Photographers – How to stop being nervous for your photoshoots

guys senior pictures in Green Bay

Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

It’s ok to be nervous

I want to start by saying that I am a huge introvert.

At one point in my life I had crippling anxiety and depression. So I understand how complex and difficult it can be for someone who is dealing with this type of issue. 

To turn things around for me, It took some rather extreme life changing events. I had to make some major lifestyle changes and have the openness and willingness to work on my issues daily.

Now I am quite comfortable in my own skin and enjoying life!

However, even long after resolving my major issues I still had a lot of anxiety when it came to certain things. For instance, when I first started my business I would get super stressed and anxious about just responding to simple email inquiries. Portrait sessions would sometimes really gear me up.

I try to  make sure I am very prepared for my photoshoots or portrait  sessions. I will sometimes scout multiple times and have a lot of ideas for each location outfit etc… This was especially the case when I was first starting out.

A family affair

I was at a family gathering about ten years ago at my aunts and most of my extended family was there. After the gathering I was going straight to a senior portrait session and remember feeling extremely nervous about the shoot even though I was thoroughly (overly) prepared.

I will never forget the conversation that I had with my stepfather. 

I was explaining to him that I was extremely anxious about the upcoming shoot after the gathering (this was one of my first seniors when I was just starting out).  He replied to me. “I am not concerned that you are nervous about the shoot. That shows that you really care and that you want to do a great job. It is natural to be nervous. Now if you weren’t a bit  nervous, I would actually have more concern.”

When he said that it really struck me as great way of looking at it. I mean, it did not make me any less nervous but definitely changed the way I looked at it.

Images from that early session

Working through The fear

Since that day I have shot thousands of portrait sessions with paying clients. I have to say, I still get a bit nervous. 

But the thing is I have a bit of a callus built up to that particular anxiety and fear. 

I say fear because it really is a fear. A fear of maybe not doing well, messing something up, looking like an idiot, feeling awkward and a host of other irrational fears that we all have.

I say irrational because I have now done all of those things (more than once)  and yeah they kind of sucked at the time but A) I usually learned something valuable and B) I was just fine afterwords.

It is the same thing with in-person consults and viewing appointments. 

At one time the thought of doing in-person meetings and sales terrified me. Today I do get a little nervous, sometimes more than others, but it is like I really know how to deal with it. 

But how do you deal with that anxiety and nervousness  before and during a photoshoot?

Sure there are things you can do in the moment to help. Sometimes I do breathing exercises and other mood elevating things to feel calm and confident going into it. 

But what has taught me how to deal with the anxiety more than anything else is to just repeatedly face that situation over and over again. It really does get easier the more you do it.

Actual photoshoots are a bit different than just meetings. What I have noticed for me is the initial anxiety is about the same leading up to the shoot… maybe a bit less because I love phoshoots. This is a time I get to be creative and energized so I know going into it I get more of a reward and feeling of accomplishment.

I am still typically a little anxious, especially when getting the session started. This is usually the first time I have worked with the client and I have to get them comfortable and relaxed right away. 

What you need to understand is that most of your clients will be nervous before the photoshoot as well. It is your job to help them get relaxed and comfortable during the photoshoot. You need to guide them and let them know how to look confident in photos.

This brings up an important point. You must be perceived as confident. (even if you do not feel like it inside) Fake it till you make it. It works.

The more you push through this the more confident you will become. Pretty soon you will just be super confident when shooting. It will sort of sneak up on ya 🙂

One thing that definitely helps is that we meet in person a few weeks before with all of our senior clients. This gives us a chance to get to know each other prior to shooting and makes a big difference. This also lets us address any concerns they may have while letting them know what to expect.

Once the session is going things sort of take over and I get on a bit of an adrenaline rush. This can be awesome but can get too intense at the same time.  A few deep breathes can help get you grounded.

Anxiety can stop you from thinking clearly and make decisions like “hey, I need to pivot and look at this another way” So you often have to just pause and take a few good breathes to collect yourself during the shoot. This can make all the difference.

If a shoot is going well the nervousness and anxiety for me just sort of melt away. Especially when I have some awesome shots and the client seems happy and relaxed.

However If things are not going as smooth  just remember to stay calm, breathe and just do the best you can. Not every session is going to be easy. 

But you can always do your best.

Summary – How to stop being nervous for your photoshoots

How to stop being nervous for a photoshoot

  1. Be prepared for the shoot.

    Have a game plan. Know exactly how you will start the photoshoot. Lighting, posing location, etc… Do any necessary scouting and make sure you have proper equipment for your photoshoot. This also means you should be confident using that gear.

  2. Have an in person consult

    Meeting with your client or subject a week or two before the shoot can help ease anxiety for you and your subject

  3. Breathe

    Practice daily breathe work and or meditation to keep your general anxiety low. Know simple breathing exercises to do before and during your shoot.

  4. Persistently put yourself out there

    The more you push through the anxiety the less it will effect you. You need to get out of your comfort zone. It’s good for you.

P.S. I mention breath work a lot in this post. I am a huge fan of all things Wim Hoff. The cold showers can be a bit extreme for some but I personally find them highly beneficial. 

Here is also a great book on different types of breath work called Exhale by Richie Bostock – Amazon Affiliate Link

P.P.S. What causes you to get stressed out or anxious when shooting portraits or running your business? Let me know in the comments down below. Maybe I can help.

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