The Secret Sauce To Creating Amazing, Natural-Looking Photos

March 21, 2024

Do you ever look at pictures of people  and wonder how they look so natural and carefree? Maybe you assume that other people are simply photogenic and know the best angles for good photos. Or maybe you're one of those people who love to declare how awkward you or your significant other are and you're hopeless when it comes to having your photo taken.

Well, I've done hundreds of photoshoots and I would say that 85% of the people I work with tell me they're awkward when having their photo taken. I would also say that 100% of the people I work with have an insecurity or are self-conscious about one thing or another when it comes to how they look. 100%!

Being a photographer gives me such a unique perspective into people (and their insecurities- but I'll talk more about that in a future post). For today, I'm just going to share some things I've learned from a lot of trial and error during these last 6-7 years.

You can call them "posing tips" if you like, but really it's just some advice to get people to calm down and have fun during a session with me or any photographer who has a more lifestyle approach to their shoots.

1. Don't be afraid to laugh and be goofy:

You know the best way to capture authenticity? By actually enjoying yourself! Okay, yeah it can feel weird when a camera is pointing at you and you're expected to laugh. But in my experience, fake laughter leads to real laughter. When you give yourself permission to not have it "all" together, you allow yourself to be imperfect. To laugh and act stupid. And then something amazing happens... you can relax and enjoy yourself. What! Because the pressure's off. It usually take some warming up, but once people realize the world isn't going to end if they step out of their comfort zone, that's when the magic happens.

2.  Move your body:

Not gonna lie, it's a little funny when I lift up my camera and couples instantly go into what I call their "camera phone go to pose". You know the one—they wrap one arm around each other, the woman cocks her hip (sometimes she'll also put her hand on her hip) they stare at the camera and smile. Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with that pose. But it's so automatic to couples that each time I lift my camera, they go back to that pose. Kind of like robots, there's no thought or emotion to it. It's automatic.

To truly capture the essence of a person, you need to feel how full of life they are.

So don't be a robot! Move your body—dance, laugh, sway, hug, walk, play, do it all. The awesome thing about professional cameras is they can capture it all! That's why they're so expensive.

3. Take a deep breath:

I know telling people to relax is annoying and doesn't really work but still... RELAX. I often have clients take a deep breath with me so both of us can take a moment to be still. Often people (me included) can get so frazzled, nervous, anxious, excited, inspired, etc.that we forget to breath and stay grounded. When our nervous systems are filled with the chaos of our day or maybe anxiety around doing something new, it can lead to more stress than is necessary. A photo session is meant to be fun and even meaningful but if you're stressing out about the outcome or how awkward you think you look then that leads to more stress and awkwardness. BUT, if you force yourself to slow down and take some deep breaths, your whole body can relax and your mind will stop overthinking everything. If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me "What do I do with my hands?" I'd be a very wealthy woman.

4. Be a little flirty:

Don't be afraid to show your significant other some affection. I know some people don't love PDA, but during your photoshoot is the BEST time for it! The more you lean into your love and appreciation for each other, the better we can capture it. Also, having this time to appreciate each other can lead to images that show true vulnerability and intimacy within your relationship. And there's nothing more impactful than that. The more you let go and lean into intimacy, the more you're going to look back on these photos and still feel that love. They'll be like a beautiful little time capsule.

5. Embrace spontaneity:

Things often don't go as planned, so it's important to roll with it. Sometimes, locations aren't as expected or children don't behave as we hoped—but instead of getting frustrated, it's best to just pivot a little. In that same regard, if an idea pops into your head, share it! If you get the urge to spin your significant other around, do it! Being spontaneous and flexible is part of the journey and can often lead to some of the best pictures. It can also make the session way more fun for you, your loved ones, and me!

6. Lots of kisses:

This goes along with the flirting tip! Except you can kiss anyone- on the cheek, forehead, on your dog's nose. Kisses show how much you love them!

7. Focus on each other:

When clients are uncomfortable or don't know where to look, I'll often tell them to focus on the person they're with. Whether its your husband, child, sibling, best friend, or dog—when you focus on who you're with, you worry less about the camera pointed at you. It also makes photos look a lot more natural. You're more comfortable with the people you love so concentrating on them, maybe getting them to laugh or flirt with you, draws out emotion and is the secret sauce to an amazing photo! So forget me and focus on who you're with.

8. Lastly, don't expect perfection. News flash: there's no such thing.

As humans, we tend to believe in the illusion of control. If we do this and that and work really hard, then we can make things turn out the way we want them too. But let's be real, we can plan and plan and things can still go sideways. When it comes to photoshoots, I've seen people spiral, panic, and even cancel due to having high expectations that come tumbling down around them. Whether their child is having a tantrum right before we meet up or they hate everything in their closet and have nothing to wear—there are some elements of life that we can control and a lot we can't.

This is why I send out my photo session guide to people not long after we book their session, to prepare them for all the things—from big to small—that they should expect and what they shouldn't worry so much about.

Even if things do run as smoothly as possible, they still won't ever be perfect. And I wouldn't want them to. I don't aim for perfection. I aim for authenticity. Instead of worrying about things looking perfect, our intention should be to create powerful images through being authentic to the moment. So if your hair is out of place or your dog refuses to look at the camera, embrace the moment for what it is. Perfectly imperfect.