Validate fears and concerns of the women you photograph and you will become a better photographer even before pressing the shutter button! To me being a good portrait photographer is about being a good psychologist, and the connection you create with the women you photograph is more important than your camera.
So, if you like, I will tell you few more things about it. I will tell you why you should never lie to her. I will tell you why you should treat her as your good friend. I will tell you why you should respect her feeling, validate fears and concerns she may have and looking for the better part of her.
Being a portrait photographer to me is like being the one writing her memoirs: it has much more to do with who she is than how she looks.
How would you treat the one you love?
If, in your life, you had the luck of receiving the love of a woman, you sure have experienced the meaning of being powerful. Holding a woman’s heart in your hands is power, and as in any such position you can use discretion and care or you can use strength and violence. The heart of a woman is delicate and beautiful, and when you have it, you should have judgement on how to deal with it.
Having a woman in front of your camera is the same. You are given the rare luck of capturing her, of photographing not only her forms, but also what lies in the depth of her eyes. Remember this the next time she will allow you to photograph her as she is trusting you, she is not giving her heart, but her appearance, which makes you equally powerful.
Validate fears and concerns
If she tells you that she does not like something about her body, about herself, the best thing you can do is validate fears and concerns and move everything on a positive side. In those moments, denial is your worst enemy: you would crush her heart as she would not feel understood.
That’s the main point: as a photographer you need to listen and understand her. Treat her as she had given you her heart, listen to her and make sure she feels safe. This does not mean that you have to confirm her negative feelings (the joy of dealing with a woman is bittersweet), you have to tell her you understand, and you know how to deal with it.
If she tells you that she hates her belly, tell her that you can understand her as you hate yours, but that, in her case, the intensity in her eyes will get all the attention.
If she tells you she fears her double chin will show up in the photos, tell her that a good photographer know how to show a perfect chin: but that you cannot tell her how as it is voodoo magic.
You see, you do not need to be serious all the time, you need to be honest without lingering on negative thoughts, and you need to make her understand that you have listened.
Walk on tiptoes
Photographing women well is not for the faint-hearted. You need to respect her and push her at the same time. You need to treat her as a rose, being very careful not to ruin her petals, but also making sure not to cut yourself with her spines. My suggestion is simple: walk on tiptoes, make sure to listen and to respect her. Deeply. Treat her as she was your friend and you her confident: after all she is letting you photograph her soul.