TBH, there’s nothing worse than awkward interactions. Double that when it’s an awkward interaction with a client who’s paying you to take effortless, beautiful photos! As the photographer, you feel like there’s this responsibility to carry the conversation and run the show, so if things get weird, you feel like it’s on your back. Which just makes it harder to course-correct because… hello, it’s all on you! *passes out* I have been there, and woof, it’s no fun. But over the years, I’ve picked up a handful of tricks for how to connect with clients to get better photo shoots and avoid those awkward moments.
The best news? It’s easier than you might think.
Whether you’re worried about long, uncomfortable silences between shots, telling someone to pose in a more flattering position, or not knowing what to say to your clients, there are tons of little things you can easily incorporate into your sessions so EVERYONE feels more at ease. (Yourself included.)
After all, your photo sessions should feel fun, creative, and energetic, no matter your experience level or whether you’re introverted or extroverted. With these ideas, you’ll be able to walk away from each shoot feeling connected to your subjects and confident that you got some stunning shots.
Tip #1: Treat them like an old friend.
Nerves are contagious, but so is happy, excited energy! Rather than showing up to a shoot feeling uncertain about the lighting or whether your clients will like you, tell yourself to treat them like an old friend. Be warm, conversational, and encouraging.
(Odds are, they’re nervous, too! No one is totally a *natural* at being in front of the camera… unless you’re shooting professional models or something. It takes some warming up for all parties.)
You, as the photographer, are the director of the session. That means your energy dictates how everyone else feels! If you show up feeling uptight and jittery, your clients will feed off of that. Do what you can to get in a positive headspace beforehand: go on a walk, listen to a favorite song or podcast, or repeat some uplifting affirmations so you can arrive feeling present and ready to roll.
Tip #2: Ask questions.
Questions are the gateway to connection with ANYONE—not just your clients. Why? Because as humans, we naturally looooove to talk about ourselves. It’s a part of our nature. So a quick way to connect with clients is simply by asking questions and being genuinely interested in their answers.
What do they do for a living? What activities do they enjoy for fun? What are the kids’ favorite colors/games/books/places to go? Where are they from? How did the couple meet? What’s their favorite restaurant in the area?
If you’re ever nervous (in literally any scenario!), start asking questions. I promise, just letting the other person or people talk and share about themselves will put THEM at ease, which will put you at ease, too. Plus, it’s a quick way to get to know people better and keep conversation flowing.
Tip #3: Don’t forget the jams!
Music is one way to fill those awkward, quiet moments when you’re getting your camera settings right or your clients are figuring out where and how to pose. When no one is talking, it’s easy to start feeling pressure to just FILL the silence with anything.
*insert random babbling story about your mom’s friend’s sister who once drove you to band camp but went the wrong way*
But you have things to do and a schedule to stick to, so you really can’t spend the whole shoot chatting it up.
Enter: your phone + a bluetooth speaker. All awkward silences = solved! Ask your clients what their favorite music or artist is, and then pull up a playlist on Apple or Spotify! Pro tip: if you don’t have a music streaming account, just search an artist on YouTube, like “James Taylor hits.” Usually, there are tons of free playlists to choose from. Or you can just find a cool acoustic playlist for something neutral and relaxing for everyone.
To get any kids you’re shooting really excited, ask for THEIR music requests! You might end up listening to Baby Shark on repeat, but you’ll have some happy, super excited kiddos. And that makes for some magical images.
Tip #4: Give direction in affirming ways.
As photographers, it’s our job to make our clients look and feel their best. So, it’s important to offer direction in a way that builds up their confidence, which in turn helps them to feel more trusting of you.
Rather than saying negative things like, “Don’t sit like that,” or, “Stop touching your hair,” work on giving affirming feedback and cues. Here are a few that I like:
- “Try doing X with your hands/body!”
- “Let’s see some big smiles! Now give me a more serious face.”
- “Can I touch-up your hair real quick? Gorgeous!”
- “Let’s try a fun sitting/standing/hand-holding/etc. pose now!”
See, friend? It’s really so simple if you let it be. In order to connect with clients for better photo shoots, it’s all about being genuinely interested in them. Treat them like a dear friend. Play their favorite music. Connect with them on a human level, and you’ll be sure to make them feel comfortable from the jump (as well as calming your own nerves)! That makes for the most successful and beautiful shoots in my book.
Looking to take your own photography business to the next level?