Feeling Nervous? – advice from Surrey Headshot Photographer Hester Barnes

Hester Barnes, Surrey Headshot Photographer, writes….”Every 6 months or so I have my headshots taken. Sometimes by another Guildford photographer. Sometimes by a friend. But whoever is taking the photos I always feel terrified. Probably about four weeks before the shoot I thinking about it. What am I going to wear? Why did I eat so much at Christmas / birthday / summer holiday? Why did I cut my fringe myself? Why haven’t I ever paid to have my teeth fixed properly? How am I going to look like a professional yet vaguely cool photographer rather than a 45 year old mum of two?”.

Portrait of Hester Surrey headshot photographer

Hester says, “On the day of the shoot panic sets in. My tongue is pushed to the roof of my mouth making my jaw tense and neck awkward. I forget what to do with my hands and worry that my clothing choice is rubbish. I have to tell myself to trust the process. Oh ……..and to breathe”.

I know how you feel. I have walked in your shoes. That’s why I have asked Rachel Clarke, Cognitive-Behavioural Hypnotherapist, to give some guidance on how to relax whilst you are having your photos taken.

How to Relax Whilst Having Your Picture Taken – by Rachel Clarke

The idea of a photographer taking your picture fills many of us with dread and fear. What if I look stiff and awkward? What will other people think of these pictures? Will the photos be in a flattering light?

I’m going to share with you some ways in which you can feel more comfortable being centre stage and why being relaxed is the secret sauce to shining your light in great photos. The more tense and nervous you are, the less likely it will be that the photos capture your unique and vibrant energy and what makes you, well you!

Here are some tips for bringing your most relaxed and confident self in front of the camera.

Relax your body

“Relaxation is the complete absence of any effort within the body and mind. You can think of your body’s relaxation response (also known as the ‘rest and digest’ system) as the brake to your body’s accelerator, the ‘fight and flight’ stress response. It is your stress response that is triggered when you feel watched, threatened or unsafe.” Rachel Clarke

Having your photo taken can feel stressful. All our attention is paid to how we are positioned, how our faces are held and how self conscious we feel!

The good news is that you can direct your own inbuilt relaxation response in a number of ways including belly breathing, using direct suggestions as well as guided meditation to name just a few.

An easy way to do this is through a simple self hypnosis routine

Start with your body. Imagine your body in three sections: head, neck and shoulders; arms and torso; and legs. Starting at the very top of your head, imagine your head and shoulders letting go of any tension and hanging loose and limp like a rag doll. Next focus on your arms, chest and torso. Allow those to soften, do less and release. Lastly, relax your legs and hips.

Take a deep, relaxing breath. Deep (diaphragmatic) or belly breathing is a simple and effective way to trigger the relaxation response. A long exhalation directly stimulates your inbuilt calming-down system, one that is much older than your thinking brain.

A helpful way to use your breath is to take a fairly quick breath in through the nose, holding at the top of the breath. You should feel your belly moving outwards hence the name! Notice how it feels to hold your breath and also notice as you tense to hold your breath, is there any other tension in the body?

When you are comfortable, breathe out and exhale through your mouth as if you were a heavy cloth bag. Make no effort to control your exhale – don’t push it out quickly, you are looking for a gentle, steady breath.

Next breathe deeply and comfortably whilst you relax your body.

Be your own shoot director with a positive suggestion

Repeat the following affirmation or suggestion to yourself: ‘I am calm, confident and relaxed’.

Repeat this in your mind to yourself at least five times.

You could think of a time when you felt so calm, confident and relaxed – perhaps on holiday or having a massage – and as you direct your mind onto this suggestion, you can trigger those feelings of relaxation once more, in the here and now. Really imagine you are there in your mind, use all of your senses to connect to the pleasant feelings attached to that memory.

Over time you will learn to associate the affirmation with those calm and relaxing feelings.

Repeat your suggestion whilst breathing deeply and relaxing your body for a complete self hypnosis routine.

Shift your attention with the movie camera technique

  • When you are feeling self conscious, all your mental attention goes inwards. You naturally focus on your bodily sensations and thoughts about how nervous you feel. This can heighten your self consciousness.
  • For this technique imagine that you are the person holding the camera instead of the photographer. Here I invite you to shift your attention outwards as if you are holding and looking out through the camera.
  • Notice what the photographer is wearing – perhaps she has a cool top on, what’s the pattern? How is her hair, does she have a fringe or a subtle colour? What jewelry is she wearing? Take a moment to notice everything in your external environment as if you were recording with a camera.
  • As you do this, consciously widen your attention to calm the body. We may have needed to be hyper-focused when we were cavemen watching for predators but you don’t need it when you are having a photo taken!
  • By widening and shifting your attention externally to the people in the room or the photographer, you will have less of your attention on how nervous or self conscious you are feeling. Keep consciously shifting your attention outwards to feel calmer and more in control.

And some final top tips

  1. Remind yourself why you value having your photo taken.
  2. Being brave requires courage and doing what you believe in with the feelings of self consciousness and even anxiety.
  3. Connect to why you are having your photo taken. If the shoot is for your business then you can remind yourself that it’s important for your clients to see who you are. People buy from people.
  4. Spend time before the shoot practicing relaxing and repeating your positive suggestion. Remember that you are enough and thank yourself for being so courageous.

If you would like to experience one of my free guided relaxation audios that you can use whenever you start to feel self conscious or stressed (such as before a photoshoot!) you can download for free here.

Rachel x


Rachel Clarke is a Cognitive-Behavioural Hypnotherapist at Rachel Clarke Therapy.  

Her evidence-based, integrated approach that combines Hypnosis, CBT and Mindfulness is key to supporting adults with anxiety management, stress-based issues, overcoming sleep disorders and reversing unhealthy habits. 

Her sessions available online sessions via Zoom.

She is fully insured and registered with the General Hypnotherapy Register (GHR) and Complementary & Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC), holds a BSc(hons) in Psychology, a Diploma in Cognitive-Behavioural Hypnotherapy and a Diploma in Hypnobirthing. Rachel has recently moved from Guildford to Wales, where she lives with her family.

Visit https://www.rachelclarketherapy.com to find out more. 

Or head back to the brand shoot page https://hesterbarnesphotography.com/branding/

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