10 Tips for Relaxing Your Subject  During a Photoshoot

10 Tips for Relaxing Your Subject During a Photoshoot

One of the more difficult things photographers face when shooting a subject – be it a portrait client or a fashion model – is getting your subject to relax during a photoshoot. Many people get a little camera shy or feel a little unconfident in front of the lens for various reasons – even professional models. For them, they become less confident when working with a new photographer that they do not have a rapport with or know nothing about. Does the photographer know what they are doing? What are they seeing as a final result and can they execute it?

Model: Tara Virada


There are many tried and true things you can do to relax a client during a photoshoot, so buckle up because here’s my list of 10 things that have worked for me during my photoshoots. I hope you’ll find them useful for your shoots too.



One of the top ways I have noticed that gets my clients to relax during a photo shoot – no matter if it’s a portrait shoot or a fashion shoot – is to try to get to know your subject prior to them stepping in front of the camera. With my portrait clients, I tend to email them an information form to complete that not only asks the basic info such as their name and contact information, whether they wear eyeglasses, colors they may feel they can pull off and what is their favorite side to be photographed, but also things such as their favorite color, hobbies, job, if they have a significant other, if they play sports, their career goals, if they’re in school I ask them what are they studying and how long have they lived in NYC. The form is just one step I take in getting to know my client beforehand.

My portrait questionnaires distributed prior to the shoot.


My second step and the only step for my fashion and model portfolio clients is to have the client come 15-20 minutes early so we can go over what they brought for clothes and at that time, I tend to ask a few more questions that allows the door to open for me to share personal things about myself too. At that point, I am not just a photographer taking their portrait for money, but I become a more relatable human being in which we end up finding we have something in common and/or share a few laughs over a few jokes or stories.

I made a joke while explaining my vision for the next set and it definitely broke nervous tension in my subject.

Model: Deeksha Chawla

Image courtesy of Chelsea Jackson


My hair/makeup artist is definitely a treasure to have on set with me too as he is extremely friendly and lovable. Every client and/or model he’s come into contact with ends up liking him so much they exchange social media info and keep in touch for months after. I interact with my hair/makeup artist in a fun, positive and playful manner in front of my client as well and through this, the client gets a better sense of my easy going personality, which helps them to relax when it’s time to get in front of the camera. All of this interaction before the shoot helps me know what to talk about with my client during the shoot to keep them relaxed.



Before, during and after the photoshoot, you want to bring a positive vibe about the shoot. When I first started shooting people, I remember I failed to do this and didn’t communicate much about the shoot itself or even what I had in mind for the shoot. I remember it actually clicked for me by accident about 3 shoots into the start of my portrait/fashion career.

Bringing a fun, positive attitude to your shoots helps relax your subjects as my hair/makeup artist adds here.

Image courtesy of Robert Olsen


I was shooting fashion and portraits for a model’s portfolio and personal use. She was dressed in a beautiful purple gown and I took her down the street from my home studio into my gritty, industrial, graffiti-ridden SE Bronx neighborhood as I wanted to try some clever juxtaposition ideas but didn’t communicate this to my client. I noticed at the time, she was very apprehensive not only to my idea of putting her in a high-end gown but taking her into a gritty neighborhood of the Bronx because I didn’t explain why. Once we got to the location, I had her pose in different variations but it wasn’t until I explained the idea I had behind the shots – that I was really excited to try shooting a high-end dress in a gritty neighborhood and why – because it doesn’t make sense and it would make a viewer look at the image a little longer – that she lit up. About ten minutes into the shoot down the street, I noticed a rare beam of light that hit the wall of graffiti underneath a set of train tracks. I squealed with excitement and asked her to quickly move over to the area with the beam of light and excitedly gave her direction for posing. She loosened up and felt more comfortable because I was not only communicating my ideas, but in a more excited and enthusiastic tone where she could also envision the end result. We came away from the shoot with the image below.

It may not be the best example of juxtaposition, but my subject got a lot more relaxed here.

Model: Katie Buell


It’s good to be excited and positive about your subject, but it’s even better to also get excited about the circumstances surrounding your subject as it takes less focus off your subject for your subject.



Think about it. Doesn’t music cause you to feel emotions? Typically more energetic, right? (Well music types like classical and ambient may relax you into a sleep, but you get the point…) Ask your subject to bring music they like, have them tell you what they listen to or have them sign into their Spotify, Apple Music or Pandora account when they get to the shoot. When a subject listens to music they like, they will generally relax and get into a rhythm with you during the shoot. If they don’t know what they want to listen to, I will put on DJ or club music that has a beat to it.

