“I HATE having my picture taken!”: Five Tips for the Reluctant Subject


“I don’t like having my picture taken!” Those are often the first words people say when they arrive for their photography session.

Many people put off having their picture taken for years. They say they’re waiting until they lose weight or until summer when they have a tan or…. And time ticks by. There is no need to wait. When done right, you can have a great photo taken at any point in your life.  And you will never regret it.

If having your picture taken causes you anxiety, as it does for many, here are some tips to overcome it and help you get the best photos.

Tips for a successful photo session

1)    Find the right photographer.  Before setting up an appointment, do your research by checking out websites and calling to learn about the photographer’s process and work.

  • Does the photographer use professional lighting? The right lighting is essential to a great photo. Inside or outside, it’s extremely rare for “natural light” or overhead office lights to be sufficient; studio lights make all the difference because they direct light to your face and project the right color temperature.
  • Does she or he do magazine-quality photos, or do they look like snapshots? (Don’t settle for less than the highest quality.)
  • Do they offer custom retouching?
  • Is this their full-time vocation, or is it something they do on the side? Have they invested in the equipment and resources necessary to be a true professional? Do they have a fully equipped studio?
  • How many years of experience do they have?

These are all important elements to your decision and will help you be more confident about your session.

2)    Identify what you don’t like about past photos of yourself and discuss it with your photographer. If you hate your freckles (or nose or hair color or double chin or whatever), tell the photographer up front. A great photographer can help diminish what you see as flaws – either with lighting or retouching – and bring out your best features.

3)    Prepare for your photo session. Practice smiling in front of a mirror. Find what you think is your best smile and keep doing it. Remember what it feels like so you can replicate it during your session. Wear something flattering that doesn’t distract from your face. Remember to avoid white shirts or jackets. Apply makeup as expertly as you can, if you wish, or even consider having a professional apply makeup. And (don’t forget!) brush your teeth very well. Today’s digital cameras pick up the smallest details.

4)    Relax and exude confidence!  (Even if you have to fake it.) The one thing your photographer can’t bring to the picture is your confidence – and it is absolutely the most important aspect of your photo. While a great photographer can help you feel comfortable and coach you, they cannot inject joy and self-assurance. Only you can do that. And when you can reflect those feelings, your photos will be exponentially better!

5)    Be kind to yourself. As a photographer with more than 25 years of experience shooting models and celebrities, I can assure you that not one face I’ve ever photographed was flawless. EVERY face has some lack of symmetry (did you know that almost everyone has one eye larger than another?) or blemish or wrinkles. These variations are part of what make us unique. Perfection is unrealistic. Smile wrinkles, dimples, beauty marks, small blemishes…they’re natural and part of who you are. Embracing our flaws is healthy, however they can be toned down if they are bothersome to you. A great retoucher can even slim you down a few pounds. The best approach to retouching is to diminish – but not necessarily eliminate – perceived flaws. This can be achieved with custom retouching, not just running a filter over a photo, which can look artificial or cheap.

The goal is to create an image of you that enhances your best qualities and helps people see you in the best light. When you employ these tips, you can book that appointment with confidence. Show up knowing you’re about to have a great experience and walk away with an outstanding headshot that you’ll be proud to share!

Andy Greenwell is an award-winning photographer with a professional studio in Metro Detroit. He has photographed thousands of people – both enthusiastic and reluctant — and helped them enjoy the experience and be happy with the resulting photos. 

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