woman in business laughing


I’ve been a portrait photographer for around 2 decades. I’d like to share some tips with you about the small things you can do to make people feel comfortable in front of the camera. This is a skill in itself, which takes practice. If you are new to portrait photography, why not try these tips on your friends and family until it becomes second nature.

1. Make conversation. Start with small talk, get deeper as you get to know the person you are photographing. Start by asking how they are feeling- some people are quite nervous when getting their portrait taken. Acknowledging this is part of the process, tell them “Don’t worry we are going to have a great time, I’ll make it as painless as possible”.

2. Make it swift and painless. People don’t like to be asked to pose all day long, especially if they are not used to it. The process should be fun, but some find it tiring, so try and only shoot what you need without going over the top or dragging it out.  It is important to give your client regular breaks whilst during the shoot.

3. Give clear direction to your subject. Some people can be awkward or even embarrassed in front of the camera unless you are a pro model you will not instinctively know what to do. People always say to me “what do I do with my hands”?  As a photographer, you have to think two steps ahead, and know what you want from the subject: Tell them where to place their hands, and body, where you need them to look, when you want them to relax and be playful or any minor direction. This makes the difference between a good portrait and a great portrait!  It’s your job as the photographer to make the client feel at ease, and trust that you have the skills & techniques to ensure the most flattering image will be created for them.

4. Sneak peak. It doesn’t hurt to show your client a preview of their images from the back of the camera to put their mind at ease. This will encourage them to continue to give you great shots as you move through the shoot.

5. Explain what you are trying to achieve as you commence the shoot, and during the shoot, it can help your subject feel more connected and understand the shoot process.  The client also has the opportunity to contribute their input so it can be a collaboration of both your ideas. It is not just a one-way street!

Check out a collection of headshots I’ve created so you can get inspiration for what ‘comfortable’ looks like in portraiture.

There you have it, I hope these tips help you on your next shoot. If you have any questions please leave a comment below or send me an email grace@gracecosta.com