Apple Music, Pandora and Spotify.


Having a rhythm or beat going moderately in the background will get both you and your subject going in a rhythm of your own which can be especially helpful when shooting fashion.



There are several ways I implement providing good direction to my portrait and model clients. The first way is through actual description. This can be kind of tricky though when you have to think of your right being their left, so if you can quickly think opposite like that, this is a good way to go. Another way is to use movements with your hands as to which way they should shift such as what I’m doing in the image below.

Giving good direction will help your subject relax.

Image courtesy of Rachel Endoso


Other good techniques include mirroring poses yourself as when a subject can see visually what you have in mind, it makes it easier for them to mimic the pose. In addition, when a subject really isn’t understanding what you need, you might need to physically place them as you want to pose them, but make sure first, to ask them if they are okay with being touched.


Oftentimes, for the professional models who already know many poses, I’ll start them off and tell them to vary the pose freely after the flash pops and my camera beeps. You are there to guide your subject through to your vision so it’s your responsibility to give good direction so that they are not lost like a deer in headlights.



Some people can be very finicky or sensitive about being touched. It’s really important to ask before you touch. Something as simple as, “Is it ok if I…” goes a long way. My hair and makeup guy lives by this rule even after my client already told them it’s ok as it also keeps them forewarned that he’s coming in to make an adjustment rather than surprising them with it.

Always ask before touching

Model: Daria Komarkova

Image courtesy of Yann Bizeul



Beyond communicating direction during a photoshoot, it’s a great tool to talk to your client as much as you can throughout your entire shoot. Remember that pre-shoot chat I recommended? Use some of the topics you talked about with your client or model at that time as points of things to make conversation about. Make jokes (when appropriate). Ask questions.

I always insert a lot of positive speak while I direct and shoot.

Model: Deeksha Chawla

Image courtesy of Chelsea Jackson


When you talk to your client during a shoot, it makes you more than just a photographer – it makes you a relatable human being. I often even turn the conversation away from the subject and banter or joke with my makeup artist or assistant about something very general that my subject might even find funny and relatable. Just be sure whatever you do, that it comes natural to you, otherwise it just comes across awkwardly and the client will notice.



It’s really important to steer clear of negative reactions on a set at ALL costs. Showing a negative reaction can make your subject or model very uneasy and may make them lose confidence in how they are doing doing a shoot. We sometimes even subconsciously show a negative reactions to things, whether it’s the way your subject is posed that isn’t working for you or when you look at an image on the back of an LCD screen and don’t like the results such as in the photo below.

Example of a negative reaction.

Model: Colleen Rose Careri


How you handle your facial expressions, your tone of voice, sighing and what you say can all make a difference as your subject is watching you and looking for cues as to how they are doing. Everything you do needs to be in a very positive, upbeat expression. When I see something not working for me, I generally, shift into a “I just had an idea… I think I want to try something new and different so let’s try this and see if we can get some different variations for you to choose from on this look…”

Example of my positive reaction while looking at the monitor. The model sees this and is motivated.

Model: Bonnie Byrnes


If something’s not working, keep positively transitioning until you find what does. Be sure to compliment the subject along the way with things like, “beautiful” and “I love that” and “Can you do that again? That was really pretty.” This will keep your subject’s confidence high and their feelings relaxed.




I feel it’s really important to show a client a few shots along the way during the shoot. It’s a very uneasy feeling to blindly get in front of a camera and not know how the images are coming out. This is a great opportunity with your portrait clients who might have low self-confidence to show them how amazing they look in photographs to spike not only confidence in themselves, but confidence in you, as the photographer.

Here I’m showing my fashion model some of the photos from the last set as she was a bit uneasy

and curious how they were coming out.

Model: Colleen Rose Careri

Image courtesy of Robert Olsen


I generally have a number one rule when I shoot portrait clients or models: they are not allowed to look at my monitor during the shoot unless I tell them it’s okay, and this is a good rule to have. I assure them I’ll show them shots along the way, but we don’t want to waste time looking at every single photo and primping after each capture. I once had a model who was obsessed with how she looked that she spent more time primping instead of shooting because she kept using the monitor as her mirror.

Sharing takes with the model to give feedback.

