Tips for helping people feel comfortable at photo sessions

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This is a post for the budding photographer, but it’s also for anyone who has their pictures taken to keep in mind. This post was originally shared at the New York Institute of Photography, and I’m bringing it back to my site now which a few edits.

Family Pictures. They happen every year for many families. The mom is stressed about everything from planning the perfect outfit, to their kids behaving, to their husband cooperating, and gets to the session and just needs to RELAX! As the photographer, it’s your job to help them relax. Today, I’m sharing some tips for helping people feel comfortable at photo sessions.

Photography tip: helping people feel comfortable when being photographed

As a photographer, one of the biggest obstacles to overcome is to help my clients feel more comfortable and relaxed. It’s part of my responsibility to encourage them to relax and have fun!

Moms come stressed out, kids are jumping around with excitement, and dads don’t really want to be there.  Here are 5 tips for helping people feel comfortable at their photo session.


  1. Ask get-to-know-you Questions: Most of the time, I don’t meet my clients until I am about to photograph them. To break the ice, I will ask them questions such as what they they did that day, where they might go after pictures, or what fun activities the family has done recently. The more they start talking, the more relaxed they become. It also helps me get to know them better, and I’m no longer crazy stranger camera lady.Family Portraits
  2. Compliment their appearance and behaviors:  Most moms are stressed about what to wear, so it’s nice to let them know they did a good job of getting everyone all ready, and it looks great.  Comment on the colors, hair, even the kids fabulous behavior. These words of affirmation helps them feel more confident which is then depicted in pictures the images. Even saying, “Great smile” as you are shooting, benefits, as they feel more at laughing
  3. Help them get posed: Often times, subjects aren’t sure about hand and foot placement, so I like to give guidance regularly. I’ll point to the ground where I want them to stand, and even move their hands with my hands. Get hands on! I’ll often tell them to put their thumbs in their pockets, as it looks more natural than by their side.  From photographing clients for years, I’ve got it down to a science, what looks good in pictures. Don’t be afraid to boss them around (nicely, of course).train tracks
  4. Chimp a little: Every heard of chimping? It’s taking a look at the LCD screen to see if you got a great shot. I love to show clients little snippets of the session during the session, it gives them an extra boost of confidence and excitement. Who doesn’t love a sneak peek? I can see how great it looks, and how pretty the light is, it’s fun to show of my work a little as I go, and they love it, too.  Seeing those happy grins helps me  have fun, too.mother daughter
  5. Don’t forget the Candids: Most families sign up for family pictures because they have the perfect posed shot in a vision in their head. I like to take a bunch of candid images because, I think people love candid images more than they realize. I’ve got an arsenal of “candid code words” I’ll shout out to to help with those action shots. I send out a questionnaire ahead of time to help understand what would be fun to include in those candid images.

I hope this helps you as a photographer to add to the “bag of tricks” that you might already have. When clients are relaxed, it will show in their images.  Write these tips down, put them on your phone, pull it out at a session. You can always act as if you are changing your lens to give yourself a reminder.

{Another article written for NYIP: 7 Tips for Better Travel Photos}

New York Institute of Photography

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