9 Things NOT to do During a Portrait Session

Do's & Dont's in taking pictures

9 Things NOT to Do During a Portrait Session

Being a good portrait photographer takes more than just shooting beautiful photos.  The portrait experience begins from the moment the client first contacts you, and doesn’t end until the final product is delivered.

One of the most important aspects of client interaction occurs DURING the shoot itself.  Even if you deliver fantastic photos, in the end, if your client had a bad time while you were shooting them, that’s all they will probably remember when they look at their prints.

To help prevent this from happening to you, here are 9 things you should avoid when photographing a portrait session:

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1. DON'T Give the Impression the Shoot isn't Going Well

If your portrait shoot isn’t going as well as you’d hoped, DO NOT let your client know.

It might be cold and raining, your client might be awkward in front of the camera, you might be out of posing ideas, the location might be terrible and uninspiring, or your client’s child might refuse to look at the camera.  None of these are an excuse for letting your client feel like the session isn’t going less than perfectly.

The minute they get the inkling something is wrong, it will put a damper on the entire experience, and could result in even worse photos.

2. DON'T Treat Your Equipment Poorly

Many professional photographers get to the point in their career where they stop babying their camera gear.  We leave caps off and toss our lenses in a bag without a second thought.  But your client is paying a lot of money to hire a professional photographer, and they know that a portion of that payment goes to purchasing your professional-grade equipment.

If your client sees you throwing a big expensive lens into your bag, they may feel like you’re not being professional, you don’t value the things that are important to you, or maybe even that they overpaid for their session.

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3. DON'T Take a Phone Call

Once your shoot begins, your cell phone should be silenced and put away.  Your ONLY focus should be on your client for the entirety of their session.  You should NOT be taking phone calls, checking email, or responding to texts – even during “down time”.

4. DON'T Forget About the Details

It’s really easy to get swept up in a session; plotting out your next location or pose before the current one is complete.  But your clients are paying you to not only photograph them, but to make them look their very best.

That’s why it’s crucial to remember the small details.  How does their hair look?  What are their hands doing?  Is their clothing bunched up?  Do they have genuine expressions?  These are the small things your client expects you to notice and fix before you start pressing the shutter.

5. DON'T Disregard Your Client’s Comfort and Happiness

The ability to read people’s feelings even when they don’t say anything is an important skill for not only photographers, but also business owners in general.

The last thing we want is to make our clients do something that makes them uncomfortable.  Perhaps you’re having them pose on a busy sidewalk, and they’re easily embarrassed.  Or maybe you’re telling them to sit on the dirty ground in their nice clothing.  It never hurts to ask permission before assuming your clients are okay with something.

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6. DON'T Stop Talking

Talking while you shoot is a crucial skill for photographers that can make or break the mood of a session.  A portrait shoot can be a stressful and self-conscious event for some clients, and they need your constant feedback to know they’re doing what you want them to.

If you need to stop talking for a moment to focus, then just tell your client that you need a moment to think about your next move.  They would much rather know what’s going on in your head than wonder if they are doing something wrong.

7. DON'T Talk Badly (or Gossip) About Other Clients

I am sure a lot of us have been in a situation where we have told a potentially embarrassing story about another client during a session.  Maybe it was to make your current client feel better, or maybe you were just running out of things to talk about.

No matter the intentions, putting other clients in a negative or unflattering light is never a smart move.  Not only could what you say get back to your other clients, but your current client will start to wonder what stories you may tell about them at your next session.

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8. DON'T Touch Your Client Without Asking Permission

Not everyone feels the same way about being touched.  Touching may feel completely normal to you, but may feel like an invasion of personal space to someone else.

So always ask permission before touching your client, smoothing their clothing, or adjusting their hair.  It may be a good idea to ask for a blanket permission the first time you see something you’d like to adjust.

9. DON'T Cut the Session Short

If your portrait session is based on a length of time, it’s important that you utilize that ENTIRE TIME.  Unless your client asks to end the shoot early, it’s your responsibility to make your client feel like they’re getting their money’s worth, and receiving the same treatment as all of your other clients.

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While this is not a comprehensive list of “don’ts”, it should be used as a helpful reminder to all of us to put ourselves in our clients’ shoes when wondering whether or not something is appropriate during a shoot.  How your client feels during their session will directly impact the chances of them becoming a repeat client and referring their friends.

Do you have any questions about What NOT to do During a Portrait Session?  If you’re feeling brave, we would love to hear about a time when you did something less-than-professional during a portrait shoot, and what you learned from that experience.  And please share this post using the social sharing buttons (we really appreciate it)!

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