Before we progress I will be referencing a lot of videos that are not necessarily photography based but will improve your photography quickly and effectively, videos that will outline techniques that will guide you on having the body language and posture of a winner, and tips that will help you eliminate fear and anxiety. You may be thinking, "but what does this have to do with photography?" everything. If you photograph people, whether it's models, guests at events and weddings or deal with client meetings these techniques will be indispensable tools to you going forward in your career; whether you're just starting out or a veteran. I use them daily to help me relax in stressful situations or give me that extra boost of confidence when I go into fee negations with potential clients.
Posture and body language.
This may seem like a strange topic, body language and posture, when it comes to photography but it's hugely important. Nearly 55% of all communication is non verbal; that means your body language/physiology gives away a huge amount about who you are as a person and how you feel. Your body language projects your emotional and mental state unconsciously to others and whether you like it or not they are subconsciously reading these signals and making judgements about your character and ability as a photographer. Whether you're on a shoot or meeting a model or client for the first time if you're feeling uncomfortable or anxious people are going to be able to pick up on it.
However there are easy techniques to change your physiology, consider them mental and physical hacks. But before we move onto them it's important to know the difference between having strong posture and body language that projects confidence and sureness, which creates trust as people look at you and think, "that photographer knows what they're doing", and posture and body language that projects fear, anxiety and will make people not believe in your abilities.
So you may be asking yourself, "why is this important as a photographer?" How it will really help on me set, with models, with clients? Let me ask you something, have you ever had a photo-shoot where all hell is breaking loose, the equipment is failing, the model hasn't turned up, the team has travelled from all over the country and gotten up at the crack of dawn to be there and a lot of money is riding on it? I'll tell you something, I have. In-fact that's exactly what happened to me in London in February this year. And the only reason I managed to pull it back from disaster was because I took note of my physiology/posture and changed it.
My travel had me arrive one hour late for the shoot and when I arrived my camera wouldn't work with CF cards in it - and that's all I had. I then received a call telling me the agency had pulled the model last minute and were unable to provide another on such short notice. The stylist had travelled all the way from Scotland, the MUA from Bristol and the Hair Stylist had changed her entire schedule to be there and they were all looking to me for answers. For me to be able to fix the situation there and then. What's worse is we only had a 4 hour/half day in the studio and we had already taken up 1 hour of that. Do you think I could have handled it if I did not feel certain in my abilities as a photographer or just confident in myself as a person. But i'll tell you something I didn't feel confident I felt as if the whole world were coming down around me and everyone was looking to me save it. But before I can tell you how I brought it back from the brink you have to know what constitutes bad posture and how it can effect you and those around you?
What is bad posture?
In the below videos Elliott Hulse of Strength Camp details the difference between good posture and bad posture. The first video is quite long at fifteen minutes but I urge you to watch the first 3/4 minutes as Hulse hammers home why your posture effects your mental state. The second video is much shorter and Hulse goes further into detail of how your body effects your mind.
One of the key points to take away from the first video is when Hulse says;
“If you feel happy, healthy, energetic you’re going to be nice and tall, you’re chest is going to be up, you’re going to look people in the eyes”
In the second video Hulse also makes a very good point when he say's:
"Now were you a loser, energetically, that means the type of character you have, were you a depressed loser and now you look like one? Or because of the physiological disfunction and neuromuscular disfunction you took on the shape of a loser and now you feel like a loser?”
What Hulse is asking is, does a lack of confidence stem from poor posture, as the body effects the mind, or can someone have low confidence and their physiology now reflects this? It's a chicken and egg situation really. One feeds off of the other; if you have bad posture posture you will start to feel bad, which will force you to continue having bad posture which will force you to continue feeling bad ad nauseum.
I understand a lot of people won't want to or be able to do the exercise Hulse proposes at the end of the second video, it's intense and a lot of people won't be able to have a completely empty home to scream at the top of their lungs in, your neighbours wouldn't be happy would they? But if you do, I urge you to try it, it really does work.
Take away point - Why your posture is important.
- Having good posture reflects and affects your sense of well being.
- By having good posture you will stand tall and feel sure of yourself and your abilities.
- Your posture can greatly impact on your energy levels.
- Having good posture can increase your self confidence.
How changing my physiology and posture helped me pull a shoot a back from the brink of disaster
So here I am in London with no model a broken camera and I'm running out of time in the studio and the entire team are looking to me to fix it. What did I do? First of all I excused myself from the set and looked for a small room where I could be alone for 2/3 minutes undisturbed; which turned out to be a small toilet. I went in and locked the door, looked in the mirror and took note of my physiology, my head was down my shoulders rolled in and my chest was dipped. I had the physiology and posture of a loser: I was anxious about the situation but I knew that being in this physical state was not good for me mentally and I had to change it. Here's what I did; I stood with my feet shoulder width apart, raised my arms above my head, splayed my fingers, like I an olympian who had just won gold and celebrating, raised my head up to the sky and forced myself to smile the biggest shit eating grin you have ever seen and I stood like that, on my own in a small toilet for 2 minutes! Ridiculous sounding I know, but it works. Why did I do this? Amy Cuddy's Ted X talk, that's why.
This video has had very profound affect on the way I think about my mind and my body, in fact I don't see them as two separate things working independently of themselves anymore. I see them as one integrated unit that works harmoniously and governs how I feel internally and externally. As Cuddy Says
I tell people about this, that our bodies change our minds and our minds can change our behavior, and our behavior can change our outcomes
Okay, I said I did one of her techniques, I did a variation of it. A mixture of a Tony Robbins technique (the smiling) and hers.
How did it help? I instantly felt better. No joke. I felt that I could remedy the situation. I felt in control. Most of all I felt certain, certain that I could handle it.
I immediately went back to the studio and asked one of the owners of the studio Arron, as he was also a photographer, if he knew of any models who lived close by who would be able to come and shoot on short notice. After looking through a number of models on Instagram I saw Alexandra who would be suitable and that lived 30 meters away! Arron sent her a message and after we negotiated a fee, as she would have to skip work that day, we confirmed her. Usually with editorial there would be no fee but as the whole team were relying on me I took the financial hit as it was better to be out of pocket than to have let down a fantastic team. Now I had to figure out what was wrong with my camera? After trying numerous CF cards I decided to try the camera tethered with no CF card in, and it worked!
Take Away Point: How Power Posing Can Help You
- Power posing decreases the stress hormone cortisol and increases the dominance hormone testosterone.
- The smallest change in your physiology can effect your mentality in a profound way.
- Power posing takes two minutes and can be done literally anywhere.
- Use power posing to give yourself a boost in stressful situations.
Below are the final images from the shoot. You will find a detailed lighting diagram along with camera settings at the end of the post.
“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
Being a photographer can be stressful. It is a demanding job physically and mentally and things don't always go your way and you know what that's always going to be the case. There will be road blocks and obstacles that come up that you cannot control. You can have the most fool proof plan, meticulous shooting schedule laid out and an amazing team in place but sometimes things are going to happen that can put you in a position where you could potentially fail. The famous quote “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” by Benjamin Franklin, is something to consider; everytime you put something in place to further aid you on a shoot, whether it's a reccie, a shot list or checking the weather you are creating barriers between you and potential failure: you are putting preventative measures in place to stop any mishap. If you have a shoot routine I urge you to add just one of the techniques outlined by Amy Cuddy or Elliott Hulse - see them as integral components to your shoots like you would your lights, cameras or lenses. These tools shape your images and you no doubt spend time meticulously choosing them so why not spend as much time choosing tools to shape your attitude?
Any questions leave em in the comments and I'll answer them.