I think one of the most commonly asked questions I get is "how the heck do I get natural, relaxed, reactions out of my clients???" I know in the photography world that's a huge deal. No one wants Stiff Steve + Awkward Annie looking like uncomfortably posed Barbie dolls trying to hug. (*internal shudder*)
So today, I’ve compiled 5 of my biggest tips for getting those wild, untamed, natural, relaxed, happy, real, raw (and any other nice adjective that fits here) with those clients.
You ready to dive on in? Cool. Me too. Let's go.
ALRIGHT friends!!! Can we all just take a minute to appreciate the fact that I’m blogging consistently?! Good lord, it’s about dang time. I’m super excited to be bringing you incredible new content to inspire, encourage, educate, and uplift every week! (God bless my incredible personal assistant, who’s helping me kick this whole thing in the pants + handling a lot of the tedious work here!)
I wanted to start off this whole "new blog thing" with one of the most asked questions. “How do I pose candidly?” or “How do I get natural reactions and interactions with my clients?”
This is a big one. This can change the game of your entire business. The way your clients FEEL when shooting with you is almost as important as how they feel about the photos you deliver. As photographers, we want to give the highest quality client experience possible. To me, that means start to finish - the minute they stumble on my website to the minute they send me a review.
A HUGE part of this experience is the actual day-of shoot. (Whether that’s a wedding day or a couples session!)
Let’s dive on in!
DO THE WORK AHEAD OF TIME
Stop focusing on the poses for two seconds. Let me ask you some blunt questions: how much work are you putting in before you ever hug your clients? What are you doing to make them 100% comfortable, at ease, relaxed, and excited BEFORE the shoot?
For me, 90% of my clients give me a hug with the words, “OMG I feel like we’re best friends already! I’m so excited!”
That’s my goal. Before my clients ever see me face-to-face and before I ever push a camera in their faces, I want them to feel comfortable, confident, and relaxed. How do I do that?
Every single interaction with me - from my website contact form to my actual email interactions - should live + breathe “Evie.” I unashamedly answer my inquiry emails with “AKSJDHLASKJD!!!” No joke.
And I set expectations.
People have questions. They’re nervous. They’re not sure what to expect. So set those expectations for them. Tell them exactly what it’s gonna look like. Take away as many nerves and insecurities before you ever even meet them face to face or pull your camera out of your bag.
DON’T JUST SHOVE A CAMERA IN THEIR FACES
I think one of the biggest mistakes I made when I first started shooting was that I didn’t take the time to just chat or hang out with my couples. I felt that I had to be shooting every single second. I’d give them a hug, say hi, and immediately start shooting. Personally, I think that’s a huge mistake.
There are very few couples and situations where I’ll do this now. If at all possible, I meet up with them at a coffee shop, a bar/restaurant, or somewhere similar where we can actually sit down, relax, and chat.
Once again, putting my clients at ease, setting expectations, and building trust and relationship long before they’re ever under the “pressure” of my camera.
Does it take more time? Yes, absolutely. Does it pay off? Without a doubt. Being able to connect face to face with my clients, laugh, chat, talk, eat/drink together… it changes the entire mood. We become friends. By the time we actually reach our shoot location, we’re all besties and they’re ready for whatever I have up my sleeve. If food or drink isn’t possible before the shoot, I often try to meet and carpool (at least part) of the way to the location. If even that isn’t possible, I just take some time before we start shooting to just chat and relax. I leave my camera in the bag, walk with them around the area, exploring, or I’ll pop a squat and invite them to chat for a bit. Trust me, this one is huge. You’re reassuring those concerns and nerves, building that relationship and trust, and showing them even more of YOU before you start asking them to show you their intimate THEM.
GIVE THEM THINGS TO DO, NOT POSITIONS TO HOLD
Here’s another big “oops” I made when I was first starting out. I really wanted to see natural, authentic, candid reactions out of my couples, but I was asking them to hold stiff positions. Granted, they were probably really cute poses that I saw on Instagram (aka not prom-posey at all. GAG.) but even still: if they’re static poses, I won’t be getting those untamed, wild reactions that I’m really hoping for. Slowly, I learned to stop asking for poses and instead gave my couples directions and actions to perform. I go way over the top with them, and I’m not the least bit ashamed of it. (We’ll talk more about this in the next tip.)
Giving them ridiculous, fun, or deep, meaningful prompts gets some of the most beautiful, happy, heartwarming moments. Even if I have them do something like “hold her like you won’t see her for six months. Pull her as tight as you can.” I’ll then follow up with something like, “now sway her back and forth. Think of one time you were unbelievably proud of your significant other.” I let them just soak in that moment for a bit, with the subtle but game-changing swaying, and then I’ll follow with, “perfect, now whisper that moment of pride to that person.” And you’ll get some of the sweetest reactions.
Bottom line, even when I have my couples hold a little more of a “pose” I always add actions and movement to it. The difference you’ll see in your sessions - energy, laughter, possibly tears - will knock ya socks off. Trust me.
Forget about you. LEMME SAY THAT AGAIN FOR THE PEOPLE IN THE BACK... STOP WORRYING ABOUT WHAT YOU LOOK LIKE. SCREW. THAT. DANG. PROFESSIONALISM.
(Obviously, I feel a tad bit strongly about this one. Oops.)
