with Courtney Slazinik
3 Tips to Help Couples Relax During a Photo Shoot
3 Tips to Help Couples Relax During a Photo Shoot

Scenario 1:

It’s Saturday morning, and the sun is just about to rise. You spot your photographer from across the parking lot, and all of of a sudden your stomach starts dancing the cha-cha.

What is it about being in front of the camera that makes us all a bit uneasy? ALL of those lovely doubts about your outfit, hair, and body come out and you start regretting booking a session after all. As soon as you meet your photographer, she’s chatting up a storm and is instant warmth.

help clients relax

Read more: Posing Couples-Why Didn’t I Think of That?

She easily gives direction yet let’s you and your hubby do your own thing and your personalities shine. You realize that you trust her and that not once over the last hour have you thought, “crap, my hair probably looks terrible” because she’s there fixing it if needed. She’s cracking (bad) jokes that still make you guys laugh.

It’s easy.. so this is what modeling must feel like, you think. You see the photos a week later and cry. That’s you and your best friend/favorite person in the world, totally in love, and totally YOU. Real. Now that’s the stuff.


Scenario 2:

It’s Saturday morning, and the sun is just about to rise. You spot your photographer from across the parking lot, and all of a sudden your stomach starts dancing the cha-cha.

What is it about being in front of the camera that makes us all a bit uneasy? ALL of those lovely doubts about your outfit, hair, and body come out and you start regretting booking a session after all. As you meet your photographer you can tell she’s nervous too.

She’s a little shy, so are you, there’s that awkward moment where you can’t think of anything to say. Regret slowly kicks in. You throw out there that you guys are a bit nervous, you’ve never done a couples photo session before.


She’s saying not to worry and tells you to stand “over there together”. You think, “Okay, annnnnnddddd now what? How do we stand?” She starts clicking away and all you can think is, “We should have hired a friend to do this. She’s not even telling us what to DO.”

When you receive your session a week later you look at the photos and let out a deep sigh. They’re just not natural, you had your ‘camera’ smile on and not one shows the love you feel when you’re with your hubby. Disappointment.

As photographers, it’s our job to put ourselves in our client’s shoes and create the feeling that you want in your photos.

Energy feeds on energy: You’re nervous? They’re nervous. You’re warm and chatty. So are they. You build up their confidence and get crazy excited about the photos? So do they.


We must realize how important direction and feeling comfortable effects our photos. There are always two options when you’re going into a photo session: you create an ambiance of trust and comfort, or of nervousness and regret. It’s your choice.

So how do we create real moments that are aesthetically pleasing with TONS of personality (that aren’t just posey)?

It all starts with how comfortable and fun you can make it for your clients. With kids, it’s easy, you make fart jokes with little boys or kissing sounds with babies (HA, I suppose if you did that with adults they’d get a kick out of it too…).

Where kids are easy to entertain, adults can be much more difficult. They have real worries about not looking the way they want, coming off awkward in the photos, and of course a slew of real world problems completely unrelated to the shoot.

It’s a lot to get over, right? Well, good thing you have some tricks up your sleeve!

  • No.

    From the moment right before you start shooting to the moment you click your first photo, your clients have to go from “off” to “on” without a warm-up. That’s not fair to anyone. If you start with some simple movement, like walking to and from the camera, it gives them time to warm up and get comfy.


    They’ll get used to being in front of the camera and don’t have to immediately put on their cheesy smile. It also gives your clients a few minutes to learn how you work and hear the directions you give them. They start to trust you and understand how you photograph.


  • No.

    I had a photo session with my fiancé once where the photographer gave us barely any direction. I’m pretty comfortable in front of the camera but I can’t read minds.

    We ended up doing our own thing and to be honest, the photos are lacking. We and the photographer are clearly not aligned and it shows.


    If you are scared of giving direction remember that your clients are even more scared of not knowing what to do. When you’re giving directions, start with the feet, then hips, then arms and head.

    For example: “Great! So now Andrew, I’m going to have your feet here point left. Julia, cuddle up with your arm behind his back making a “V” position with your bodies. Andrew put your right hand in your pocket. Julia have your weight shifted to your back leg. Now, I’ll have you talking to each other while I back up and take a larger shot. Talk about happy things please! I’ll tell you when I want something different from you.”


    Easy, now A & J know what they are doing with their bodies as well as what I’m doing. They’re chatting and thus are having real emotions and I can go far away, close up, tell them to look at me, or to snuggle in closer. As long as they know what to do, they’re feeling confident and it shows in the photos!

  • No.

    There are times that for the first 15 minutes of a photo session, I’m simply talking with my clients to try and get them as comfortable as possible with me. We talk about how they met, what they’re currently doing in their lives (work, school, travel etc.), our favorite foods, travels, anything!


    This isn’t lost time because now that they’re comfortable with me and we start connecting on different levels (other than the fact that they’re paying me), for the rest of the session they’ll let me into more intimate moments, resulting in better photos!

    There are also many of times that I want my clients to be interacting with me (and the camera) or each other so I’m asking questions about their lives, how they met, what their first date was like, etc. The key here is to ACTUALLY be interested. You can’t give dead prompts and expect lively answers.


    Talking about things that are interesting to both of you is paramount. There are no key questions to ask, only the questions that you really want answers to. Personally, one of my favorite parts of being a portrait photographer is meeting new people and learning about different cultures.

    A lot of times on my shoots we talk about relationships, food, and travel because these are three of my favorite things. What are your favorite things? How can you connect more deeply with your couples? Be authentic and your couples will, too.

It’s easy to pose a couple and then snap a few photos but where is the feeling in that? Where do their personalities come in? A great portrait has a story. You look at it and get to know the subjects a bit more.

It’s your duty to tell that story, authentically and truthfully. Capturing magic takes work, but it’s worth it!

  • Robin Christman
    July 19, 2016 at 5:27 PM

    Great article! I have a couples shoot coming up next week and this is getting me thinking on how I can get more real, intimate moments from them.

  • Jenni
    July 20, 2016 at 9:20 PM

    Fantastic article. Thank you.
    It goes against what some ‘teach’, to get the money shots first, which is a good thing and does talk to my style.

  • July 20, 2016 at 10:39 PM

    Your photos are amazing, Stephanie! And I love all the ways you find to display them .

  • Domingo R Ona
    July 21, 2016 at 12:56 AM

    I been shooting portrait photos but I did’nt know how to make my subject relax.Thanks for helpful tips.

  • Scott Spencer-White
    February 16, 2018 at 5:50 AM

    Literally about to go out on an engagement shoot – great tips guys!

  • Ciara
    May 31, 2018 at 8:48 PM

    Wow, thank you so much for all these tips. <3

  • Soulseeker Fotograf Nunta
    April 11, 2019 at 10:06 AM

    Absolutely fantastic tips. Thank you!

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