The BBC has apologized to the Queen for implying that she stormed out of a photo shoot with Annie Leibovitz after the photographer asked her to remove her tiara. In fact, the scene that appears in a royal documentary and shows the Queen walking through the palace saying, “I’m not changing anything. I’ve had enough dressing like this, thank you very much,” was taken before Leibovitz’s photo session, not as a result of it.
But it does sound as though Leibovitz’s royal subject didn’t enjoy the sitting very much, and that’s not something unique to monarchs being shot by celebrity photographers.
Most photographers, whether they’re shooting weddings, children or small animals have to put up with subjects who don’t want to sit still or — in the case of executive portraits, and perhaps royalty — aren’t used to being told to sit still at all.
And if irritated subjects isn’t bad enough, nervousness, embarrassment or just plain discomfort can kill many a portrait shoot.
One of the questions that LookBetterOnline.com, a service that matches online daters with portrait photographers, asks its photographers, for example, is how they get their subjects to relax. Most photographers simply reply that they play music or talk to them. It’s possible that that’s what irritated their subjects in the first place.
Some of the more thoughtful photographers suggest using a location that the subject knows in order to make them feel at ease. A few say that being able to see the images as they’re being shot can help the subject understand what the photographer is trying to do and what they need to do to make it work.
In the end though, an ability to get a portrait subject to relax and let their personality show is just part of a photographer’s talent. That’s true whether the subject is too scared to smile or wearing a crown she doesn’t want to remove.