Model: Colleen Rose Careri

Image courtesy of Robert Olsen


Since I work with a lot of models on portfolio images, and as a former model back in the day, I do spend time during the shoot with the model clients giving them feedback on posing, what photographers like and are looking for when they shoot things like fashion of which the models have always been open and receptive to learning. I always ask if they are open to critique after a series of shots first though. Never presume.



A well known tip for getting your subject to relax is to give them something to do with their hands. Giving them an object to hold helps them take their focus off of being photographed and puts it more on what’s in their hands. The more familiar the object is to them, the easier the task of relaxing them.

Give your subject something to hold.

Model: Bonnie Byrnes


In the image above, who doesn’t remember the days of enjoying a big lollipop? Or if you never had the experience, finally having the experience. This became a much more fun set for the model when I handed her the lollipop as a prop.



The very best way to relax your subject is to make them feel like you are the professional and know what you are doing and that is shown through confidence. You need to know your gear and you need to know what you’re doing. Even if your images are not Vogue or Elle-worthy yet, act like they are. Your subject’s nerves will subside once they trust the photographer is taking care of things.

It’s important to not do anything you normally don’t do, such as, if you’re not a joker – don’t tell jokes. Maybe start a conversation instead. When you try to do things you normally are not comfortable doing, the nervousness shows and transmits lack of confidence to your subject. Make sure you stick to your true self as that is what will relax you.


Posted by Dawn Wayand in Workshop, 0 comments
Selling Your Photography

Selling Your Photography

The goal of many photographers is to make money selling their photography. Doing so may come in the form of a client hiring you to shoot portraits, shooting for a magazine, selling your pics through a stock photography house or creating work to sell at an exhibition or art fair or some other path getting your work out there. One of the biggest obstacles for many photographers is knowing just HOW to sell your photography.

One of numerous venues where I have sold my work.


Having sold over 100 pieces within my first year of exhibiting and much more since, I’ve shown my work through countless group and solo exhibitions at numerous types of venues in Florida, NYC and online. When I first started, I knew nothing about photo editing and while my work was pretty good, I attribute my fortune of doing well as an amateur at that time, to knowing how to sell – something I had been quite good at my whole life. In this article, I’m going to focus on how to sell your photography in exhibitions and art fairs, though some of the things I discuss here can actually be applied across the board. You may request more information on obtaining the complete eBook: Exhibitions, Marketing, Promotion and Publicity by clicking here.


Setting Goals

Before you set out to sell your work, it’s a good idea to set some goals for doing so. It’s important to set realistic and attainable goals otherwise if you fail to meet your goals, you may become discouraged and fail to proceed forward with achieving those goals.

Image courtesy of Google.


For instance, you may say to yourself, “I want to sell at least 5 photographs at my next gallery event.” Stretching yourself a little to achieve your goals, however, helps to make room for you to grow as a photographer.


Building Confidence to Sell Your Work

Confidence is a major player to selling your work. You have to have confidence in your abilities as an artist and photographer and confidence in your ability to sell your work otherwise you may not get very far. Some of the behaviors you might want to alter (if they exist) are:

  • Apologizing for your work. If your work offends another person, even a buyer, don’t apologize for your work. Your work represents you and your self-expression and that is something you should not be apologizing for.

Image courtesy of Google.


  • Hiding from potential buyers. Don’t hide out in the back of your booth at an art fair or in an office at a gallery, get out there mingle. Answer questions, obtain feedback. This could be very invaluable.

Image courtesy of Google.


  • Avoiding marketplace interactions. Don’t avoid exhibitions because you do not think your work is good enough to sell. Exhibiting is a great learning experience if nothing else and getting feedback on your work can sometimes take away any insecurities you may have in exhibiting in the first place.


  • Dismissing yourself as soon as you can. When a conversation gets uncomfortable for you (such as negotiating a price), don’t dismiss yourself to avoid discomfort, you may lose a potential sale. Push through that discomfort, stand up for your work.


Practice helps build your confidence with exhibiting. Juried competitions – even better. You don’t even have to be involved with a gallery to do this. Start with online exhibitions. There are many opportunities to exhibit online, bringing together artists from around the globe which I’ll go into more detail in my next article: Where to Sell Your Photography.

There’s a variety of open calls for competitions and contests online.

Images courtesy of Google


Don’t judge yourself by questioning if your photography if worthy or exceptional. Concentrate more on how to present yourself and your work instead of whether it is good enough for a gallery or museum. Keep shooting and showing because the more you are doing with your photography, the better you will continue to get – increasing your self-confidence.

