Some people imagine that photographers can magically make people look great. Well, we kind of can. But we can’t do it alone. What great photographers know how to do is get the best out of their clients. A photographer can’t take a great portrait of you unless you are emotionally and mentally present. Your photographers goal is to get you to open up a little bit, to smile more genuinely, to laugh, to smirk, to come out of your shell long enough to snap a photo.

So, we cannot create great portraits of you alone. You have to help us. It’s up to you to choose a positive and engaging demeanor when you go into your portrait session. You have choose clothes you like. You have to let us know some places and situations where you really feel like your best self. We can do a lot of the work, but some of it you have to do too. And your family does too.

Unfortunately, most of us don’t get to work with professional photographers on a regular basis, so it might feel a little unnatural. So, here are some tips to help you collaborate and get more out of your portrait session.

Give yourself an hour before the session – don’t come right from work.

If you can avoid it, giving yourself some time to relax–To decompress, To stop thinking about the important stuff you have to do for a while—can really bring an sense of lightness to your session. It’s also advisable that you don’t have work or heavy responsibilities immediately following your session. During your session, you should have room to breath, to think and to feel your best.

If this isn’t possible, take a moment to decompress right there. Or ask your photographer to take the first 5 or 10 minutes to just walk around with you and chat. We want to see your smile extend into your upper cheekbones. We’d like you to be able to relax your fingers, and hold your back up straight. So a great way to collaborate with your photographer is to give yourself a running start on this. Decompress for a bit before and, if possible afterwords as well.

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Kids make the rules during a portrait session

Parents sometimes forget this. When they step into a portrait session, they suddenly start feeling like they have to keep a shorter leash on their kids (metophircally, hopefully) than usual. This almost always backfires because if theere is something adults are almost always outmatched in, it’s willpower.

An unhappy child is going to stay unhappy until the situation they don’t like is over. And they’ll probably protest the whole way through. That is, unless something else makes them happy first. Children have to lead the portrait session, because it hinges on their cooperation, which is something they usually don’t give freely. In somuch as we can, we respond to the child, instead of expecting them to respond to us. The adults who are present need to take that attitude as well, or they are likely to change the child’s tone irredeemably.

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Be as flexible as you can – if rescheduling will produce better results we’ll do it.

Some sessions are scheduled are very important dates, collusions of people from different geographic places, or in places that simply have a limited window of access. If any of these things are the case, obviously, rescheduling a session just because some other aspect of the session is not ideal is impossible. That place and time are part of what makes makes the photos important.

But when the session is set up simply to reflect availability, collaborating on the schedule can make a big difference in the images. For example, if you set up a session in a location that is beautiful because of a canopy of trees, on a cloudy day, the charm can turn to dreary. Can you go ahead with the shoot and make it work? Sure. You could choose a new location on the fly, or you could try and make the best of the original location, but to varying degrees, the results are going to suffer. Instead, it’s better to keep an flexible mindset around the session’s schedule. If conditions are going to impede the vision for the session, it’s usually better to try again another day than to just skim the surface of your photographer’s creativity.

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Speak up, ask questions, let loose

Communication is a major cornerstone of the photographic experience. Leading up to your session, during your session and after your session, collaborating with your photographer means communicating.

You want to show up for your session feeling relaxed and optimistic. Lingering questions or concerns can get in the way, so speak up about them. The same goes for during the session itself. If something is making you uncomfortable or nervous, speak up. You won’t get a scornful eye from us! We want to hear what’s on your mind. The more you engage with us, the more powerful the images we create of you can be. You need to feel free to let loose. Be silly. Act like a super hero. Get off your high horse! Your session should be fun, and the more you can let loose, then more genuine your images become. Of course, you can always ask your photographer not to use some image you know you won’t like, but the act of letting loose will make the images you do like that much better.