Ask the experts: shy teens
Q. I’m fairly new to senior portraits. I love working with teens, but some are painfully shy and awkward. What are some things I can do to help put them at ease?
A. One of the most important things you can do is a consultation. I like to use Facetime for this meeting so we can interact before the session date. During this call I get a feel for the student’s personality and body language. I ask a series of questions at this time, and one of the most telling is, “Is there anything you’re nervous or worried about regarding your session?” I hear all kinds of answers, and even the nervous kids will open up about things they’re worried about. I pay special attention to those things during the session. For example, a girl might tell me that her mom always says that her smile looks fake in photos. During the session I’ll comment on how natural her smile looks so that she relaxes. I’ll ask her to laugh so her smile truly does look great. If someone is nervous about a physical feature, I take care to get a great shot early into the session and show them the back of the camera so they can appreciate how good they look and get them motivated.
I ask all kids what they’re into, their favorite memories from high school, and what they most look forward to after graduation. This is even more important for seniors who are really shy. During the session if you can talk about some of the things that are important to them, whether it’s books or animals or superheroes, they’ll be able to focus on those things instead of being self-conscious.
Connection is important, and that initial Facetime call makes a huge difference in the success of the session. If students are comfortable and trust you, you’ll have a much easier time putting them at ease while you’re making their portraits.
Lori Nordstrom, M.Photog.Cr., Lori Nordstrom Studio