Image courtesy of Google.


Dealing with Negative Feedback

It’s inevitable that you’ll get feedback on your work at some point, including negative feedback, but look at these times as opportunities to develop and improve. Negative feedback allows you to learn of your shortcomings and to generate ideas to help avoid negative feedback in the future. If you don’t allow for negative feedback by denying or making excuses, you will miss the opportunity to grow.

Gallery representative speaking with an exhibitor at a recent group exhibition I curated.


This is why portfolio reviews are a great way to gain unbiased opinions of your work. They are not meant to make you want to quit photography, but to help you improve your photography as you go forward with shooting.


Sources of Negative Feedback

There are three general sources of negative feedback: clients, gallery representatives or service providers; other artists; and viewers, jurors or media representatives.


  • Clients, Gallery Representatives or Service Providers. Here you will be judged on your standard of work you provide, whether you make deadlines and make/receive payments. Accept any valid complaints and work to fix these problems.


  • Other Photographers. We sometimes want to be embraced by fellow photographers and sometimes negative feedback from other photographers says more about themselves than about you. Decide if you would benefit from their feedback before accepting it.


  • Viewers, Jurors and Media Representatives. Feedback from this group is generally based off an assessment. Try to figure out how they reached their conclusion, if possible. If their negative feedback can help to enhance your practice in the future, implement their suggestions, but if they conflict with your artistic voice – let them go.

Image courtesy of Google.


How Do I Sell?

There are several elements to successfully making a sale when selling your photography. First, you need to know what compels a customer to buy. You’ll need to then build a pitch around your customer’s needs. Start by jotting down as many positive keywords as you can think of. Some examples are listed below:

Example positive keywords.


“But how do I get the sale?” you might ask…


Below are some tips for actually escorting a customer to the sale.


1.  Don’t tell people the features of your photography – tell them how they will benefit from purchasing it. Think of a car salesman’s pitch. What would sell you on purchasing a car, this: “…this car has the best anti-lock brakes of all cars…” or this, “you will have peace of mind knowing this car has many safety features in place for you and your family to get you where you are going safely…” How many of the keywords above did I use here?


2.  Focus on what the customer finds important – not what you find important. Step outside of you and put yourself in your buyer’s shoes. Listen! Let the buyer talk. This will help give you insight into their needs. Then relate!

Image courtesy of Google.

3.  Keep your tone upbeat and don’t attack your competition. No one ever wants to hear you downing the competition. Remember, mentioning the competition plants the seed of the competition in your buyer’s mind and they may then want to check out the competition too. Out of sight – out of mind. Don’t mention it!


4.  Ask for the order. This is the number one reason that a sale fails. Photographers and artists forget to ask for the sale! After any interest is established, immediately say, “would you like to buy that piece for your home or office?” or can I wrap this one up for you today?”



It’s tempting for photographers and artists to go with the flow of the market and trends, but you shouldn’t let this guide your path. Your passion should be what guides you in your work and how you market your work. Some self-promotional strategies are:


  • Print Portfolio. A print portfolio should really be no more than 20 images and the images should be your absolute BEST work. Leave anything mediocre out. Need unbiased help figuring out which are your strong pieces? Portfolio reviews are a tremendous help in guiding you to put together your portfolio.


Image Courtesy of Hartnack & Company website


  • Web Portfolio. Like the print portfolio, a web portfolio, typically found on your website, should be a set number of your very best images representing your work. The benefit of a web portfolio is the ability to create multiple galleries by category and the ability to integrate a shopping cart to help to instantly sell your work.

My Fine Art America Travel Portfolio


  • Social Media. In the Age of Social Media, it’s vital to use platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+ and LinkedIn to share your work. Share a few images that will be displayed at your next exhibition or art fair date and include a teaser where they can see more. Using social media, you can direct potential customers to your website where they can purchase some of your work.

There’s a variety of social media channels out there to give you a boost.

Image courtesy of Google


  • Blogging. If you blog, include some of your images to help tell your story. This is a great way to build a following. Advertise your blog through your social media channels.

You can blog from just about anywhere so there’s no excuse!

Image courtesy of Huffington Post


Word-of-Mouth Promotion

Word of mouth promotion is some of the best promotion out there, and it’s free!


