Client Experience: How to Create a Relaxed Session
It’s time to talk about one of the most important things we need to focus on as photographers: how to create a relaxed session for your clients!
If you’re like me, you’ve probably had some. . . awkward. . . sessions. Ya know, the ones where your couple just isn’t vibing with you? Or where they show up in outfits that don’t work well with the environment? Maybe your couple is so stiff that you really can’t get any emotion out of them. We’ve all been there!
But as photographers, it’s our job (literally – it’s what our clients are paying us for) to create the perfect session environment for them. Our couples have likely never had professional photos taken before. Or if they have, maybe they haven’t had the best experience and that’s why they’re coming to you now. It’s not their responsibility to know what to do or how to be comfortable during their session. That’s what we’re here for!
In this blog post, I’m going to dive into allll things relating to creating a relaxed, comfortable session for your clients! I’m not going to get into posing + prompting – that’ll be another blog post in the future! Instead, I’ll dive into how to set the mood beforehand and prepare an environment that allows your clients to feel safe and express their truest selves.
Ready?! Let’s get into the good stuff!!
Before The Session
Now, if you’ve done a few sessions before, you’ve probably learned that a ton of the work in creating a relaxed session actually happens BEFORE the session. Probably 75% of it, to be honest! (And if you haven’t learned that lesson yet – hey, now’s your chance!)
We’ve gotta focus not only on keeping our clients comfortable during the hour or two that we’re shooting with them, but also on preparing them in the best way possible.
It all starts with your very first initial email!
You need to make sure that from the moment a couple inquires with you (whether it be about a wedding or just a session), that you’re speaking in your true voice. By that, I mean you need to be writing your emails in the way that you actually talk in real life!
If you’re somebody with a louder, more bold voice, use exclamation points! If you’re more quiet or reserved, don’t use three exclamation points at the end of every sentence (guiltyyy!) – go for a period instead. This allows your clients to get a feel for your personality right from the get-go, and helps set the tone for your interactions together!
Walk them through what to expect.
One of the most important things I do for my clients is send them a lil “What to Expect” email a month or two before their session! I use this email to fill them in on everything they can expect from our time together. This helps them know what’s coming if they’re feeling nervous or have never had professional photos taken together, and sets expectations before you even arrive at your session location!
First, you can walk them through what the actual session itself will look like.
A brief example of part of the email I send to my couples beforehand:
“‘We’re going to have such a great time – we’ll be moving, snuggling, laughing and exploring through the forest together. Hopefully you’ll forget it’s a photoshoot and just have a blast with your man! You might want to warn him he should be ready for a bit of a work-out 😉 hehe!”
Here are some ideas of what to include for this part of the email:
- How will the session begin? Do you get out your gear right away (spoiler alert: don’t do that), or do you take the first 10-15 minutes just to chat & get to know them?
- Do you play music? Is it going to be awkward and silent?
- How do you approach posing? Will you give more artistic, still poses? Use a lot of movement? Will you prompt & direct them instead of giving strict poses? Will they have to do any of the work? Do they need to be professional models in order to look great (another spoiler alert: NO!!)? What do they do with their hands?!
- ^ use this section of your email to really educate them on your approach to posing. Why do you do it the way you do? Why does it help them feel comfortable + bring out their truest selves?
- If you’re shooting at multiple locations, will you be driving together or separately?
- Where should they meet you & at what time?
- What happens if the weather is bad when you get there?
- Should they bring multiple outfits? Where will they change?
- Do they need to bring separate shoes to walk in so they don’t get their nice ones dirty?
- How long will the session be? Will you give them breaks or will it be all at once?
Next, walk them through how to prepare for the session beforehand.
A few things to include:
- Give them outfit advice! They likely won’t know what to wear and may be nervous about wearing the “right thing.” Put together a few Pinterest boards of outfit inspiration – outfits for different season, casual outfits, fancy outfits, hair/makeup, accessories, etc.
- Suggest certain colors/color palettes based on the location + season of their session!
- Let them know they are welcome to send you photos of their outfit ideas and you can give input!
- Encourage your clients that their COMFORT is KEY! Be yourselves, wear clothes you feel the best in and your confidence will shine through the photos!
- Let them know they can bring props if they want to! Are there any special things they like to do on dates (e.g. eat picnic-style, hang with their dog, cuddle on a specific blanket, drink beer, etc.) that you can incorporate into their session?
