How to Host A No-Pressure Photo Shoot

Being in front of—and even behind—the camera can be super overwhelming. In front of the camera, you might be feeling vulnerable, worried about how things will translate on camera, or lacking authenticity. Behind the camera (throwing in technical challenges and intricacies, creative pressure, and capturing genuine moments), a simple photo shoot can become a stressful situation. 

Creating a laissez-faire environment for photo shoots is truly simple and worthwhile. When you make your models feel cared for, confident, and relaxed, you will undoubtedly capture the best photos. Try following these 6 steps to host a no-pressure photo shoot that will make the experience fun for everyone.

Prepare for your no-pressure photo shoot ahead of time

1. Prepare ahead of time

A little preparation goes a long way in reducing stress. Before your shoot, start thinking about the details: the location, the goal of the shoot, and any artistic concepts you want to include in the shoot. If it helps, write it down. This will save you the awkward moment of meeting up with your subjects or arriving at the location and not knowing where to start. You should bear this burden so that your clients don’t have to.

To have a no-pressure photo shoot, define your/your client’s goal in advance. It could be beauty or fashion, new family photos to update a photo wall, a romantic engagement shoot for wedding invitations, or even fun pet photos to make home decor with. If you or your client have specific requests for the photos (i.e. natural lighting, color-coordinated outfits), consider those as well and think about how the details trickle down from there. Also, keep an eye out for any potential challenges. If you’re planning any artistic concepts that involve props or moving elements, be sure to test them out on-camera ahead of time.

With the photo goals and concept in mind, you can brainstorm a list of possible locations. If you are planning to shoot at a location you don’t know well, you should always scout it out ahead of time. For more remote locations, you may need to take a trip there to check it out and make sure it’s what you expected or that it hasn’t changed since the last time you saw it. On the other hand, for public locations, you may be able to Google Image search the location. Even so, you should still arrive early to find one to three spots that are perfect for the shoot.

Give yourself enough time to set up for your photo shoot

2. Give yourself enough time to set up

Nothing is more stressful than rushing. To avoid this, be sure to arrive in advance and give yourself enough time to set up. One hour to 45 minutes should be enough time to prepare: Set up the tripod, clean your lenses, and set up your lighting equipment if you’re using it. If you’re working with props, add a little bit more time to make sure everything traveled there okay.

Once you arrive, run a couple of test shots to have a general idea of the settings you’ll be shooting in. Test the lighting in the areas you’ll be shooting in, whether it’s direct sunlight, a shady area, or an artificially lit room. 

If you’re shooting solo portraits, be conscious of sunset times, weather, and location closing times. Even though no one else is waiting on you, you should still work in some room to get set up. 

You should also always test your equipment prior to the day of the shoot. If you’re working with new lenses or tools, play with them at home before taking them out. Also, make sure batteries are charged the night before and bring extras.

Set the mood of your no-pressure photo shoot

3. Set the mood of your no-pressure photo shoot

Once all of the conceptual and technical parts are off your plate, you are ready to set the tone for your no-pressure photo shoot. As the photographer, it’s your job to create the mood and carry it on throughout the shoot. Be prepared to have patience, flexibility, and a good sense of humor. You already thought through the big details; your location is perfect, the equipment is ready to go. It’s all atmosphere from here.

Play some good-vibe music to lift spirits. Another tip is to always start with a smile; a warm welcome goes a long way. Allow the small talk to ebb and flow organically—this allows everyone’s anxiety and nervousness to pass. Even if you already know your photo subjects well, this time is so important for letting the stress of commuting to the location calm. Share excitement for the shoot and don’t rush into it.

Get a feel for everyone’s mood and personality so that you can create the environment your clients need. They might want a fun, high-energy shoot. Or, in contrast, they might want a quiet, gentle, empathetic feel to the shoot. They may want spontaneity, or they might need a bit of coaching. Whatever it is, go with the flow.

