“I’d rather go to the dentist than have my photo taken.”

Can you relate?

I know I can. Or at least, I could.

I used to get major anxiety just thinking of having a photo session. I imagined myself being totally awkward, not knowing what to do with my body and forced, fake smiles and a stressed out look in my eyes. I was also really worried about the photographer thinking I was an idiot and getting irritated with me. (Yes, it’s happened.)

There’s also this fear of looking terrible in the photos. The feeling that you really should lose weight first, or wait until you’re feeling better about yourself.

I think knowing how it feels to be in this position has helped me relate to my clients and I photograph in the way I want to be photographed.

I want to hang out with someone I like and who I can relax with. Someone who knows how to capture my vibe and can bring out natural expressions. (Thankfully I’ve found Pia Gyllin, who does exactly this! She took these photos of me.)

Light and airy brand photos of photographer, Janine Laag and her dog

Why should you share photos of yourself in the first place?

If you’re running a business, I don’t think it will come as a surprise that you have to get your face out there.

The fact is that if no one knows you exist, it’s very hard for them to book you or buy from you. This means lost business opportunities.

Not only that, but think about why you started your business. Chances are you wanted to help, to make life better and to solve your clients’ problems. Can you imagine how heartbreaking it would be if those people who really needed your help, didn’t get the chance?

You don’t need to LOVE the camera, but there are ways to get photos of yourself that will work for you. It doesn’t need to be (and shouldn’t be) a painful, traumatic experience.

Rather than focusing on practical tips for relaxing during your photo session (those will come soon), I wanted to dig a little deeper and talk about where the fear comes from and how to shift your mindset.

A relaxed photo of Cecilia Isakson from Urban Paleo wearing yoga clothes

So, here are 6 tips for a relaxed photo session

1. Talk about what you’re nervous about

Before my photo sessions, I send a detailed questionnaire to my clients so I can get to know them and their business better. It really helps me to know what kind of photos they need, who they are trying to connect with and how I can help.

One of my questions gives them the chance to tell me what kind of photos they don’t like of themselves.

This gives them a chance to tell me if they feel self-conscious about something, or if there’s anything they want me to keep in mind. So many people have replied to this saying that just getting the opportunity to tell me this is enough for them to start feeling relaxed.

Just being able to verbalise what you are afraid of is sometimes enough to make it feel smaller and less overwhelming.

I’ve noticed the same thing myself. If I can just talk about the fact that I’m feeling nervous, stressed, tense or whatever, it’s often enough to let me start relaxing.

This is also another reason why it’s important to find a photographer that’s just right for you. If you know that I’m aware of how you feel and that I’m going to do my best to bring out the best in you, it’s much easier to relax and just go with the flow.

Personal brand photographer, Janine Laag, in a meeting with a client

2. Focus on how you feel rather than how you look

My aim is always to take photos of my clients looking their best. Of course. We talk about what clothes they can wear, I look for the best light, choose the best lenses for the shot that we want to create, and I keep in mind the most flattering angles, movements and body language.

Even more important than this, though, is to take photos that show how good they feel.

This means that I won’t promise that out of ALL of the photos in their gallery (which is usually a lot), there won’t be a photo of their ‘bad side’ or some double-chin action, or maybe some messy hair. But if I look at that photo and can feel something and get lost in the moment, I’ll keep it in there.

This is what your audience wants to see.

If someone is considering working with you or investing in you, I can almost guarantee that they don’t care how much you weigh or if you have a bump on your nose or whatever. They want to see that you’re a person that they can relate to, like and trust. Someone who they can feel confident will be able to solve their problem and deliver a product or service that they need.

When we look at a photo of ourselves, we don’t just see what we look like in that moment, we see how we felt when the photo was taken. So if you were feeling good and if the photo session experience is positive, you will be much happier with your photos and you’ll be much more willing to share them to promote your business.

I’ve written another blog post about how to feel more relaxed on your photo shoot, and how this leads to great photos. Read the post here.

Author, Jenny Sandfors, relaxing with her hands on her chest by the water

3. Remember that it’s not about you

This one’s huge. 

When you’re being chased by a tiger, you don’t have the headspace to worry about the people around you. Your focus is just on you and getting out of that situation.

So while we’re obsessing about ourselves, how we look and what other people might think of us (the metaphorical tiger), it’s impossible to pay attention to the people around us and see what they might need.

