How to Sabotage a Photo Session in 5 Easy Steps

None of us mean to intentionally ruin a session that we’re doing for a client or even our own family.

But we may doing just that without even knowing it.

So you want your clients {or your family} to have an amazing time AND walk away with images they’ll treasure?

Then make sure you AREN’T adding these five habits to your repertoire.



5.  Stick with the Tried and True.

Tried and True might be my theme song over the past year.

I was in a creative rut and just stuck with what I knew worked instead of looking for new ideas.

So while you may have your favorite poses that work, don’t be afraid to add some new ones that challenge your creativity


4.  Refuse to Incorporate Their Ideas

You are not the only one with crazy awesome ideas.

This was news to me as I thought being the photographer imbued me with special creative powers no one else had.


Ask your subject- whether it’s your own child, a two year old, or an 18 year old senior- what they want to do.


And then you might end up with one of your favorite shots…




What if they suggest an idea that really won’t work?


See if you can modify it.


And if that won’t work, then do it anyway.  It may not be a shot you end up editing, but you’ve given them partnership in the session.


And partnership equals a more relaxed, happier subject which equals better pictures.

And who knows?


You may have just  added some new poses and ideas up your sleeve!




3.  Put Away Your Camera in between Posed Shots

Never, ever turn off your camera, put on your lens cap or {gasp} put your camera away in between your posed shots.

These are the moments when the kids are the most relaxed and when you can capture their real smiles.

It’s also a great time to catch beautiful interactions between siblings or parents and their kids.




2. Don’t Get to Know your Clients

This was by far the hardest hurdle for me to conquer as I am most definitely an introvert.

I don’t like talking to people I don’t know.

This is not a good trait for a family photographer to have.

How did I conquer it?

I only photographed families I knew well for the first two years.

Once I began to gain confidence in what I was doing, I moved on to families I had never met and just asked lots of questions to find common ground, to show genuine interest in them.


My goal during my photo sessions is to make my clients feel like they are the most special, important, and beautiful people.


When you make your clients feel comfortable and loved, then you can capture smiles like these:



1.  Say “Cheese”

Don’t ever let these words come out of your mouth again.

If you’re doing a family, let the parents in on this because I guarentee that at some point they will say this to their kids and the result will be less than flattering.

If you want genuine smiles, re-read Step 4 once more.

But remember there’s more to capture than just the beautiful smile.

There’s the goofy open-mouthed smile to poke fun:

There’s also the more relaxed, pensive look:

And if you have the right subject, moody can look downright adorable:



Capturing real, authentic smiles boils down to relationship.

Whether it’s your own family or one you’ve never met before, once you’ve made them feel comfortable and beautiful, the rest is just mechanics.

But that’s another post.


  1. Tina Fowler

    There is some good advice here, I find myself returning to this article and reading it over and over.

  2. Sharon Billings

    This is a list of great advice! Although I do not usually do family photos, I am saving all your tips for a day when I may! You have gorgeous style with such natural subjects; I appreciate the tips on how you achieve this. Thanks for a great post!

  3. Great points!

  4. Cyndi Alder

    I love this! I can not agree more on getting to know your subjects and making them feel at ease!

  5. Kay Lucien

    I enjoyed reading this. Hardest thing for me is chatting and asking questions, even with people I know. I love your family shots!

  6. Amy Jordan

    Such great advice…Although your photos are always stunning I can’t imagine you sabotaging a shoot!

  7. Lee Glasby

    I always love your photos of people, you always manage to make them look natural and I really appreciate all these tips, Thanks for this Emily.

  8. Rhadonda

    Great great advice!! And your style is amazing! Thanks for sharing your wisdom!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *