“Lean In and Close Your Eyes”: What Posing Countless Couples Has Taught Me About Leadership
I’ve been a wedding and portrait photographer for six years. One of my favorite things about capturing “posed” portraits of couples on their wedding day is making them feel as natural and comfortable as possible as they lean in, close their eyes, and snuggle in front of my camera. These newlyweds are not used to being in front of a camera and it is NOT natural to act like you’re alone having an intimate moment while I’m three feet away taking rapid fire photos. A great photographer, just like a great leader, can quickly make you feel at ease, establish trust, direct you clearly and respectfully, keep things fun, and get great results. And the best photographers (and leaders) will make this series of tough tasks look easy while they’re doing it.
Much like learning how to pose couples naturally is a skill you can practice and develop over time, so are good leadership skills. Here are some lessons I’ve learned behind my camera that can help you be a great leader. And you don’t even have to suffer through the awkward poses and cheesy grins.
1) Stay Calm and Confident – Wedding days are wonderful. But they are also a rollercoaster of emotions for the couple. As the photographer, I need to stay calm and confident throughout the day. Many couples end up running behind and time gets crunched from 60 minutes for photos to 15 minutes. I’m dying inside but when the bride looks at me to make sure it will work, “Of course we can get everything you want in 15 minutes – no sweat!” If I start stressing or freezing up, then the couple stresses and worries and that is not why I’m there. They take their lead from me when it comes time for photos. So I’m always working to stay calm and confident in the moment. Even if I’m faking it sometimes.
2) Show, Don’t Tell – “Put your left foot forward, shift your weight to your back foot, turn from the waist at a 45-degree angle and smile at the tree in the distance. Great.” Now imagine I stand next to you and while I say each step, I also do it. I model it for you, so you know exactly what I mean by 45 degrees and turn from the waist. As my model, you’ll be much more relaxed and confident if you have clear guidance from me. And as a matter of trust, couples want to know that I’m willing to get in whatever pose I’m asking them to do. Similarly, people appreciate a leader who communicates clearly, actively supports them, and leads by example.
3) Give Positive Feedback, Often – Every couple gets nervous in front of the camera, at least at the start. The best way for me to quickly ease their nerves is to let them know they are doing a great job. And with every “perfect”, “beautiful”, “I love that” I give them, they give me bigger smiles, sweeter laughs, and genuine joy because they feel good about how things are going and they know I’m happy too. Now I don’t lie, so if a pose isn’t working, I’ll change it up, but when I get them in a great spot all snuggled in and looking amazing – I LET THEM KNOW! Everyone likes to be shown recognition and appreciation for a job well done.
4) It’s Not Just About What You Say, It’s Also About How You Say It – If I want fun, laughter, and high energy, I’ll be loud and smiley and crack a joke along with the couple. If I want a soft, quiet moment, I speak softly, and give calm slow directions to set a slow and soft space for a tender moment to linger. And if I sound angry, frustrated, or disappointed, the couple will tense up and the moment will be lost. As the leader in this moment,the couple will follow my lead and feed off the energy I give them.
P.S. You can check out Lynne's work at www.lynnereznickphotography.com!