Portrait photography has its challenges in every type of portraits. Teen photography is no exception.
Teenagers tend to be very self-aware. Some may even feel a little awkward in front of the camera when it comes time to have their photo taken.
Here we’ll outline some tips to get real expressions while the teen has a fun experience.
1. Don’t Force Your Teen to Pose
It doesn’t matter if you’re posing the whole family. Posing a teen can be quite challenging.
They may not be willing to do certain poses because they feel silly, childish, or uncomfortable. Teens are perfectionists in knowing which angles work best for them thanks to social media.
Instead of forcing them into a pose, try and allow the teen to pose naturally and without much direction.
This can bring about more natural expressions and give them a little more authority about their photos. Whether in a family setting or individually. If they get stuck, help them change up the pose with something you feel would work for them.
Forcing poses can make the teen’s experience during the photo session less positive. And it can hurt you in the end because they’ll remember how they felt and that can affect how they react to the final images.
Reassure the parents that you’ll get natural expressions and get photos of the teen being exactly who they are. Eventually, if you connect with the teen, you’ll get a few smiles out of them and willingness to participate.
Speaking of smiling, don’t force smiling either. Some teens may not like to smile or have a preference for not smiling with teeth. Make sure that you respect this by not forcing them to smile.
If after a few attempts to get them to smile fail, tell them it’s okay to not smile too. More often than not, saying they don’t have to smile relaxes them. And soon they will be smiling on camera because you’ve allowed them to simply be themselves.
2. Have Them Move Around Constantly
Teenagers get bored easily so it’s best to keep them moving. Move them from one side of the family to the other.
Or ask them to walk around while you photograph them.
Ask them to joke around with others at the session to help them loosen up a bit. If they are with family, have them joke, play, run, or jump. This will get them a little more comfortable with having their photo taken.
Doing this before getting into the more posed photos can help relax the teen a little bit and make the overall experience enjoyable.
Keep their hands moving by asking them to put them in pockets or to place hands at the hip, run their fingers through their hair, fix their shirt or clothing, or fix their watch.
By moving them around, they get more and more comfortable being in front of the camera. Any awkwardness starts to disappear as they begin to trust you more and more.
If you are in an open space, have them walk around, stop, turn, look away, or sit on some steps.
All of this variation and change keeps the momentum going. The teens won’t get bored and you can keep photographing them in a relaxed and natural manner.
3. Give The Teen Space From the Family
Giving the teen space during the session basically means to create some distance between the teen and the parents or family.
This can help the teen to feel more relaxed and less “watched” by parents, or family. Giving them the chance to be completely themselves.
If you’re on location during the family session and it’s time for individuals, take the teen a few steps away from the rest of the family and photograph them quickly.
Take a few good solid portraits and a few creative ones and move onto the next family member if there are more children.
Teens need space to feel comfortable and more so when they are getting their photos taken. During a senior photo session, for example, busy the parents with wardrobe prep, holding a reflector or having them pick a song to play during the session.
You can also use longer lenses to photograph from more of a distance so that the teen doesn’t feel like you’re too close in their personal space.
Some may feel a little awkward and not want to be open to posing or smiling.
4. Talk During the Session
The best way to get a teen to relax during a photo session is to talk to them. Ask them about their hobbies, what show they’re watching right now, what they plan on studying after high school, or what their favorite sport is.
Get them talking about themselves or just anything, in general. This can often loosen the nerves and get natural and real expressions out of the teen.
If more people are present, like family or friends, have them start up a conversation while you direct the teenager during the session.
Talking helps keep their minds off the lens and camera in front of their face and more in the moment and on the experience as a whole. The teen will also appreciate that you took an interest in them and made them feel comfortable.
If the teenager isn’t up for talking all that much, don’t worry. You can strike up a conversation with the parent that is around and talk to them while you are taking photos of the teenager.
Sometimes they will participate in the conversation and other times they won’t, that is okay. You also always have the option of playing music during the photo session as a way to fill in any conversation gaps that may happen during the session.
5. Photographing a Group of Teens
When you’re photographing a group of teens, make sure that you establish a timeline of what is to happen during the session before starting.
This helps to get all of the teens on the same wavelength so that the photo session turns out great.
Gathering them in a group and explaining to them quickly that you’ll begin with the group photos first and will do about 5 different poses means you’ll need everyone ready to go and focused.
Afterward, if you’ll end with the individual photos of each teen, they know to be ready to go when called so that the session doesn’t run longer than is necessary.
Doing this simple task before taking a single photo will gear them up for what is expected and also allow them some space to be teens. They’ll want to chat with one another and joke and have a good time.
If they aren’t disrupting the photo session, let them have fun. Don’t forget to photograph all of the candid moments either!
Play music and keep things light and positive so that the entire group can walk away with a great experience.
Ask them to do silly poses and go along with ideas that they may have for photos.
6. Use Props for a Variety of Teen Poses
Depending on the type of photo session, you can always incorporate some kind of prop to help the teen pose. For example, if you’re photographing a family session, have them bring a football so that they can throw the ball around.
Or, if it’s a senior photo session, have the teenager bring their musical instrument to pose with it and perhaps play a little.
Props work especially well for senior portrait sessions with teens. If a teen is on the school’s basketball team, they can wear their jersey and bring in a basketball.
Or if the teen is really into playing the guitar, even if this isn’t a school activity, they can bring in their guitar and can use it to pose with during the session.
Props can help keep the teen moving during the session and take away a little of the pressure of standing and posing all alone.
Playing football with a sibling or with a parent helps to keep the session light and fun, for example.
7. Let the Teen Have a Say in the Photoshoot
Some teens are getting their photos taken at the request of mom and dad.
Giving them the chance to direct the session, bring props, not smile or smile, or choose the location of their portraits can make them feel like they are in control.
When you give the teen the chance to have a say about their photos, this usually helps create more excitement. They will be able to do some of the ideas that they have in mind, and not just want their parents want.
For example, if they want to wear a certain shirt or outfit, or if they have an idea for a location that is different than what mom and dad had in mind, do it.
You don’t lose anything giving the teen a little freedom with the session. They’ll be excited and more willing to participate.
If you’re doing a senior photo session, make sure that you talk with the teen and parent at a pre-consultation. This way, you’ll be able to talk to both the teen and the parent about what they envision for the session. And it will give the teen the chance to make decisions as well. Leading to a much more positive photo session experience.
If you are photographing the teen with family, allow them to decide how they want to pose, stand, or where they’d like to be photographed at the location, if at all possible.
Sometimes just giving them the chance to make a decision, however small, can give them the sense that they had a hand in creating the final photos as well.
Teenagers are not as difficult as they seem. Giving them some space and allowing them to take creative control of the teen photography session can help them to feel like co-creators of the final images.
Allowing them to also help them to have a fun and enjoyable experience that doesn’t feel stiff or forced. You’ll get much more real expressions and give mom and dad photos they will love for many years to come!