Your clients want you to solve their problems. They want to invest in you because you are the best person for the job and because they think they would enjoy working with you in the process. They don’t book you based on whether you have a flat stomach, toned arms, or look a certain way.

Go back to your ‘why’. If you can focus on your purpose and the difference you can make to people’s lives, it takes a lot of pressure off you.

The photos that I take are less about showing what you look like, and more about sharing who you are so your clients will realise they can’t live without your help.

Personal brand photos of Christine Ljungberg in a consultation with a client at Hotel Nobis

4. Plan well

I work closely with my clients to plan the type of photo session that is right for them.

We work backwords, focusing first on who their ideal client is (ie. who they are speaking to), their ‘why’, how the photos are going to be used, and the reason their clients choose them – and how we can capture these qualities in photos. We choose locations based on my client’s brand aesthetic and what makes sense for the stories we are capturing. We discuss the kind of clothes that will enhance their images and what props they should bring to their session.

If you can go into your session knowing what to expect and knowing that you have prepared well, you will be able to just relax, let go of all expectations and enjoy the moment.

This is when the magic happens.

A black and white photo of a happy woman

5. Get help with your hair and makeup and choosing the right clothes for you

I work with the most amazing team. I work with stylist Carolina Henning, from Private Shopper Stockholm, and hair and make- up artist, Mia Adam. They have helped a lot of my clients before their photo shoots, and it’s amazing to see the confidence they get when they know that they’ve had the right help. It also gives the photos such a huge lift!

Styling with Carolina

I had my own styling session with Carolina recently, and it has totally changed the way I think. About myself and the way I choose clothes.

She has a philosophy that I love, that there are no ‘right or wrong’ body shapes. It’s just a matter of choosing outfits that bring out our best. She has taught me what colours look best on me with my skin and hair colour in mind, she made me realise that I always buy clothes that are too big for me and she was completely understanding when I told her that I hate ironing. She chose clothes that were just right. Outfits that, to be honest, I would’ve walked past in the shops because I’m so stuck in my routine of wearing jeans and wooly jumpers, but I LOVE them!

I’m going to talk more about preparing for your photo session later in the week and I’ll touch on choosing what to wear and how to work with Carolina then. If you have any questions in the meantime, leave a comment below or send me an email. You can also check out Carolina’s website here.

Hair & makeup with Mia

Starting photo day having your hair and makeup done by Mia is the best way to relax and get into the right mindset for the session.

The result is really beautiful and natural, so my clients look like themselves, but just on a really good day. Makeup tends to disappear in the camera, but she knows that I mostly work with natural light and she knows just what we need to get the right results.

Both Mia and Carolina have helped a lot of my clients, and I’ve found that having their help before photo sessions removes a lot of stress and self-doubt (and it doesn’t hurt that they’re both incredibly nice people who take really good care of my clients).

Stylist, Carolina Henning in Cannes and make up artist Mia Adam, working with a client

5. Choose the right photographer for you

If you choose the right photographer for you, it will remove a lot of stress so that you can actually just relax and be yourself.

When you’re looking around for a photographer for your brand photos, there are a few things you should look for:

  • make sure you LOVE the style of their photos, that the lighting and editing suits your style and they have the right vibe for you.

  • make sure they understand brand photography so you know that when you get your photos you will actually be able to use them for your website, social media, printed marketing materials or whatever you have in mind. This will make it so much easier for you to relax.

  • make sure you get a feeling for who the person is and that you actually like them and feel that you can relax and be yourself with them.

This is so important! And why shopping around for the best price isn’t the best way to save money. If you don’t choose wisely there’s a bigger risk you won’t love your photos, you won’t use them and you’ll just end up having to pay for another session.

I never hesitate to recommend a different photographer if I feel that I’m not the perfect choice for someone. This has absolutely nothing to do with ego. It might be that I can see that a different photographic or editing style would be better, or that I think they would be a better match for some other reason.

Photography is a big investment, and I don’t take that lightly. I want my clients to be really happy with their experience of working with me and I want them to love their photos.

Tell me

I’d love to hear how you feel.

Do you love having your photo taken, or can you relate to the fear of photo sessions? Do any of these tips help? If you’ve had a photo session with me, how did you feel? Leave a comment below and let me know.