Whether you are just starting out or are an experienced photographer who has decided to start a family/portrait photography business, you are no doubt a bit nervous about that first photo session.

First photo session


Here is a list of tips I found to be very helpful during my first photo session as well as things I wish I had done. I hope this will give you the confidence you need to dive into that first photo session.

beginner photography

1. Be Confident

Go into the photo session with confidence in yourself. If you are confident, your clients will be confident and your photos will reflect this confidence.

2. Photograph People You Are Comfortable With

This might be the most helpful tip I have. Your friends and family are perfect subjects for your first photo session. Having familiar faces will relieve so much pressure and allow you to enjoy the process. Plus they won’t care if you try a variety of poses, take lots of extra shots, face them different directions to practice with sunlight, or take forever with the session.

First photo session

3.  Interview Your Clients

It’s important to get to know your clients a little before your first photo session so you can really capture who they are. Find out what they would like to get out of the session as well. This might even make your life a bit easier as they may have ideas for poses or props. This is a great questionaire from Haley Sintek Photography. Take a look at her website. She is a very talented photographer. Here is the pdf.

4. Know Your Location

Whether you are picking the location or your client is, it is beneficial to visit the location ahead of time so you can make a plan of attack. I like to walk around the area around the same time of day as the session will take place. This helps me get a feel for where I will place my clients and helps me prepare for step 5. I also find this very helpful in keeping my photo shoots moving quickly.

5. Plan Out Your Poses

This can be done as you scout your location. Look around at different backgrounds, structures, places to sit, stand, lean, lay, etc. Then make a list of possible poses you want to include. Remember to think about all the different configurations of the group you will be photographing.

            Example of Family Session Configurations

            Whole family, parents, kids, kids with each parent, individuals, just boys, just girls, head shots if desired…

I like to start with the whole group and then pluck or add people as needed. I then like to come back to the whole group once more because they are usually far more relaxed at that point and the photos are more natural.

6. Have a Plan for Props if You Plan to Use Them

If you are planning to use any props or your clients are bringing some, have an idea for how you will use them. You may want to have a child sit on a wash tub or tricycle. Or have a couple sitting on a bicycle or an antique sofa. You can use frames with fun quotes. There are so many options, keep it simple and make a plan before you begin.

7. Take Test Shots to Lighten the Mood

When you position your clients at each location take a few test shots. Not only will this help you get your settings just right, but it will also help get your clients used to your shutter clicking. You may find that some of your favorite images are taken during this time as your clients are getting positioned.

First photo session


8. Have a Job for Family Members Who Are Not in the Shot

If you are taking pictures of Mom and Dad you can quickly lose the kids and they will be hard to refocus. So, put them to work! If you are using a reflector they could help hold it. Or have them make funny faces just behind you to get their parents to laugh. You can also strategically place them in the background and get their blurred image in the parent shot. Keep each member of the group engaged throughout the shoot to keep the everything flowing.

9. Take Shots in Between Poses

Just like in tip #7, you can get amazing pictures when your clients aren’t posing. These are the candid moments that will often be your clients favorite pictures.

10. Have Fun and Be Real

Don’t forget to enjoy yourself and enjoy the people you are with! Be honest with them as you take your photographs. If you need to retake something or get a few more photos go for it. You will regret it if you don’t and they will love that you want to make sure you get the perfect pictures!

I hope this list is helpful and inspires you to get started. So take it and go take your first photos for someone!

beginner photography

First photo session