9 Things Your Photographer Wants You to Know

Get the very best portraits or family photos with these insider tips!

Published September 16, 2023


Getting photos taken can be a little overwhelming, but it doesn't have to be. Photographers work super hard to give you the most gorgeous photos possible, and there are a few inside tips and tricks that make the whole process a lot easier for everyone involved.

I've been a portrait photographer for almost a decade and know a lot of people in the photography business. These are a few things portrait and family photographers want you to know, so you get the most amazing pictures ever and make this a zero stress experience at the same time.

Every Photoshoot Is Unique


By all means, go on Pinterest or Instagram and get inspired by all the beautiful images you see there, but your photographer wants you to know that every situation is unique. We want to see what you have in mind (drop into our DMs with examples of what you'd love to get). Communication is super important.

The thing is, we also want you to keep in mind that every portrait session is unique. Every little detail affects the way a photo looks, including the light, the equipment we have, the setting, the background, the time of day, and tons of other stuff. We can get close to that image you love, but what we make will be unique to your situation and to you. We promise it will be pretty, though!

Your Photographer Needs to Bond With You


We don't have to be your best friend (although it's pretty handy if your best friend is a photographer), but your photographer does need to form a relationship with you. Getting a great portrait of someone isn't just about the background and the outfits; it's about the photographer's rapport with the person being photographed.

When your photographer jokes around with you or asks questions to get to know you better, we'd love it if you would join in. We know being photographed can be a little uncomfortable for a lot of people, and we're trying to put you at ease.

Trust Your Photographer's Instincts


Before your photographer started taking portraits of people, they were probably practicing like crazy. They say it takes 10,000 hours to become great at something, and you can be sure your photographer has put in the time. All this practice means they've honed their instincts about what makes a great picture.

We might ask you to do some strange stuff like stand unnaturally close to each other or jump in the air at the same time or tickle your toddler to make them laugh. This is all in the name of a great photo, so we would love it if you would trust our instincts.

Need to Know

Ever wonder how you become a photographer? Most people start by taking zillions of photos and spending hours and hours improving their craft. Some people also go to school or take a class. Then at some point, every pro photographer has to make the scary leap to photographing people for money.

Let Us Shoot in the Best Light


One of the things every photographer learns early on is that you can't have a great photo without great light. If you've ever seen the difference between a photo snapped at noon in bright sun and one taken in the golden hour right before sunset, you can tell how much this matters.

Even if it doesn't feel like the most convenient time for you, listen to your photographer's recommendations about when to hold your photoshoot. I love to start a family shoot about an hour and a half before the sun goes down. The first few minutes will be a little on the bright side, but as people start to get more comfortable, the light gets incredible. This is how you get the most stunning images.

Realize That Great Photos Are Worth Paying For


When you head out for a family photoshoot, you might spend an hour or two being photographed. This doesn't seem like a ton of time, and paying hundreds of dollars for photos might seem a little excessive. The thing is, your photographer isn't done the moment the shoot is over.

We need to take all those hundreds or thousands of images home or back to our office, sort through them, and choose the very best ones. Then we need to edit them until they look absolutely perfect, and that actually takes hours. Add in the cost of maintaining our equipment and the time we've spent getting good at photography, and the price tag doesn't seem at all unreasonable.

Adding More Moving Parts (or a Dog) Makes Things Trickier


A standard portrait or family photo session has a lot of uncertainty, but photographers know how to roll with most things. Give me some decent light and kids who laugh at "Baby Shark" on my phone, and I'll give you photos you'll like. But if you add in some random elements, it gets a lot harder.

We totally get wanting to do photos with your dog or family pictures with all of you on bikes (or unicycles or pogo sticks or anything else). Just give us the chance to get some without that thing too. The more complicated things get, the lower your chance of getting that perfect photo. I like the insurance of having some with and without the funky (and totally cool) element.

Your Photographer Wants You to Be Warm Enough


Did you know that when people are cold, they get kind of tense? That's not a great look in photos, even if your kid looks super cute in that sundress when it's 50 degrees.

One of the things I wish people realized is that what you wear in your photos needs to be comfortable for you. If your shapewear is digging into your side or your baby is shivering without a coat, the photos just won't be as good. Wear something you feel good in, and the photos will look so much more relaxed.

The Smiling Photos Aren't the Only Good Ones


When you're choosing photos to print or download, don't skip the ones where people look serious or even a little upset. I promise you, those pictures of your toddler in full melt-down mode are actually going to be treasures in ten years. I'm not even kidding.

Most photographers don't stick to only snapping photos of everyone smiling (even though we are trying for that). We try to catch those candid moments too, and not all of them are picture perfect. Save them anyway. You'll thank yourself later.

Let Us Know if You Like the Photos


With a lot of purchases you make, you pay for the thing, receive the product, and are done. The thing is, photos aren't like another purchase. Your photographer is trying really hard to make art for you.

Usually, people send me a message telling me how much they like the pictures, but in the rare situations when they don't, I kind of worry about that. You should always tell your photographer if you like the work they did (and if not, tell them that too).

Quick Tip

In most cases, you don't need to tip a photographer who is taking portraits of you or your family. However, if you want to make sure this person leaves room in their schedule for you next year or you really, really love the work they did, it's nice to add a little extra to their fee.

You and Your Photographer Have the Same Goal


Your photographer has the same goal you do when it comes to your photoshoot: wonderful photos you'll love for years to come. By keeping a few things in mind, you can make your work relationship even better and help your photographer create something you'll treasure for decades.

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9 Things Your Photographer Wants You to Know