• Sarah Tulej

Five common fears about having your photograph taken and how to overcome them

Updated: Aug 2, 2021

I've said it many times – most of us are camera shy. Despite all of us carrying a phone in our pocket, when it comes to striking a pose and getting a shot we really like it can be tricky. So having professional photos taken can be somewhat nervewracking! In this article I share some of the things I've learned, while taking many, many photographs of people just like you, to help you feel more confident.


1. I have no idea how to pose!

What on earth are you supposed to do with your hands, or arms, legs or feet for that matter! There are a few things that can help. First of all take a look on Pinterest at portraits of people and see what they do for a bit of inspiration. Most of the time you don't really need to do much at all apart from stand up straight and slightly turn to the side. Generally simple is best, or it can all start to look a bit staged.


The second thing you can do is practice in front of the mirror. You could try folding your arms, putting your hand on your hip, or transferring your weight between your front and back leg.


And finally, the best thing you can do is book a photographer that will give you plenty of guidance on the shoot. I literally tell people where to stand, what to do with their hands, whether to move your chin up or down, where to look. Generally it's about tweaking what you're already naturally doing so it looks great in the camera. When I first meet a client I subtly watch what they naturally do with their body so that I can work with it and get the best out of what already comes naturally. Oh, and I also give tonnes of encouragement. If a pose is looking good you will hear it from me, many times! There's nothing like some positive feedback to get you feeling confident and that will show through in the photos.


2. I don't know how to smile for the camera!

Another common concern is that we don't know how to arrange our face for a photograph. People either worry that they have an over the top, cheesey grin. Or that if they don't smile they look grumpy and moody. And yet, I can't think of a single client where we haven't captured natural, smiling and somewhat serious shots that they really love.


If you work with a photographer that understands how awkward you feel, they will know what to do to put you at ease and capture you looking relaxed and natural without you needing to try much at all. A lot of it is about feeling comfortable together, and spending enough time together so that you get warmed up and eventually lose the self-consciousness of being photographed.


Believe me, I take a LOT of pictures on a shoot meaning that there are plenty to select from and it doesn't matter if a load of them make you want to cringe - they will never see the light of day! I only ever show you photographs where I think you look good and like your true self.


3. What on earth should I wear?

This is a tricky one, I get it. After all, you want to look good and feel your best, and choosing the right outfit is a big part of that. First of all I would think about this well in advance and have a good try on in front of a full length mirror. Take photos and get a second opinion from your friends. If you really hate everything you currently own then it may be time to borrow or buy a new top or jacket (you could even check out clothing rental sites like By Rotation where you can borrow something for the day).


A good trick is to bring a few things with you on the day of the shoot so you can vary your look. You could bring a jacket and a jumper to take on and off, or a scarf. I have had clients do a full change in and out of a dress 'on location' with me holding my reflector up to cover their modesty!


I tend not to recommend particular types of clothing because I really think people bringing their unique style is what makes portrait photography interesting and unique to every individual. So, you do you and if in doubt, ask a stylish friend for a second opinion.


4. What if I don't like any of the photos?

I get it. You are spending money having your photos taken and you want them to be good. So good that you are excited to put them up on your website and sprinkle them throughout your Instagram grid. So, how do we make sure that you end up with a set you're in love with?


Absolutely key is getting a photographer whose style you like and who understands what you need from your photos. That's why I always have a very informal consultation call with my clients so I understand their fears, what they want the photos to be like and how they are to be used. Everyone is looking for something slightly different plus we all have our unique hang ups about our appearance. So, by understanding what's on your mind from the very beginning I can work with you to overcome any issues and allay concerns.


Then during the shoot itself I will show you the back of the camera so you can see how the photos are turning out. People tend to be pleasantly surprised at this point! But it's an opportunity to try out different things and reassure you that things are going to plan by showing you the results as we go.

5. What if people think I'm a show off?

Investing in professional photos of yourself is a big decision. After all, it's easy to stick with the one good one you had taken at work a few years ago or take a half-decent one with your phone. But one thing standing in people's way of taking the leap is the fear that people will perceive us as big-headed or a show off for using professional, high quality images of yourself online. After all, it does signal to the world that you take yourself seriously and want people to take notice of you and your work.


Now, I do get it. Many of us have real fears of being more visible and care a lot about what people think of us. But I'd argue that getting professional portraits is part of the journey towards becoming more self-confident and ready to make an impact in the world. Putting your face to your work and your ideas is such a big part of building your professional identity. If someone you haven't spoken to since secondary school things you're trying too hard then that's not your problem! And to be honest, most people will be thinking how great you look and how they should probably do the same.


So, show off, you have things to contribute to the world and it's time more people got to see your face!


If you're reading this and thinking it's time to get some photos of your own, I'd love to hear from you. And if you're not ready yet and want to stick with the DIY approach, check out my tips on how to take a great headshot.

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