles. I happen to know that Mandy has a perfect nose and light blue eyes that she's proud of. Being honest with your photographer about what you think are your best traits helps her find the right "look" for your photos. Also being willing to take risks in a photo can yield some amazing results. Mandy and I, having known each other for so long, have obviously developed trust and ease with one another that allows us to take photos that might be intimidating to new people.

Of course, it's simple for me as the photographer to feel at ease; I'm in my element, doing what makes me happy. Some people—probably most people—don't particularly enjoy vamping and vogueing for cameras, and I've heard so many people say they hate having their photo taken that I get a twitch in my eye when I hear it now. I get it! Especially in photos taken by novices, snapshots can be poor representations of how we hope to present ourselves to the world. Inexperienced photographers have little concern for making their subjects feel at ease, and are much more distracted by just getting everything in the shot that they want to.

I do what I can to help photo subjects enjoy themselves! Of course, I know it's unreasonable to hope that new clients will trust me right off the bat, but when they open up even a little bit, we all wind up having a good time taking photos. I remember my own husband in our wedding photos awkwardly looking up at the photographer and not understanding what he was supposed to be doing with his hands, because he didn't actually trust that the photographer had a vision. (I cringe looking at the result of that particular moment whenever I see it; the photo is well-taken but my husband clearly wants to run out of camera shot.)

What works for you? What helps you feel more comfortable? Should photographers do trust exercises and ice breakers? Perhaps that's going a bit too far. I'd love to know what you think in the comments below, though.

And, to prove my point about trust, here are some of the photos I took of Mandy that I couldn't have without her trust that something great could come out of it.

 I love this dramatic photo. The story behind it isn't dramatic—Mandy has an IKEA gooseneck lamp in her home and we proceeded to have a full photoshoot underneath its sparse light.

I love this dramatic photo. The story behind it isn't dramatic—Mandy has an IKEA gooseneck lamp in her home and we proceeded to have a full photoshoot underneath its sparse light.

 Mandy stood under a willow covered in hoarfrost without her jacket on in 20-degree weather as I stepped side to side, adjusting my flash and settings to capture this amazing moment.

Mandy stood under a willow covered in hoarfrost without her jacket on in 20-degree weather as I stepped side to side, adjusting my flash and settings to capture this amazing moment.

 It's amazing what you can come up with as a prop that changes the tone of an image. In this case, it was a scarf. It didn't seem like much, but the more I asked Mandy to move around in the shade and light between tree limbs, the closer we got to this NatGeo-inspired image.

It's amazing what you can come up with as a prop that changes the tone of an image. In this case, it was a scarf. It didn't seem like much, but the more I asked Mandy to move around in the shade and light between tree limbs, the closer we got to this NatGeo-inspired image.