  • Testimonials. Ask satisfied clients if they would give a written testimonial about your services and or work that they purchased. Testimonials are perfect for use on your website and blog as well as any advertising that you do. Always make sure to ask the customer how they wish to be identified in the testimonial (their name or anonymously…)


  • Newsletter and Blog. You should keep your website, social media and blog regularly updated informing your contacts of new work, scheduled exhibitions, classes you may be teaching, publications you are appearing in and any other relevant news. When you do this, there are typically buttons on the website like “Send to Friend”, “Like”, “Share” and “Comment”.

Buttons like Share and Comment are great testimonial opportunities online.

Image courtesy of Google


Get Noticed!

The best way to get noticed is to show your work! Get involved in photo contests, juried competitions, group and solo exhibitions. Get involved in as many legitimately beneficial photography groups as you can find. Some great examples of these groups are APA (American Photographic Artists), PDN (Photo District News) and


Affordable Opportunities for Publicity

There are several affordable ways to promote yourself and gain publicity. Most of these I have used personally and others are tried and true ways to get yourself noticed.


  • Attend Gallery Openings. You should attend gallery openings in person,not just your own but other artists’ and photographers’ gallery openings. This is a prime opportunity to network, introduce yourself and get your name out there so people will remember you.

Attend as many gallery openings as you can to network.

Image courtesy of Google


  • Business Cards and Flyers. When you have an exhibition scheduled, have some professional business cards printed up (you will need these regardless) and print up some flyers and then put these out to the public on bulletin boards, community centers, art and photography classes, art and camera shops and anywhere you can post them. Be sure to include your very best image on the flyer as a type of work that represents your body of work.

Get some business cards made up to pass around whenever the opportunity presents itself.


  • Press Releases. Be sure to type up a press release announcing your next show and/or your receipt of an award or recognition and send it out to local papers and magazines.


  • Website. Be sure to have your own website and keep it fresh and current. It’s not terribly expensive to have a website these days. Some companies offer DIY user-friendly website building with hosting inclusive for $30/month or less.

Create a website or have one built.


  • Social Media. Make sure to keep with all of your social media pages. A word to the wise here: separate your personal and business social media pages. Create a business page for your business. You do not want potential clients reading your latest personal post about what you ate for dinner yesterday before going clubbing with a group of friends.


  • Art and Photography Organizations Affiliation. Associate yourself with organizations that can increase your visibility and extend your professional reach and contacts. The APA (American Photographic Artists), PPA (Professional Photographer’s of America), Fine Art America and more are great tools to get listed and/or post your work for sale.


Tips for Selling at Art Shows, Art Fairs and Group Exhibitions

So you’ve learned how to build confidence, how to deal with negative feedback, some tips for selling and some ways to promote yourself. I also wanted to give you a few tips for selling at art shows, art fairs and group exhibitions as well.


Talk About Your Work

Make sure you know your work well and learn how to be able to talk about your work. Unless asked, try to stay away from the technical aspects of how the image was created and tell a story about the image instead. You may also mention where you took it and what inspired you to create it. Have a two-minute spiele ready, but break it up into smaller chunks so as not to overwhelm your potential customer with too much information. End each soundbite with an open-ended question, such as “what type of photography interests you?” This will provide you an opportunity to listen for the customer’s needs.

Be confident enough to talk about your work.


Discuss Living with the Work

Talk about the attributes of your printed pieces that make it a piece your potential customer will want to live with. Smaller pieces for smaller spaces and larger pieces for visual power in a space.


Stay Positive Through the Entire Experience

Don’t complain about how slow the foot traffic is or about a busier vendor next to you  as you don’t want a potential customer to overhear you. The experience for any customer must always be positive.


Selling Your Story…

Having the opportunity to show at an exhibition or art fair is an amazing, exhilarating experience. There’s much to do in the way of preparation, but most importantly, knowing how to sell is key. It’s really important that you build up your self-confidence and be able to talk about your work to be able to sell it. Negative feedback is inevitable, but take it as a learning experience and an opportunity to grow. With these few key tips and your product in hand, you’re one step closer to a successful exhibiting experience. Stay tuned for my next article on Where to Sell Your Photography – coming soon.

This is just a small excerpt of the material contained in my Exhibitions, Marketing, Promotion and Publicity workshop. You may request more information on obtaining the complete eBook: Exhibitions, Marketing, Promotion and Publicity by clicking here.

Posted by Dawn Wayand in Workshop, 0 comments