Putting myself in my client’s shoes

I hate having my photo taken.

Every week without fail, I hear the phrase, “I hate having my photo taken”. Guess what? So do I. I bet not many people are as awkward in front of a camera as I am. I hate it! Hate is a powerful word, but that’s how I feel about having my photo taken.

I’m a ninja

I have tried my best to hide from the limelight for the last few years. Over the last (at least ten years), I have only had two profile pictures, which could have been better, but they did the job. 

The first picture is the teapot.

The picture I used for the most prolonged duration was taken about 15 years ago. I remember setting it up in my old house. I put a white sheet in the kitchen and set my camera on my tripod. I grabbed a teapot and worked it. At the time, my whole website was based around tea. My packages were even named after makes of tea, and Yorkshire Gold was my premium. Joking aside, I had many comments about the picture over the years.

The infamous teapot picture.

The second picture in the dark

For the last couple of years, I have had a profile picture taken by one of my friends, as occasionally, I meet up with a fab bunch of wedding photographers. I liked the picture, but it was very dark. Being an introvert, I liked the fact that it was dark. It was arty and moody.

Moody ninja picture.

Why the change of heart?

I now need to stop hiding in the shadows and make myself visible. I have recently joined the Northern Affinity, and they needed a headshot for my profile. When I looked at my teapot and dark picture, I knew it wasn’t suitable for the platform. I needed something to help me stand out, bright, friendly, and less ninja.

Plan A

The thought of having my photo taken fears me with dread. I do anything to avoid it. I had a master plan, met up with my photography friends at The Yorkshire Sculpture Park, and asked if someone would take my picture. The weather wasn’t great, but we decided to do the five-minute photo challenge. Check out my shoot with Sadie. Sadie took my picture for five minutes, and I thought I had nailed it. Unfortunately, wedding photographers have been very busy, and I am sure my photos are deep in her editing pile. I certainly don’t want to put any additional pressure on someone. I knew that professional photographer works their magic; they could chat and try and make me feel relaxed.

Plan B

I decided that Plan A wasn’t in my control, so I had to devise a Plan B. Occasionally, I would head to my friend Grant’s office and shoot him some portraits. He loves live streams and cameras and is always interested in learning. One night I just told him I was going to come over, and he was going to take my picture, and I would return the flavour. Check out the pictures here.

I knew I wanted to have something bright and vibrant for my profile pictures as it’s essential to stand out, but I wanted to avoid jumping straight into that idea.

Start slowly and build up.

I knew it would take Grant quite a bit to get used to using my camera and trying to make me feel relaxed, so I started with some simple portraits. I set everything up, so he had to chat with me, make me laugh, smile, and press the button. It sounds simple, but this is the hardest thing to do for me.


I can’t describe why I struggle when somebody aims a camera at me, but I do. I tend to stiffen my whole body and talk aimlessly, and I can’t relax. I concentrate too much on relaxing my face and smiling, and my brain gets confused, and all sorts of weirdness happen with my face. I try and put myself in a happy place and relax. Grant did a good job and wanted to help me relax.

Photographing Grant

In between the awkwardness of having my photograph taken, I would grab the camera and take some portraits of Grant. This was mainly to help me relax and give Grant some new pictures as a thank you.

Bright and vibrant

Before heading to the shoot, I raided my kid’s art cupboard and grabbed some A1 sheets of colour cards. It would have been much easier if I had had full rolls of coloured backdrops, but I didn’t, so it was a matter of winging it. We used moody lighting with light and shadow for the photos we had just taken. I knew there had to be more friendly, so I used a flat lighting set-up. Because I had been through the process of feeling uncomfortable, I was now a little more relaxed, and we got a few pictures which are now used for my profiles in my various social media profiles.

Yellow sunshine picture.

The final pictures

I recently had a conversation about this with my friend Gareth. He said that I wouldn’t say I liked it because of the outcome and looking at the final pictures. 

It isn’t this for me. I am okay with looking at the final images. It’s the process which I prefer to avoid. When anyone aims a camera at me, I freeze, and I feel this feeling of stiffness and discomfort. It is strange editing pictures of myself.


When I take portraits of people (which I do a lot), I am usually kind to them. I subtly do things like brighten eyes, clean teeth, remove blemishes and sometimes nose hair, etc. I decided that I didn’t want to do that for myself. I didn’t want to pretend that I was someone who I was not. I could have easily removed my crow’s feet, cleaned my teeth and made myself look different and polished, but the pictures are the real me.

Customers shoes

For the last seventeen years, I have been taking people’s pictures. I photograph many people who feel the same way I do about having their picture taken, people who can’t relax, and people who hate it. They always say they have enjoyed the process and usually love the final results. My strength is to put people at ease, some times I talk random nonsense, but it helps people relax. Having put myself through the torture, I know how difficult it is. I am glad I went through the process and survived (of course, I survived). What would be the worst thing that could happen? 

I now have some new pictures, which make me jump out instead of hiding in the shadows. Thanks to Grant, who was kind enough to take my picture.

If you would like some pictures and feel good about it, then just get in touch with me at john@johnsteelphotography.com

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John Steel

Apparently a bio here is good for my SEO, so.... I'm John Steel and I am your Yorkshire photographer, from Weddings to family shoots or commercial shots to gym photos, I'm ready to make you look amazing.