This week’s question for Ask SLR Lounge comes from Eric Rossi who asked, “What do you find the best technique is to get a bride/model to convey the emotion you want when all they seem is uncomfortable? What’s the best way to loosen someone up?” This is a great question, and is actually a topic that we spend a lot of time on in the Natural Light Couples Photography Workshop.

People are generally uncomfortable in front of the camera for 2 reasons. One is that they lack experience in front of the camera. Because they do not know what to do or how to pose, the subjects tend to get nervous and uncomfortable. The second reason is that they do not know the photographer well enough to feel comfortable being themselves. Once these two problems are solved, you can pose and capture amazing images of genuine emotions of anyone and at any time.

Watch the Video Below

Tackling Reason One: Inexperience

Now, unless you are shooting professional models, most of your clients may not know what to do once they step in front of the camera. Because of this, we start off every portrait session by teaching our clients posing techniques that can be found in the Natural Light Couples Photography Workshop. Try to stay away from using technical terms and simply just show them some of the basics. Let your clients know that you will be helping them throughout the shoot, so they don’t worry about remembering everything at once.

Another good tip is to take a few shots of them as you teach them certain poses and show them how great they look. This alone can really put the clients at ease, because they know that they can rely on you to help them in posing and looking good in front of the camera. A little easy trick whenever you want female subjects to do something is to demonstrate it yourself. Kick out your hips and emphasize your “curves” and joke around by asking how great you look doing it, which will almost always leads to laughs.

How to Make Your Bride or Model Feel Comfortable

Dealing with Reason Two: Photographer-Subject Relationship

Even after overcoming the first challenge of the subject’s inexperience, they may still feel nervous or uncomfortable, because they don’t know you all that well. In other words, it is important to connect with your clients on more than just a “photographer-subject” relationship. Of course we can’t tell you how to do this, because everyone has different personalities and different ways of establishing relationships. Examples of how to interact can be seen throughout the Natural Couples Photography Workshop, where the photographer jokes around with his clients, poking fun at them or saying witty things to make them laugh.

Usually for us, our female subjects tend to be into taking pictures more than the males, so we generally work a lot more on the guys. Try chatting about sports, their interests, hobbies, etc. to have them open up. We have found that during a couple’s session, once the guy is having a good time, the girl starts to lose her anxiety. A lot of the times the girls seem worried about their partner being bored or uninterested about the shoot, because the shoot may be done as more of a “favor” for the girl than out of their own interest. Once you establish a friendly relationship with the bride and groom, posing them and getting natural expressions out of them becomes much easier.

Shooting People Other Than Couples

When shooting a single subject, whether it is for portraits, editorials, or fashion, the same rules still apply. While prepping for the shoot, talk about anything but posing and photography to establish a relationship with your client. Get to know them, share stories, and just have fun with one another. These conversations really break the ice, putting the client at ease and making them much more comfortable with you. This will also help them to start seeing you as a friend rather than just a photographer. Once you guys get started, do the same thing you would with a couple. Coach them on posing, get some good shots, and show them so they know they are doing great and that the shoot is going smoothly.


If you can remember these steps on how to loosen up a subject, capturing the emotions that you want will turn out to be a lot easier than you may have thought. Teach them basic poses and establish a friendly relationship, and you should not have a problem with producing amazing images.