Here’s the deal: your clients will pick up on your vibes. It’s not a question. If you’re nervous, they’ll probably sense it. If you’re feeling boxy and trying to maintain a “proper” image, they sure as heck will pick up on it. Their actions will mirror yours. For me personally, my actions are absolutely ridiculous. I demonstrate just about every action I ask my couples to do. Do I try to remain poised and polished? AHAHAHAHA. No. Definitely NOT. I’m all over the place. I flail my arms, over-exaggerate my expressions, and show them exactly what I’m looking for from them. Because honestly, if they see that I’m more than willing to make a total fool out of myself, they’re ten times more likely to relax and be willing too. I mean, after all, they really can’t possibly look more stupid than I do.
But on that note, if you’re a more quiet, peaceful, laid back/introverted photographer, then let that show! Don’t ever try to imitate someone else because you think that’s the “key to success.” It’s not. (But that’s a whole other blog post. We’ll get to that later.)
I personally am pretty wild, free, untamed, and loudly myself. I unashamedly pretend to kiss my arm when I’m demonstrating a kiss, and frolic around the field to show them how I want them to “drunk walk” together. But not every couple needs or wants that. So if you’re the chill, peaceful person in most situations, carry that into your shoots! Not every couple relates to my vibes. I know that, and I’m totally fine with it. There are some people who really need and relate to soothing, calm moods. It connects with them more. So embrace that if it’s you.
Don’t worry about how your clients are viewing you, what they’re thinking, or anything like that. Just focus on putting them at ease, whatever that looks like for you. Be yourself. Be open. Be real. When you’re not afraid to make a fool of yourself, they’ll take the risk too. Period. Their actions will mirror yours. And that’s a powerful tool you’re wielding there. Use it.
READ YOUR CLIENTS
I used to be so focused on so many different things during my sessions (camera settings, lighting, poses, prompts, scenery, time limits, and on and on and on) that I forgot the most important thing: my clients are what’s actually important. How are they doing? What are they needing? How can I make sure they are having a good time, feeling comfortable, relaxed, etc?
I do a few things now that have completely changed the game.
I play music for almost all of my sessions. (Occasionally I won’t on wedding days, depending on my time limit and the situation… but that’s pretty much my only exception for this.) I have a loud, rugged and waterproof Bluetooth speaker that I bring to all of my sessions, and I created a Spotify playlist with a good variety of happy, quiet, danceable/fun, and tender songs. I usually just shuffle it and go with the flow. Occasionally I’ll switch songs when I’m really needing a certain mood… but otherwise, I let the shuffle dictate how the moods flow. It’s really loosened up my creative brain during sessions. I’m able to switch and flow naturally with the mood that the music is creating. On top of all of that, music changes the vibes BIG TIME. My clients are 10 times more relaxed once I start playing music. It sucks all the awkward silences and pauses out of the air and really sets the tone for the entire shoot. I can’t recommend music enough for putting your clients at ease and helping the session run smoothly.
I take breaks. I used to think it was bad or unprofessional if I ever paused or stopped shooting. I felt like my camera had to be up and clicking 24/7 once I pulled it out. But reality check? That couldn’t be further from the truth. You need little breathers. And if that’s true (it is) then your clients sure as heck need breathers. So read the situation. Be aware. If I’ve just asked my clients to do a very action-based prompt (a piggyback ride, frolicking, etc) and I sense they’re getting a little tired, I’ll pull down my camera and start chatting. I’ll give all of us a few minutes to relax and breathe. The same thing goes with my own brain. If I’m suddenly blanking on poses, I’ll just stop and start talking. I’ll let them get a drink, fix her dress, etc. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with taking breaks. It’s actually really healthy and helpful for both you and your couple. Start paying attention to the times when your clients seem a little tired, or when you suddenly get a brain fart and try easing into a break. It’ll change the game. Promise.
Final thing: I really get to know my clients and their story ahead of time. I show that. I show that I care, I ask them even more questions about them, their lives, their stories. And then from there, I cater the shoot to them. Each one of my shoots looks different. There are similarities, absolutely. But each couple brings something different to the table, and I want their session to reflect them. One of the practical ways that I do this is I always ask about their favorite music before the shoot. If they give me a specific song or genre that is “theirs” I always make sure I play that during their shoot. The number of times I’ve had couples cry or just melt when “their song” or artist comes on… (Yeah, I definitely cry too. No shame here.) I guess my bottom line is this: it’s not about you. It’s about them. This is their story you’re telling. So tell it. Pay attention to the little things. Ask questions. Show that you care about them.
Posing is so much more than cute positions. It’s the entire mood you set during your shoots. Just remember that it starts long before you ever meet them in person. You should be setting expectations and soothing nerves the minute they step a cyber foot in your website and send you an email. And once you have squeezed the stuffing out of them in person, that camera should stay in the bag for a little while longer. Reassure those nerves for a little bit longer. Open yourself up, ask them questions, build that trust and relationship. Once that camera’s out? Yeah. Give them the stuff to do. I personally tell my clients up-front “I might ask you to do some ridiculous things… but just trust me. I’m not looking for the perfectly posed photo. I’m looking for some real-life fun. Don’t worry at all about perfectly performing the actions. I look much more for the reactions… so just relax and enjoy each other.” This’ll change the GAME. Also… stop tryna be a friggin polished pro. Your clients will match that mood. Just relax. Screw professionalism. Be yourself. Set them at ease with your words and actions. And finally… this is about your clients, not you. Read them. Take breaks. Show them you care. Put your all into serving them, not yourself.
Gahhh. That was a mouthful. I hope that sparked some ideas in your head. Candid posing is a biggie. But I seriously hope this gave you some solid insight into how I navigate my own sessions and how I get those natural, candid shots.
Love ya, friend. Go get em, tiger.