Feeling awkward in front of the camera

As professional wedding photographers, one of the most asked questions we get from clients is about feeling awkward in front of the camera and what to do about it. It comes in different descriptions:

  • “I feel awkward in front of the camera”
  • “I’m not photogenic”
  • “I don’t look good in photos”
  • “I hate having my photo taken”

If you ever think any of those thoughts, this post is for you.

Why we all feel awkward in front of a camera

First of all, why do we feel awkward in front of a camera in the first place? In everyday life there’s rarely a moment where we experience a similar event. You don’t think about how to hold your hands while choosing a watermelon in the grocery store. You just do it naturally.

The feeling of discomfort only happens in situations where we become extremely self-conscious about how someone else (or a camera) perceives us. We want to look our best, but don’t know how to make it happen physically (because we never practice it). Next thing we know, our mind kicks in and tells us how awkward we must look to the outside world, and that it’s a lost cause. So we freeze up, or overcompensate, which makes us look uncomfortable or stressed and reinforces our mind in its ramblings (“see, I told you you don’t look good in photos”). Wash, rinse, repeat.

So how can we break this vicious circle of feeling overly self-conscious?

Tip #1: feeling awkward is normal

The first remedy against feeling awkward in front of a camera, is knowing that you’re not alone in this feeling. Except for professional models (and even they did when starting) everyone feels uneasy or nervous in front of a camera. We’ve worked with hundreds of clients from all over the world, with different cultural backgrounds, ages and religions. And all of them consistently shared a sense of feeling awkward in front of the camera.

I can relate. As much experience as I have being behind a camera, whenever Tanja aims a lens at me, I feel like a deer caught in a headlight. Sure it gets better with time and exposure (forgive me the pun) but that initial awareness of “I’m on camera” never goes away. All we can do, is work through it, which brings me to the second remedy: knowing it’s a temporary thing.

Tip #2: feeling uncomfortable is temporary

Tanja and I have worked with hundreds of clients, and every single one of them looked amazing in their photos. Not because they were experienced models, but because feeling awkward is a temporary thing.

During your photo shoot, it’s important to know that the discomfort doesn’t last. Knowing this is half the work, because it helps you realize that you too can feel relaxed and have fun during your photo shoot. The awkwardness is there, but only for a bit.

Tip #3: the awkward photos will never see the light of day

Guaranteed, your shoot will contain a few awkward looking photos. Way, way, less than all the amazing ones, but nonetheless. And that’s why our clients never see the entire photo set. We always pick the very best photos for them, and eliminate the rejects. I’m pretty sure that’s what any professional photographer worth their salt will do for you. Consider it an essential part of the ‘magic’ that a professional performs for you. Just like when you go to a restaurant: you want to enjoy the meal by eating it, not see how they prepare it.

Tip #4: trust yourself, and your photographer

When you booked a professional photographer for your photo shoot, you were convinced they were the best choice for you. So why second guess your own judgment? Trust yourself, and know that you’re in good hands with your photographer. They know exactly how to make you look your best in photos.

Tip #5: a drink on shooting day keeps the awkwardness at bay

Before every photo shoot Tanja and I sit down with our clients for a casual chat over drinks. The choice is always theirs, but we’ve learned from experience that a small amount of alcohol before the shoot is the perfect cure for nervousness. Take note, I said a little bit. For most people this means no more than one glass. You know yourself best, so dose accordingly.

Tip #6: you can’t feel awkward while playing

Play really is the best medicine against feeling awkward. Think about it: in play, you never feel awkward because you’re totally immersed in enjoying the experience. Even when playing a game of ‘be as awkward as you can’ will only add to the fun. Play makes you forget about your immediate environment, and enjoy the moment. Consequently, you’ll feel relaxed and at ease.

During our clients’ photo shoots we include plenty of games and interactive ‘poses’, designed to keep you immersed in the moment. You’ll instantly forget you’re in a photo shoot, and will show your most authentic and upbeat self, which reflects in beautiful photos.

Guaranteed success

In our 8+ years of photographing weddings we’ve never photographed a couple who were professional models. For a lot of them it was their first professional photo shoot ever. But they all looked consistently amazing in their photos.

Most if not all of them felt nervous at the start of our shoot, but we helped them work through it by making use of the remedies above. So if you’re still doubting if these tips will work for you, take a look at our blog.

And most of all, have fun!