- Hats. In general, the bigger and more colorful, the better.
- Whigs. Beware of long hair as it gets tangled easily.
- Fake moustaches
- Feather boas
- Foam finger
- Finger puppets, hand puppets, or sock puppets
- Bubble wand
- Empty picture frame
Techniques to help your subject feel at ease
When people are stressed or anxious about being photographed, I think about how to ease their feelings and distract them from the immediacy of the photograph.
Let people see themselves
First, people want to look good. Give them a mirror so that they can see themselves and adjust their hair and makeup as necessary.
After photos have been taken, show them on the camera’s LCD. If you have a newer camera (like the Canon 6D) that can wirelessly send the pictures to an iPad (which can display the pictures bigger with truer color) so much the better.
Pose with prop or a buddy
Help remove some of the pressure of being the center of attention by encouraging them to use a prop or pose with a buddy. Wearing matching props with a buddy is even better (horned Viking helmets are family favorites).
- People are not natural models, and benefit from some direction.
- Body. I try to position people so that their chests are not directly facing the camera, but instead are pointed at an angle (usually 45 degrees from the camera).
- Head. Look at the camera, look slightly to the left or right, look slightly up, turn around and look back.
- Hands. Try different hand poses to either build on the character of the prop, or to show visual unity in a group. I enjoy jazz hands (fingers extended and shake side to side a little).
- Emotion/Attitude. Happy, surprised, angry, scared, curious, flirty, bemused.
- Unity. Sometimes it is effective to have the entire group doing the same thing. Sometimes it is effective to have one person doing something different than the group.
- Physicality. Jump, piggyback, side hug.
Having people change their poses quickly, or having two people switch sides, helps keep them distracted, and gives the mind something to focus on other than the fact that they are being photographed.
Often times it is helpful to make a series of requests and shoot fast because you don’t know what will work best. Sometimes the subject will be overcome with the absurdity of the whole thing and let out a genuine smile. Be ready. Don’t miss it.