Feel like you may lose your lunch just thinking about that upcoming photography session? We have you covered! Here are our 11 tips for banishing pre-session anxiety.

I don’t care how long you’ve been a photographer, I KNOW you still get some session anxiety (heck, maybe before every session). Maybe you’re putting pressure on yourself because you agreed to do something new, or because it’s an important client. It could be because it’s the FIRST session you’ve actually exchanged for real money. Wherever your nerves are coming from, there ARE ways to relax, even just a little, so you can concentrate on making a memorable experience (for both you and your awesome clients)!

1. Write down your fears and confront that session anxiety!

Assessing our weaknesses is probably one of the most introspective things we can do for ourselves.  Session anxiety can be really overwhelming, so doing even a few things to reduce that stress can be extremely helpful. So what EXACTLY is making you nervous? Is that it’s a newborn session and you’re worried about the baby crying the entire time? Are you unsure about how to handle the light? Is it because you are nervous about making conversation with the new family you’ll be meeting? All of your fears ARE NORMAL. I repeat, you’re normal and you’re certainly not alone. One thing you can do is write down these fears and then come up with a solution or a POSITIVE reaction to them.

Examples:

Fear: The sun has been SO harsh! I have no idea how to work with that kind of light! Solution: Watch a few videos or read some tutorials on handling harsh lighting conditions. You’ll feel like you understand the light slightly more than you did before, and that may help ease your nerves a bit!

Fear: I’m SO awkward! What if I say something weird and the family hates me!? Response: If I am myself, everything is going to be FINE! Or, so what if I’m weird?! That’s probably why they chose me to be their photographer in the first place! They felt comfortable enough to book a session with me, right?

Fear: I bet the baby will scream the entire time during my newborn session! What if I don’t get ONE good picture?! Counter: But what if they sleep? I could just as easily get 20 GREAT pictures! And if there’s a little of both, maybe I’ll end up with 10, which is 10 the parents didn’t have before!

pre-session anxiety

2. Read tutorials and watch videos.

If there is something you don’t know, it’s time to get on it! Seriously, how else are you supposed to learn? Tackle your biggest insecurity first and then go down the line. There are SO many free resources, mainly on Cole’s Classroom of course! There literally isn’t a topic you won’t find a LOAD of information about, so take a few hours each week and commit to learning something new. If you plan your sessions with ample notice, you’ll be able to ease a few nerves by studying up. You can even join us in Cole’s Classmates-Photo Pros on Facebook, where you can ask questions and get support from fellow photographers!

3. Practice a few core poses.

If you’re doing a couples or family session, are you’re worried about posing, just try and memorize three core poses. That’s not a ton, and you can always vary their head and arm positioning. If you want to make things even easier, you can take photos of those three core poses WITH your camera and scroll back to them if you need a quick refresher. Your clients won’t have any idea, and it will help reduce your nerves if you get stuck.

4. Scout your intended location.

It ALWAYS helps settle nerves to check out and learn about your intended location. Familiarizing yourself with the different quirks of a place can help you visualize the session. If you’re outside, check out a few different spots that may work in varied light (because inevitably it will be different on session day). If you’re inside, check out the lighting and look for some areas that may suit your session best.

Scouting isn’t always possible, and that’s ok! Don’t stress. If you can’t make time to see the new location, Google it! It’s amazing what you can find out about a location (this applies to indoor places as well).  Often you will find a few photos, or even a description of the venue…all at your fingertips.  I have had luck doing this with some really private locations!

5. Confirm the time and date with your client.

session anxiety

I’ve noticed that I ALWAYS feel better after I confirm the time and location with my clients. Make this a part of your workflow! A few days before, send a quick email telling your client how excited you are to meet them, confirm the date, time and location, and give them a way to contact you if they are running late or get lost.  This tends to calm their nerves too.  Having open lines of communication really helps establish a bond before meeting face to face. The more comfortable you can make your clients BEFORE a session, the more easy going the whole experience will be.

6. Get payment upfront.

If you’re an introvert and people pleaser, like myself, this can get weird. I’ve found that also making this a part of your work flow really helps in keeping things stress free and easy going.  Be upfront with your clients. Most photographers require a non-refundable deposit to hold their specific date and time (and to avoid last minute cancellations). You can come up with your own timeline, but many photographers require that their session be paid at least 24-hours before the session. Having an easy payment method makes things MUCH easier (like PayPal, Square, or Stripe). That also eliminates that awkward, “uh, so how do we pay you?” conversation.  Also, you just look and sound more professional. Sometimes we have to fake it until we make it (at least in my case).

