WHY WE SHOULD PRACTICE BEING PHOTOGRAPHED

     I hate having my photo taken. My face contorts awkwardly, my fists clench and I make weird noises. Seriously. And here’s the thing, I am not alone. The second I understood this, it actually became quite worrying to me as I make a living photographing other people. The more I realized how awkward I was when being photographed, the more I realized that my clients likely felt the exact same feelings. BUT..THIS.WAS.AWESOME. I thought of this knowledge as a secret weapon, a way to relate to people, to empathize and in turn make them feel as comfortable as I possibly could. I spent years telling clients what I thought I would want to hear while being photographed, until one day it hit me: If I desperately try to avoid having my own photo taken, how could I possibly relate to these people who are paying to be photographed?

SELF PORTRAIT PROJECT
I decided to start a self portrait project. The idea was to take a photograph of myself every day for a year (ridiculously ambitious, I know) I made it to 6 months, and it was hard work. There were many days that I dreaded the thought of standing face to face with my camera. I dreaded what I would see when I uploaded the photo to my computer. For the first month I found it very hard to even look at the camera, I felt so much more comfortable looking away.

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As time went by, I realized it was just a camera, and it was not judging me-I was. So I started to look at, I stared it down and realized it was just a thing.

Self Portrait

I now implement the “don’t look at the camera right away” idea. I let clients get used to the camera being there and to the sound of the shutter, I give them time to relax and then I have them look.

SELF PORTRAITS TOGETHER 
It was during the act of taking a “selfie” with Hugh that I realized I was now super uncomfortable being photographed WITH someone else. We realized that we were nervous together, as I am sure so many of our clients are. We felt like there was a spotlight on us, and perhaps the camera would show us something about our relationship that we didn’t want to see. This presented itself as another challenge to overcome and we started photographing ourselves together on a regular basis. It taught us where the insecurities are and how we can eliminate those insecurities in our clients.

Self Portrait

HIRING A PHOTOGRAPHER
We took our challenge one step further in order to truly feel exactly how our clients felt. Hugh and I made a list of our favourite photographers that we would love to hire to photograph us. We decided that anytime we traveled somewhere, we would try to organize a photoshoot with one of these photographers.

Our first shoot was in England with Ed Peers (www.edpeers.com). What a man. This guy is incredibly talented. Prior to meeting with Ed my palms were sweaty and I cursed the damp weather for ruining my hair. Ed instantly took away my anxiety with his kind demeanor and wonderful conversation. We were so stoked with the experience and even more stoked to see the photos, but what stuck with us the most was the instant feeling of comfort and safety. This feeling is something every photographer should experience in order to pass it along to their clients.

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Our second shoot was in Seattle with Jonas Seaman. (www.jonas-seaman.com) Another wonderfully talented man. Jonas approached the shoot in the coolest way ever and we felt like we were literally just hanging out with him as he showed us around one of his favourite neighborhoods. He multitasked talking and shooting in such a way that we never actually felt like we were being photographed. This instantly became my new skill to master!

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After all was said and done, Hugh and I have some really sweet photos together, wonderful new skills to work on and a greater understanding of our clients. So go out there and get photographed. Be vulnerable. How else can we relate to our clients if we do not experience the same things they do?

  • don said:

    amazing article jen. keep up the rad work. you are a legend.

  • rebekah j. said:

    so good! love this post, and especially that first self-portrait. incredible.

  • Mark said:

    You're so awesome for writing this post! I share a creative space with John Newsome and we both feel super awkward in front of the camera. We decided every time we go out for lunch or go out for a fresh air we bring our Fuji's with us and take photos of each other. It's only been going on for 2 weeks, but after awhile it gets better. Anyway good read!

  • Jade said:

    Love this beyond words! Such a great idea :)

  • omalley said:

    love this!!! what would you use to take your self portraits (as far as trigger and stuff) or would you just put it on a timer? Such an amazing idea...feeling very inspired :)

    • admin said:

      Thank you!! I just used the timer and a tripod!

  • Joti said:

    Oh boy! That must have taken some guts. As a photographer, I fear being in front of the camera, which like you is really weird especially when people are paying you to be in front of your camera. I think I'll need to start experimenting (with some reluctance)! You are entirely inspirational! Thank you! I can't wait to hear about your workshops in the winter! I'm eager to join. :)