You want your clients to have fun during a portrait session—but some clients take it too, far leaving you with unusable images. Bunny ears and goofy faces are great for outtake shots; but if that’s all you have, your client won’t  be happy and they will blame you. Here’s how to take command of your set, keeping your family portrait session under control while having fun.

Establishing a Time Limit

Ask the client how much time they have and if there is anyone who needs to leave early. Plan on photographing those family members first. This will instantly set the tone of the shoot and hint there is a time limit.

Embrace the Outtakes

Photographing a group of people together—especially adults—can lead to a lot of child’s play on set. This is usually a defense mechanism when nervous. Embrace the outtakes and laugh with the clients. Tell them “It looks great, let’s do a few more like this.” