How to Make People Feel Comfortable In Front of a Camera (With Science)

by Barry AnderssonLeave a Comment

I ran across this video and I thought it is worth a watch.

One of the main things we all shoot, regardless of our market or genre, is people. Whether or not you are working with actors, a professional spokesperson or “non-talent” talent, those that aren't used to being in front of a camera, they all share the same thing- they are human.

So if you can better understand how people react in front of a camera (whether still or video) that can only help you in getting better performances or capturing more natural moment. This video features a portrait photographer, Peter Hurley, and a psychologist Anna Rowley discussing how a camera affects people and what that says about them. Here are a few of the highlights.

What is your relationship with your appearance?
From birth, everyone is given or saddled (depending on how you look at it) with your appearance. There isn’t really much any of us can do to change what we look like or our physical appearance. This means everyone is left to make a decision themselves as to if they want to embrace their appearance or run from it.

– The person who is being photographed is the only one capable of how they feel about the final image
– There is a gap between how we see ourselves and how the world sees us

If Miss Universe isn't satisfied with her appearance then what hope is there for the rest of us?

– Why do people feel so vulnerable before they are even in front of the camera
– What happens to people when the camera is pointed at them
– What can the photographer/Videographer do to quiet the internal critic

As humans we are attracted and repelled by our own appearance. This is based on the level of personal acceptance or the size of the gap between who we feel we are and who we really are.

The camera shines a light on that gap.

We live in a fault based society. We all are taught from an early age to look for faults, imperfections and to seek out where we fall short. Rarely do we celebrate what is good about ourselves.

So for most people, the bigger the gap the more likely they will feel bad in front of the camera.

The lens is an extension of our harshest critic – ourselves.

No matter how good the image it's the level of self acceptance that shapes how one feel about the image. So even if you take the perfect picture it doesn't matter if the person in the photo has a large gap in acceptance.

When people find themselves standing in front of the lens they often suffer from what can be described as – Imposter Syndrome. Or the fear that we will be found out.

In order to avoid being found out, we act out in a few basic ways.

Behaviors people adopt to cope being photographed are narrowed to the following list:
– Confident and Happy. They enjoy being seen.
– Becoming something or someone else.
– Try to hide from the camera
– Be nowhere near the camera.

So the way we cope with the camera is often the way we cope with life.

– Own it
– Pose
– Diminish
– Avoid it altogether – otherwise known as PAS- Picture Avoidance Syndrome

So if people really don’t like to have their picture taken or aren’t confident then how can you explain why people are “selfie” crazy?

Once one decides to take the picture they have broken through the PAS syndrome. They are in control of the picture.

How to Make People Feel Comfortable in Front of the Camera

So what changes when there is a cameraman behind the camera?

They are no longer in control. It's disturbing to people.

Can we reframe the way we look and feel about ourselves?

You won’t be able to have the time or expertise to help change people to their core when you are filming or taking a picture of them. However, the more you understand peoples psychology then the more you can find ways to communicate with them and help capture beautiful images that your client might actually be happy with.

What defines us? Or better yet what makes us us?
Turning points are experiences that change the way we think, feel and behave.

3 Unique Characteristics.
– Require us to make an unambiguous decision
– Can't Go Back
– Life Trajectory Changes

What are you Trajectory Changes?
What decisions did you have to make in your life?
What did you have to change based on that decision?

Turning points identify our beliefs. These are the core of our substance. Those are the things that make me me and you you.

A way to indentify beliefs is to have people complete this statement:

I am a person who…

I am a person who is resiliant
I am a person who has courage.
I am a person who risks forward.
I am a person who makes good decisions for myself and my family

What is interesting is that never has anyone said I am a person who has a big fat head or I am a person who has crooked teeth.

Or I am a person who is a failure.

But for some reason when capturing people on camera they focus on those things that they don’t associate as them.

So can you use this and get them in the “moment”. Can you capture the real “you”?

Possibly the most fascinating thing on earth is the human face. We all look at images and video featuring people.  And we love the variety that each face brings. But for every face we see in a photo there is someone behind it who is likely unhappy with the result.

Every face you capture has beauty in it regardless of how the subject feels about themselves.

Everyones beauty is different.

The beauty is always there. Just sometimes we can't see it.

How one chooses to walk in their body is their choice. So try and help your subject embrace their body during the time you have them. That is the goal but the process getting their is less obvious.

Do you have any techniques you have used when photographing or filming someone? Please share your success (or failures). My guess is you are not alone.

Happy Shooting!

How to Make People Feel Comfortable In Front of a Camera: Bridging the self-acceptance gap with “psyphotology”

Via Youtube Description:

This talk was given at a local TEDx event, produced independently of the TED Conferences. Professional photographer Peter Hurley and psychologist Anna Rowley have devised a simple way to overcome your fear of the camera lens. They call this unique combination of their two disciplines “psyphotology,” and what they’ve learned can help us shift our perspective away from judgment and criticism and toward better self-acceptance.

Read about this article on Gizmodo “How to Make People Feel Comfortable In Front of a Camera (With Science)”

(cover photo credit: snap from the video)

Barry Andersson

Barry Andersson is an award-winning director and cinematographer. Mr Andersson takes his real world experiences and shares those images and lessons with everyone from the US Marine Corp combat camera teams, many of the leading teams of the four major sports leagues, leading universities around the US as well as leading productions looking to take advantage of the latest technology.

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