7. Pack the night before!

Packing the night before has been the biggest life saver! Go over everything you’ll need in terms of gear, and double check. Make sure everything is loaded and charged! If you need to charge your batteries the night before, make sure to put your charger in an obvious place so you don’t forget it in a rush (like on top of your computer or next to your cell phone)! This really helps reduce the panic I feel in the morning (especially if you wake up late or one of your kids decides to throw a fit first thing in the morning)!

This is the list I tend to cover the night before!

  • Camera body and lenses (let’s hope we don’t forget those, right).
  • Cleared SD card (and backup clear card).
  • Two spare batteries (charged).
  • Flash(s) with extra batteries.
  • Expodisc (if you use one).
  • Client’s phone number in my phone!

8. Let those racing thoughts GO!

photography anxiety

Easier said than done, I know. This takes a LOT of practice (over an entire lifetime honestly). We all have that incessant chatter that’s going on in our heads (and many times it’s not very positive)! The best assessment I’ve heard about this ongoing chatter was a metaphor by Michael Singer, the author of The Untethered Soul.

What if you had a roommate sitting on your couch that was CONSTANTLY negative? I mean, always putting you down, or pointing out things to stress about that hadn’t even happened yet. You’d tell them to get lost, right? Well, that annoying roommate is actually living in your head (crazy concept, right)?  You can thank it for the input, but that you’d rather be positive and that your session is going to be great. It may seem a little out there, but think about it. Notice those racing thoughts the night before a session, and see what you’re telling yourself. If nothing else, it’s a fun exercise in human psychology!

9. Meditate…

Ok, I know this sounds really “new age,” but hear me out.  I wasn’t super into it myself either at first.  The thing is, I’m a HUGE reader. I found over years of studying successful people that there was one common thread amongst them. They spoke HIGHLY about meditation.  Different people do different things, so there’s no one RIGHT way to destress, but it does help reduce anxiety. Taking out 10 minutes a day can drastically lower your stress and improve your clarity.  My absolute favorite app is Headspace. Bonus, it’s free for the first 30 lessons.  It’s a 10-minute, ridiculously easy, guided meditation that gives you the break you need during a hectic day.

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You don’t need to be in some contorted yoga pose or be sitting cross-legged in the forest.  It’s really just a time for you to breathe and center yourself to take on the day.

The best way to get results is to carve out that 10 minutes, without distraction (if possible). You just sit, relax and follow the prompts. The goal is to get to a space of freeing yourself from those unhelpful, negative thoughts, while focusing on positive thinking.  It has scientifically been proven to increase serotonin and boost your immune system, so there’s really nothing negative in trying, right?! Making it a habit is the best thing you can do for yourself AND your business.

10. Give yourself time to get ready.

This may seem obvious, but sometimes we have to be really intentional with our time.  Waking up an extra 30 minutes early, or carving out extra time during the day, is priceless. Absolutely no one loves panicking before a session, running around and forgetting things, like your camera (yikes).  Wake up early, Google the location site, triple check that you have everything, and try to take it easy.

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11. Get to your location early (to assess the light) and take a deep breath!

Waking up a little early can also translate into getting to your location a little early!  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve arrived 15 minutes early to a location only to find that there’s a HUGE event going on, or something has been roped off (yay, city life).  This would completely derail my plans if I walked up and saw my clients standing there, WHILE trying to access what the heck to do!

Getting to a location early (say 15 minutes) let’s you make a quick plan based on the REAL LIFE conditions you are facing. It gives you a few minutes to gather your thoughts before your clients arrive and take a deep breath! Sometimes, getting there 15-20 minutes early and finding nothing out of the ordinary gives you some time to yourself! Listen to music or an audiobook, sit with yourself, look around, and take a second to be grateful to have such a cool job! Seriously, being thankful for just a minute will put you in a better mood!

Post-session tip…

After a session (no matter how it turned out), take a few minutes to reflect on three GREAT things that happened, and three things you learned from the session! This will make you more aware of what you can improve on, making your next session that much easier.  That moment of recognizing can also work in your favor when writing a blog post!!!

For example:

Three positive things that happened?

  1. YAY! I nailed my posing!
  2. Jokes for the win! I made the clients laugh and the session seemed to flow easily.
  3. I captured a really beautiful moment of love!

Three things I learned from my session?

  1. Be clear! I need to be more clear when explaining poses.
  2. Slow down. I should spend more time in one location, rather than moving so much.
  3. Look for the light! I should maybe be more mindful of the directional lighting!

Conclusion

Sometimes we simply need to take the few extra minutes to calm ourselves in a stressful situation. The really cool thing is, you’re nervous because YOU CARE! You want your clients to leave a session having had a great experience…and that says something.  In fact, it would be more concerning if you weren’t a little worried.  The fact is, there are great ways to settle those nerves and build your self confidence in the meantime.  These techniques take some practice, but they are SO worth learning.  You’ve got this! I promise!