Once it’s time to shoot, give a briefing of the general plan, but be open to veering in unexpected directions. If you leave yourself open to candid moments and trying new things, your clients will sense that. As a result, the shoot will feel less rigid and clinical. You could even bring some thoughtful props to the shoot and lay them out for spontaneous use. Leave it up to the subjects of the photos.

4. Help build confidence

Photo shoots can elicit such a large range of emotions, including insecurity. By actively infusing a shoot with self-love, you can help your photo subjects (or yourself) feel more confident in front of the camera.

Complimenting someone else doesn’t cost a dime. Positive affirmations from behind the camera can truly help build self-esteem and confidence for those in front of the camera. Call out details such as: “You look great in this lighting,” and “That candid laugh is adorable on camera!”

You can also encourage some self-love through dialogue. Before and/or during your no-pressure photo shoot, open up a conversation. You can do this as a sit-down session, or sprinkle these questions into pauses during the shoot. Feel out the vibe. Hopefully, by this point, you’ve already established expectations, trust, and comfort.

If you’re shooting photos of an individual, ask them what they are excited to see about themselves on camera. Maybe they bought a special outfit or wore a piece of heirloom jewelry. Dive a little deeper by asking them to name five parts of themselves that make them unique. 

If you’re shooting photos of a group or a family (even your own family), ask everyone to give two physical compliments and two non-physical ones to someone else in the group. This is a great icebreaker to get the love flowing and break down any insecurities.

Above all, let your clients’ personalities shine through. Make room for silliness, raw emotions, and creating memories.

5. Provide guidance and styling during the photo shoot

As the eye behind the camera, it’s important to remember that your clients and models are looking into a lens–not a mirror. It can be comforting to someone in front of a camera to know that you are looking out for them. As the photographer, it’s your job to make sure everyone likes their photos.

If you capture a great shot in the beginning or middle of the shoot, consider showing them one or two of the photos so they can see how it looks. This is a great way to validate that the shoot is looking good. However, don’t give it all away—save some for the end.

To ensure a no-pressure photo shoot, ease your client’s worries if you notice that they are feeling insecure. They may be tugging at their clothes or frequently touching their hair or makeup. You can help fix any real or perceived flyaways and help them feel more self-assured that nothing is going awry. (Always ask if it’s okay before touching another person.) You can also direct them to do it themselves, in a friendly and casual tone. 

If the shoot starts to become stale or awkward, breathe a little life back into it. For example, offer up some of the extra props you brought along. Also, feel free to get a little silly with some fun poses or prompts that will elicit genuine laughter.

Look through the photos from your no-pressure photo shoot together

6. Look through the photos together to print and share

You’ve successfully planned and executed a fun, no-pressure photo shoot! At the end of the shoot, you can share a few raw photos with your clients. You can show them the last few, or show them the thumbnail gallery and select two or three of your favorites for them to preview. This is like a pat on the back for a job well done, ensuring that they’ll feel confident in themselves and your photography skills. 

Once you upload and edit your photos from the shoot, you can schedule a meeting to pick favorites together for printing and sharing. By the end of this no-pressure photo shoot, you should have some awesome photos with a range of genuine emotions. Because you took away the stress of being in front of the camera, your clients’ authentic selves were able to shine through. Whether it was a shoot for a special occasion or just a fun portrait shoot, they will definitely want to share the results. And there’s no better way to share their best moments captured than printing them on glass.

Fracture’s glass prints are an elegant way to display special moments in any room of your home. Your clients can show off their best candid or “plandid” photos with a glossy or matte print—gorgeous decor for any style. A Fracture Photo Wall is ideal for displaying sets of photos. If the photo shoot included a sequence of events or had a central theme, your client can tell that story with a Fracture Storyboard. Guide your clients to choose a range of shots that show different pieces of their most authentic selves.

About The Author

Morgan Hughes

Morgan is a storyteller, amateur photographer, and cat mom based in Miami, FL. She is a former journalist from New England and definitely drinks iced coffee in the winter. During her time away from the screen, you can find her at art galleries, taking dance classes, or lying on the ground taking a photo of a puppy.

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