Calming Nerves Before a Photo Shoot

Dear Leah,

I love your work. I love photography and getting candid moments. What inspires you to not be nervous about each shoot? I seem to think and lose sleep and end up getting panicked that I am not going to use the right lenses or come up with creative things to show my own style. I get so nervous, that I am scared I will mess up people’s photos or they will come out blurry. LOL. Is this normal?

Sincerely,

Nauseatingly Nervous

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Dear NN,

Great news! You’re absolutely, positively, without a doubt normal! It’s not uncommon to get nervous before a shoot, especially the newer you are to working with clients, in-particular with strangers. Not only do we need to make friends and put these newly introduced clients to ease but we also need to produce quality work that’s worthy of compensation. The good news is that time is going to make all of those much easier! The more sessions that you get under your belt the more natural it will all feel – I promise! Really, the best thing you can do for yourself is to shoot every chance you can, it’s with the practice that nerves will subside! But here are a few more tips that I hope will help you!

1. Offer to do mini shoots for friends or even better, friends of friends (people you don’t know) for a discounted price just to get practice in. Keep the sessions short (max of 30 minutes) and plan to only give them 10 images.

Mini Photo Sessions

2. Create a system. Have a shooting workflow that you can go through each time you have a session so that you know you get all the shots you’re going to need. I like to start with all the images that will have dad in them so that he can be done and over with asap. This always makes me a winner in his book, plus sometimes dad may need to scoot off and get back to work! So I may start with the whole family, or if kids are nervous – I’ll start with just mom and dad, then move on to whole family, dad and kids, mom and kids, kids together, kids individually and… Done.

3. Check the back of your camera!! When I was first starting, I’d forget to check all the time! It was awful! I’d come home and start sorting through the images only to burst into tears when I’d realize what I’d done. After enough mess ups, I finally made the habit of checking every 3 to 4 images or after my first shot in a new spot. I used to think I would look unprofessional or like I didn’t know what I was doing if I was constantly checking. Now I just talk through what I’m doing. I’ll say something like, ‘I’m going to take a few test shots to meter out the light’ or ‘okay let me take a quick look at what we’ve got’. I’ve even told ‘oops you blinked, let’s do it one more time’ when really I forgot to dial down or up after being in a different light situation a moment before. (I know – naughty!)

4. Create vs. Consistent. Sometime I think too much emphasis is put on ‘your own style’ particularly when you’re just starting. For now, it’s all about finding a rhythm, a flow and most importantly, consistency in your work. Clients need to be able to trust that what they saw on your website, you can reproduce for them. Style will come with experience (promise). Try planning to get your important shots done first and then give yourself 15 minutes at the end of the shoot just for your own creativity.

5. Think more, snap less! When I came home from my first dozen sessions, I would empty a card with 6oo or 700 images on it – sometimes more! My finger was snap happy! Ultimately, I was trying to find 30 keepers and sometimes it was a real struggle! But then I got some great advise to think more and snap less! So I started really thinking through the shots, composing properly, checking my dials and waiting for the moment instead of preemptively firing away and hoping that I got it. I now come home with between 100 and 150 image to sort and it’s become a whole lot easier to find 30 great ones!

6. Inspiration in a pinch! Sometime you may just need a few ideas. That’s when I go to my phone (see the original post here). I would suggest probably not doing this in front of a client though. Get to the session site early and browse through the appropriate albums. Although I have pulled it out with a client in the past, mainly for Seniors and I’ll actually show the Senior the pose so that they can visualize what we’re trying to do.

If you have a question you’d like for me to discuss, just ask it in the comments and I’ll try to follow up with more “Dear Leah” posts! The more creative your signature line, the better!

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  1. Marissa says:

    This is exactly what I needed. I get a lot of families that want to do sessions and they are the sessions that make me the most nervous because there are so many people to manage 🙂 Great post!

    • Leah Remillet says:

      I’m glad this was helpful! With large families break them down into smaller groups first so that you can see who will be easy and more difficult to work with. When you pose the large group, stager their heights (chairs with arms really help with that!!). Remember the triangle idea with posing (you don’t want them all on the at the same level)

  2. Jenika says:

    Good advice, Ms. Leah. 🙂

    One thing I have also found is that clients do get tired during a session, and it’s OK to take a brief break (like 2 minutes) to have a little breather. Sometimes about 3/4 of the way through a session I’ll say “let’s take a little break so I can check and make sure we’re getting everything we want.” Then I take my scroll wheel and do a super quick flip through the images to just make sure I’m on track and gauge if anything looks missing. The bonus to doing this is that once you stop shooting, people stop ‘posing’, so you can sometimes sneak in a few extra + totally candid shots before they’ve noticed you’ve started shooting again. I mostly use this technique with adults and older kids, but it helps.

    There’s no rule that you have to be shooting 100% of the time during the shoot. That’s a big thing I’ve learned over the past year. Tiny little breathers help both clients and the photographer.

  3. This was a great post. I actually still get nervous the night before but prefer shooting strangers. With strangers I feel more confident. I also was snap happy OR I noticed that I would favor either landscape or portrait and when it came down to placing some pics in albums it was a little difficult.
    Now I try to alternate between both as I get a new angle so that every single pic is different and I have more variety to plug into my album templates.
    Thanks for this post.
    Leah, you should do a playlist of music to jam on the way to a photo shoot. I know I never remember my ipod and dance in the car on the way to a session because Im so excited:) Crazy but I love it.

    • Leah Remillet says:

      I know this shows how dorky I am… But I love listening to books to and from shoots. It’s my “reading” time and I LOVE it!!

  4. samantha says:

    Leah, I love what you said about creativity vs. consistency. I totally agree- find your rhythm and your style will evolve with time.

  5. I was shaking my head in agreement throught this read. I remember when I was porfolio building 4 years ago, how nervous I would get, I would lose sleep, then go on to make silly mistakes.
    Totally agree about checking you images — I also thought clients would look bad upon it, but it can save major trouble later on

    Really enjoying following your blog

    some love from France!

  6. Spanki Mills says:

    great post! I always have to pee right when the client gets there! Think the is a sign of nerves? ha

  7. ozzi says:

    hey,
    i do shoot weddings mostly.i must say this is a great article for beginners.also for some semi-pro’s.before the shooting what i do mostly is to get a paper and a pen and write down what i am gonna do that day.
    also memorizing poses is very important.most weddings bride and groom dont know what to do so you have to orient them,this way they feel better.

    great article i wish i had chance to meet you.

    good luck

    • Awesome tip Ozzi! I love the idea of writing it down because that’s such a great way to really commit to memory what you want to do that day!! Awesome idea!

      And thank you so much for the compliments… Hope to meet you too someday! 🙂

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