Meet Jodi Bodtke, also know under the brand name Giving Tree Photography – a young and talented photographer from Michigan, who likes experimenting with light, loves her husband, Lake Michigan and garage sales. She tends to tear up at every wedding that she photographs and believes that showing your subjects your vulnerability helps building trust and makes them more relaxed in front of the camera. We asked Jodi to share with us some of the techniques she uses to help clients loosen up and act natural during the shoot. Keep reading..
Jodi, how do you make your clients relaxed and comfortable in front of the camera?
Before snapping the first frame, I let my couple know that it’s completely normal to be nervous and uncomfortable, and that most people don’t enjoy getting their photo taken (especially me). Relating to them in that way knocks out the obvious ‘elephant in the room’ – that this whole thing can feel very awkward and unnatural. With that said, I also encourage them that the more fun they have with the shoot, the better the photos will be.
I assure them that I won’t just “leave it up to them”- I will help place their bodies and give plenty of direction, but for the most part, they will be interacting with each other. I encourage PDA & being extra snuggly. As the couple becomes more and more comfortable, I give less direction and let them roll with it. Complimenting them on things they’re doing well also goes a long way.
I highly encourage my couples to talk to each other during the shoot. About how awkward they feel, what they love about each other, about how silly they feel, about anything. I also do plenty of talking myself. I meet about 90% of my clients at the start of their shoot, so engaging with them in conversation about who they are and genuinely showing interest in them relieves some gawky tension. Asking them questions, asking them to tell me their proposal story, what they’re looking forward to about the wedding & about life together, etc.
Vulnerability is huge. In both engagement sessions and the wedding portraits, you’re asking two people that you hardly know to be vulnerable in front of you, someone they hardly know. To put down walls, to show emotion to each other, to be romantic, and to be raw with each other. Simply addressing that with a “Hey, I know this requires vulnerability, but the more true affection you can show to each other during this time, the better your photos will be.” Address the obvious. Also, vulnerability goes both ways. If I am vulnerable with them, that forms trust. Be warm & open.
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What type of tricks & tactics do you use to extract genuine emotions from your subjects?
Often when I have my couples cuddling close, I’ll have them whisper ‘sweet nothings’ into each other’s ear – which is such a cheesy and uncomfortable request that it almost guarantees some laughter.
As previously stated, I encourage plenty of talking & interacting. Even as I am talking to them, telling a story or asking questions, the key is to keep snapping. Laughter is a common conversation piece. Just keep shooting.
Movement. Have them dance, twirl, walk, run, hug, spin. Get their bodies moving.
Have them close their eyes for a few shots, and keep them closed while you shoot around them. That helps them feel like they’re the only ones there.
What advice would you give to those who just start or aren’t good at this?
Keep practicing, get as much experience as you can, and don’t let discouragement drive you to giving up. Take as many shoots as you can, ask friends to model for you, get out of your comfort zone. One of the biggest learning curves I’ve experienced was coming to the realization that it’s not about me. Its never about me. I needed to put myself in my couples’ position & recognize that they are significantly more uncomfortable than I am in the current situation. Understanding that made it easier for me to get out of my own comfort zone and do everything I could to make their experience as natural, fun, & free as possible.
Gear – Canon 5D Mark iii, 35 1.4, 50 1.2, 85 1.2
Favorite Presets – VSCO
Favorite Playlist – Pandora: Damien Rice, The Crane Wives, All Sons & Daughters, and an occasional dose of One Direction.
Favorite Books – Nope.
Life Motto – “Work Hard, Stay Humble”.
Micah 6:8 “Act justly, love mercy, & walk humbly with your God.”
We hope you’ve found these tips useful and practical. Also, check out what Artur Zaitsev suggests doing when your clients are more on the shy side and feel tensed or stressed during a photoshoot.