Hey friend! Are you a photographer that’s struggling to ease your clients’ nerves— and in turn, your photos are suffering? Maybe you have anxiety and you’re struggling with nerves yourself? If you’re raising your hand— this post is for you!

First of all, I just wanna say that I’VE BEEN THERE. And honestly, sometimes I’m still raising my hand to those questions. However, over the past couple years, I’ve really started realizing that my couples usually show up NERVOUS as heck to shoots, but leave saying how much fun they had, looking soooo chill and relaxed! Kinda like a kid that finally overcomes their fear and rides the rollercoaster, only to get off and say “LET’S DO THAT AGAIN!” hahaha. I love to see it. ❤️

SO, I’ve put together a list of things I’ve implemented that reallyyyy work to ease those nerves and create a chill vibe for your session! AKA, natural photos that truly tell the story of your couple’s connection, instead of an awkward version of them. Here it goes—

Bali Elopement Photographer




It’s like a first date— the first 30 minutes are always awkward… so get that outta the way BEFORE you start shooting. Meet up beforehand if you can, add them on social media, treat them like a friend. The more you know, the easier conversation flows.

No, this isn’t rocket science. But not everyone does this and it makes a huge difference! 🙃 it’s my favorite part too, because I always end up with real life friends!

Oh added bonus, grab drinks before the shoot and not only are you breaking the ice, but they’re a little loosened up after a beer or two haha. 🍻 I can’t even tell you how BIG of a difference this makes.

I should also add— people can tell when you actually care. Don’t ask questions just to fill the silence. Put your camera down and actually listen… then sneak a pic as they’re laughing about how they met. 😉



Right up front, before you start shooting, give them the rundown and explain how the shoot will go. Tell them about how you direct and what you expect from them (hint: should be very little haha). This should also be explained before the shoot and on your website, but it’s good to reiterate.

I always let my couples know a few things before we start shooting:

  1. It’s totally normal to be nervous and awkward, you are not expected to know what to do here!
  2. I will direct you, don’t worry! However, I do have a more “hands off” approach— so if I’m not talking, that just means I’m LOVING what you’re doing and trying not to disrupt the moment.
  3. Don’t overthink how you look or where to put your hands. Focus on your boo and if something looks awkward, I’ll tell you.
  4. Stay moving, even if it’s just swaying, rubbing her arm, etc. because it looks more natural and you’ll get more photos that way.

Knowing all this up front helps my couples relax because they know what to expect and they’re reassured that I’m the expert, I know what I’m doing, I’ve got them, and this is all they need to remember.


Oregon Wedding Photographer, Engagement Session


Coming from someone who LOVESSS tight shots and likes to get personal real quick, you gotta read the vibes here. If you’re getting closer and you can tell it’s making your couple a little more tense, just back up. Sometimes if I feel like we need a little “reset,” I’ll set up a far away shot and walk off a ways just to give them a little alone time. This is also helpful if you need a minute to think and be creative without feeling the need to “be the professional” and direct them constantly.

I like to start with a simple prompt like walking— everyone knows how to walk. It’s simple, they have some space, then work towards them as you go and they are more comfortable.


Couples Photo Shoot on the beach in San Diego, California


Hahaha starting off a little fiery here, but I feel kinda passionate about this one. Give your couples time to settle in when you’re directing them. SLOW DOWNNN. More time in one “pose/place” = more comfortable = more natural photos.

Stephen and I have had our photos taken before when we just felt like ROBOTS. I mean, they would tell us something to do, and before we could settle in and look halfway natural, they’d be ordering us to do something else. I had cute ideas of more ways to use that “position” but they were already on to something else.


I know it’s a natural instinct when you’re first starting to feel like you’ve gotta ramble off pose after pose without taking a breath, but it’s just not true! It’s counter productive and will definitely not create a chill vibe, haha.

Your couple (and YOU) will feel soo much more at ease when you slow down, step back, and let them settle in. Plus the photos will be sooo much more natural.


Hawaii Photographer, Weddings, Elopements, Couples


Not just any music— ask them what they listen to while cooking in the kitchen or riding in the car on the way to their session. Or what their favorite singer/song is. I do have a playlist of random music that I’ll play if they “don’t know don’t care” haha. Better yet, ask if they want to play their own playlist. I have a bluetooth speaker I always bring that’s a lifesaver, and anyone can connect to!

Playing music just fills the silence and sets the vibe. It gives them a beat to sway to, and usually results in them dancing and/or singing to each other! You can also go with the flow of the playlist— when a slower song comes on, let that set the mood and give them more “intimate” softer direction; and when there’s a song that’s more upbeat, hit em with a fun running prompt!

I know it’s not always okay to play music (in public places it can be weird), but if you can, you totally should!



Mobile, Alabama Wedding Photographer


In the beginning and throughout the shoot, continue to remind them that focusing on each other is all they need to do. It’s your job to take care of the pretty pictures part! When “posing” them or giving them prompts, ask them questions about their relationship and what brought them here, or to think about what they love most about each other. Ask them how they would hold each other if you were the only two people here, then walk away and give them some space while they settle in. Keep turning their attention toward their partner.

It’s awkward when you’re getting your photo taken and the photographer is silent. I’m a huge proponent of shutting up sometimes and letting it feel like it’s only them— HOWEVER, read the room people. 😂 If they are very reliant on your direction, then make sureee you are constantly reminding them (authentically!) when something looks great, that these photos are gonna be BOMB, and that they’re doing a great job.


South Carolina Mountains Couple Engagement Photography Shoot, by traveling wedding and elopement photographer Katie Bertagnolli


When you give them something to do, they’re less likely to be worried about how it looks and you’re more likely to capture those natural, in-between moments.




When you start to sense they need a break, give them a break! Stop feeling like you have to be shooting every second of your session. Being in front of the camera gets exhausting, so allow for rest time— stop for some conversation without your camera, ask them to just walk for a little ways and enjoy the view, or go to your camera bag and change your batteries. This also helps recharge YOUR creative batteries and gives your mind a quick much-needed break so you come back with some fresh ideas.


Alrighty, those are my top tips for creating a chill vibe during your photo session and making your clients comfortable in front of your camera! If this helped, leave me a comment and pin this post. 🙂



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