Stressed out person during headshot session


Almost everyone that comes to me shows at least some tension before their headshot session. This is absolutely normal. Especially for those who have no modeling or acting skills, which make up a good portion of my clientele. Most folks don’t like to have their photo taken professionally. Some are afraid of what they’ll see — which is normal, it’s like hearing your own voice, it’s not something we are accustom to so we fall out of our chairs when it happens. I remember walking by a glass building before and for a split second not realizing the person I was seeing reflected back at me was me. When I realized it was actually me I almost had a heart attack. Unaware and unarmed with personal bias, for a few seconds, I’d been judging the characteristics of this stranger that turned out to be myself. 

Stressed out person waiting for headshot session
Person waiting for headshots

When asked by clients what they can contribute to help the process go well I tell them simply to try and relax. Easier said than done. I know, as I’m one of those that find it hard to relax in front of a camera. When you’re relaxed you are like a blank canvas of yourself. From there I can can offer little tweaks here and there to optimize the angles and ultimately create an interesting composition. I think going in to a photo session one of the bigger causes of tension for a client is not knowing what’s expected of them and a belief that it’s mostly up to them to provide what’s necessary for a good image. Now this may be true when it comes to making sure your clothes are ironed, or you’re not falling asleep (but even a lot of this can often be adjusted in photoshop). But when it comes to posing, or finding the right angle, or making sure your wardrobe is in place, it helps to know that none of this falls on you. And honestly, If you’re working with a decent photographer, you really don’t have to know much of anything. Or really do much of anything for that matter other than listen and respond. 


So how does one relax for a photoshoot? There are endless methods. Here are a few of my favorite:

1. Alter Preconceptions and Your Internal Dialogue 

What I’m referring to hear is exactly what you’re doing now. Through a bit of education you’re coming to the realization that it’s not all up to you to get a good photo. Knowing you don’t need to do or know anything will take the edge off. And this isn’t some cheap mental trick — It’s true that it’s my job to know, not yours. This is why it’s important to find a photographer you trust. Let me make an important distinction here, though. Because knowing how to pose or choose the right angles is up to me, not you, it’s still important that you communicate any ideas you may have. By that I mean if you have a look or mood you are going for in general, I’d suggest full participation in that part of the process. 

2. Breath

Yes, I’m sure you’ve heard this one before, but it works. Sometimes 10 deep breaths in and out will do the trick. If you feel weird taking random deep breaths, well then don’t. Simply paying attention to your regular breathing can also help.

3. Listen 

Listening can help calm the nerves in multiple ways. First, by listening you are forced to forget about yourself. One of my takeaways from the theatre years ago is that a good actor really listens when the character is called to listen. A bad actor acts like they’re listening while focusing on something else—often their next lines. That’s debatable I suppose but the point stands. When we are listening, and engaged, and our attention is turned to the other, we tend to forget about our worries, at least to some degree. It’s my job to give you things to listen to. First and foremost that thing to listen to is direction. Along with direction I often add in some explanation for my choice as it both helps you to understand the process and gives you something to think about. 

4. Ask Questions 

Don’t hesitate to ask questions about the process. Anything from what does this big box that flashes do to is it better if my jacket is closed or opened. 


Although it’s normal to feel stressed before a headshot session, there are things you can do to help mitigate if not get rid of the stress altogether. I think the most effective way to do this is to try and come out of oneself and focus on the other. Listen and remind yourself it’s not necessary to know what to do.  Please contact us with any questions.

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