How to Stop Getting Flustered Whilst Photographing People

Did you recently start to take photos of people OTHER than your family?  Yes? Then, let me guess how you felt.....

You found yourself getting more and more flustered, unsure of what you should be doing next, worrying that you haven't got any good shots and feeling like you really needed to hurry things along because you were really taking too long getting your settings right.

Did that sound at all familiar? I bet it did! Most people when starting out have those exact same feelings: like we are being judged by how long we take, and not knowing how to make the session flow, or feel confident throughout. 

So, in today's post, I am going to do my darn best to make sure that you feel calm and in control during your next photography session. 

Let's get going shall we? Read on! 

Photography Tips | How to Stop Getting Flustered When Photographing People

Visit the planned location ahead of time

There is nothing worse than turning up at a location and realising you have no idea WHERE you are going to place your subjects - or what you had originally planned in your head won't work at that time of day. 

True story: I once scheduled a shoot for the beach in the morning to try to get the best light, but when we turned up on the actual day of the shoot, the tide was in and we couldn't even get on the beach! So even though you think you know your location like the back of your hand, you still want to visit it ahead of time, and AT THE SAME TIME YOU PLAN TO SHOOT. 

Cannot stress this enough. 

Here are some things you want to think about when visiting your location: 

  • Is this location going to be quiet at the time I plan to be here? Is there anything planned to happen here on that day?

  • Do I need permission for shooting here?

  • What different areas can I place my subject in?

  • Where is the light going to be at the time of my shoot?

  • Where can I place my subjects so they get the best light?

Scout the whole place out and try to think about where you can put your subjects -  you are going to want more than just one area, so have three or four different backdrops mapped out that is easy to walk to.  

Having all this done ahead of time means you know exactly where you are going to go. No more wandering around aimlessly, trying to figure out where to next whilst your subjects trail around after you.  

Instead you'll look calm and completely in control - which in turn helps you FEEL calm and in control.  (Fake it till you make it) 


Sketch out some shots / poses ahead of time

Now that you have your location and visited it ahead of time, and know where your subjects are going to be within that, the next step is to map out some ideas for shots and poses. 

The best way to do this is to try to visualise the end result and sketch that out on some paper.  Go onto Pinterest and get some inspiration (if it's children you are photographing I have a board for you right here) and start drawing!  Remember to try to include a range of different types of images, for example, some full body, some half body, some faces only, some detail shots and so on.   

If you are doing lifestyle / documentary images (or even posed images with young children which, let's face it, is more, er.......fluid) don't for one second think this doesn't apply to you too. You can absolutely still sketch things out so you have a game plan of what you would LIKE to capture.  You might not get it all, or even half of it, but you'll have a good idea of what you are aiming for before you start photographing, and also something to refer to if you freeze up and feel like you are shooting the same thing over and over again. 

I really do promise you that by doing this - even if you come home with only half the shots on your list, or less - that you will feel more confident when shooting, because you have it all mapped out.  

Reducing what you have to think about during the actual shoot is the key to being a calm and happy photographer 😇

Now Tell THEM What to Expect

At this point, you are a woman with a plan. You know where you are going to be shooting, what "backdrops" you are going to be using, and you have a list of images that you want to try to take. 

The next step is to communicate this with your subjects BEFORE you start shooting. 

Tell them you are going to go to a few different places at this location, and will getting a range of images at each one.  It's also important to tell them that you will spend a few minutes at each location considering the light and where best to place them, and if it's not working out in a way you like, you'll move on,  Also make them aware that there might be some "hanging around" time whilst you get everything the way you want it.  

By telling this in advance they know you have a plan, and that if you move them around or a spend a few minutes looking like you are staring blankly off into space, it's not because you don't know what you are doing, it's because you are thinking about the best way to get the best shots. 

The final thing to communicate to them is how long you think the shoot is going to last overall. That just helps manage everyone's expectations. That way they don't think they'll be able to wrap it all up in 20 minutes whilst you are planning on taking an hour and a half. 

Slow down when shooting

Having created this "plan" and having communicated all that to your subjects means you are in the best possible mental place to start taking photos.  You have gotten rid of half of the things that could be taking up precious space in your head when photographing, leaving you free to concentrate on getting your settings right. 

At this point, you may still get flustered because you are trying to quickly change settings when you change location or when you move in to take a close up shot. 

The point I would make here is: there is no rush.  The only person that is creating that rushed feeling is you.   Even if you end up standing there for a full minute considering your best settings for what you are trying to achieve, it really won't seem that long to the people you are photographing.   They just think you are doing what you need to do.  

(Remember to communicate to this to them too during the shoot: "I'm going to spend a few minutes now getting my settings right, so you can take a breather!" and so on) 

The more you slow down the calmer you will feel, even if it means that the shoot lasts ten minutes longer overall. A calm, happy photographer who takes an hour and ten minutes to get the shots they wanted is much better than a frazzled, ruffled photographer who takes 40 minutes but the images are all underexposed and out of focus. 

Know thy camera

The final tip is nothing really to do with what to do on the day or even before it, but rather something you should be doing all the time. I see many people start to take on paid work when they are simply not ready to do it, because they don't yet understand the settings on their camera. 

Learn your camera. inside out. Learn how to shoot in manual mode (even if you don't end up using that mode to shoot in during a shoot) Learn about focus and the different strategies you can use. Learn about white balance - how to get it right in camera or set in processing - in short, know about EVERYTHING so all you are having to do when photographing people is get in the practice. 

The more you understand your camera and it's settings, the more confident you will be, and the less flustered you will get.  It won't matter that the three year old keeps running off in a completely different direction, or your background doesn't work, or the tide is in (!) because you will know that you will be able to deal with whatever is thrown at you. 

If you feel that understanding your camera is something you could do with a little help with, check out my course Auto to Awesome - after you have finished you will have SO much more confidence about which settings to use and why, and when to use them.