Never Trust a Photographer Who Won't Get in Front of the Camera

Last month, I did a bunch of headshot sessions for some folks in Portland. Photographing all these people made me realize I needed a profile pic update for myself as well. At the very least, it would be a good reminder what it's like to be on the other side of the camera. So, I got on the phone and convinced my friend Jacob to take my portrait.

Now, I don't hate having my photo taken. But it sure isn't something I do everyday. I'm way more comfortable having other people in front of my camera because I'm in control!

"How do I look?"

The subject can't see what the photographer sees during a session. The subject has to trust the photographer...most likely a stranger. It's a frightening experience! And that's why people do this when they need a new photo for their social media profile:

Looking good, Señor!

Looking good, Señor!

Selfie sticks are great for when you're trying to look cool at a party or trying to be discrete while traveling in a foreign country. But sometimes you need a high-quality headshot or portrait of yourself.

My photo session

At the beginning of the session, I was annoyingly in photographer-head-space. I was thinking about light, backgrounds, and if Jacob's camera battery was fully charged. I really had to remind myself that the photos weren't up to me. I had to let go of control and trust his eyes.

(Photo by Jacob Penland)

(Photo by Jacob Penland)

Oddly, I was having a really hard time not laughing during the first part of the session. A lot of people tense up and stop smiling when the camera is pointed at them. Not me. I was laughing like I was watching a stand-up routine or something. Not sure why...maybe nerves. I wanted some smiling photos, but I didn't want to look maniacal.

Things settled down though, and I got used to the camera being pointed at me. I have to remember this when I do my next session with a client or friend. No matter what, the first part of the session is at least a bit awkward. But it gets better. After the warm-up, I could start concentrating on what I was trying to accomplish.

And by the end, I was having a lot of fun! I didn't even care that people were staring at me while I had my photos taken on the street.

(Photo by Jacob Penland)

(Photo by Jacob Penland)


Overall, I need to remember to have as much empathy as possible when photographing someone. It's not easy to have a camera pointed at you, even if you're around cameras every day.

If you're thinking about getting headshots or portraits done, keep this in mind: It's going to be OK. We're in this together. Finally, I'm never going to ask you to do something I wouldn't do myself!