- Help them plan what they can do to relax if they’re feeling nervous on the day of their session! If they’re drinkers, suggest bringing some drinks to take a shot at the beginning of the session, or sip on their favorite beers throughout the session. Tell them to think of it as just a date – a time set aside solely to focus on + hang out with each other and get away from work & all the craziness of the world.
- One suggestion you could make if you’d like to: if you know they’re really nervous, invite them to grab drinks or a snack an hour before their session! Let them know you’re down to just hang out for a little while first (especially if you haven’t met in person yet) so you can get comfortable before you actually start shooting.
Right Before + During the Session
The day has finally arrived! You’ve just arrived at your session to meet up with your clients, and you’ll want to make sure you take the time before shooting to really set the mood + create a great environment.
Get them comfortable!
First of all, don’t take out your camera gear immediately! This might make your clients nervous right from the start and feel like they have to jump right in.
Instead, spend the first 10-15 minutes getting to know them, chatting, & making small talk. Get comfortable making conversation with each other and notice how they’re feeling. If you can tell they’re nervous, bring it up! Tell them that it’s totally normal to be nervous but that by the end of the session, they’ll forget they were ever anxious and that you’re a pro at helping clients feel 100% comfortable.
Once you’re feelin’ comfortable and like they’re ready to go, give them a little speech! Tell them once again what the session will look like – that you want to keep them comfortable, you’ll direct & pose them, you’ll start at x location, and you’ll plan to change outfits at x time.
Finally, ask them what kind of music they like best and put on some music to set the mood + get rid of any potential awkward silence!
Be prepared with a few go-to prompts!
Before you arrive at any session, be prepared with a few go-to, “easy” prompts that you’ll start off with! These first few prompts will help you get a feel for how your clients will react, interact with each other, and interact in front of your camera.
Take notice & pay close attention to your clients!
Once you get into the session, you need to make sure you pay attention to how they’re feeling!
If you can tell they’re feeling stiff, give them a little break! Go walk around “looking for a new spot” while they stay back, rest, and talk to each other. What if you give them a prompt and they’re not reacting well to it or look uncomfortable? Change it – don’t make them stay in it!
Do they seem like a more outgoing couple? Give them more movement prompts. If they’re a little more intimate or reserved, give them less prompts with big movement and instead focus on capturing the small moments between them.
Continuously pay attention to their energy throughout your session to accommodate how they’re feeling & make sure you’re bringing out their truest selves!
Keep the conversation flowing!
Awkward silence can be a vibe crusher. I try to always be chatting with my clients as we walk to the next spots. Ask them about their life, relationship, further details on how they met, where is their dream honeymoon…. or even share funny memories about the last time you shot somewhere similar (at least my awkward self has had plenty of falls, getting stuck somewhere or running into river people at a park – longggg story. lol!)
Especially pay attention to the person you haven’t been emailing and chatting with this whole time. Ask for their perspective on the story of how they got engaged etc. Making everyone there super comfortable is key!
Anything to make them feel that much more comfortable with you will help them let their guard down once the camera is out!
HYPE THEM UP!!!
This is a big one! You NEED to cheer them on. This is all about giving them an incredible experience!! I want my clients to feel like they just freakin crushed their session when they are driving home.
‘OW OWWWW!!!’ – ‘OMG YOU CUTIES!!!’ – ‘GET IT, GET IT’ – ‘OKAY that hair blowing you MODEL!!’…. ALLL that good energy will amp up their confidence x 10000!
Ending the Session
Thank them + remind them what happens next!
Once you feel like you’ve captured your clients in their truest forms & have gotten everything you + they wanted, end it on a good note! Thank them & tell them how much fun you had. Compliment them on how great they were and see if they’re still nervous, or if they’re pros like you knew they’d be by the end of the session!
Before you leave, make sure you remind them of what happens next + set expectations! Will they get sneak peeks? How long until they receive their photos? Anything that you want them to remember so you avoid them emailing you with questions afterward.
Aaaand that’s it!! Those are all the ways I never fail to create a relaxed, comfortable environment for my clients. It’s so much more than just playing the right music during their session or memorizing poses. It truly does start with your first email to them.
I hope this blog post helped you truly learn how to create a relaxed session for your clients! Now, take all the info to heart + make the process your own! I can’t waitttt to see you kill it every session!