When I first started photography I stuck to landscapes and inanimate objects because they were easy. I didn’t have to worry about a something judging me.
It took me a couple years to become completely comfortable directing people. Here are some things I’ve learned along the way:
1. Confidence – This is key to anything in life, right? If you are unsure about yourself, other people with be unsure about you too. This will show up in the photos. Have confidence that you’re gonna get the shot!
2. Build Rapport – Your aim is to make your subjects feel comfortable. Genuinely engage. Ask questions. Instead of being in your head about getting the perfect shot, focus on making them (and yourself) feel comfortable. One thing I have found that makes people feel extra comfortable is if they feel you aren’t putting pressure on them. People like being around relaxed energy.
3. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. I love this quote by Madonna – “A lot of people are afraid to say what they want. That’s why they don’t get what they want.” Think it would be cool if your subjects got in the water but it’s a cold day? Ask! You’ll be surprised how willing people are.
4. Start out with action shots. Posing can be awkward. If your subject isn’t used to be photographed, he/she is probably thinking, “Um, there is a ginormous camera in my face. . . I don’t know what to do.” One of my favorite things to do when starting a shoot is have people simply walk. Or run. The only way they can look weird is if they run like Phoebe on “Friends.”
5. Ask for input/ideas. Some people voluntarily share their ideas. “Oo, ice cream shop! We should get ice cream.” Others leave creative control completely up to the photographer. I always like to get input from the couple, or anyone who’s around me.
6. Photograph people AS THEY ARE. If you ask someone mellow and low key to do something goofy, it might look strange. Stick to what is genuine to their personality.
7. Create a moment. Sometimes I’ll ask people to do something but have ulterior motives. Like if I say, “Give me sexy,” 99% of the time people will burst into laughter. Snap snap snap! Success!
If you are fairly new to photography, I would simply suggest to practice practice practice. Ask your friends and family (pets don’t count) if you can take pictures of them. Quickly you will start to define your style, be more sure of what you are looking for, and have confidence in shooting!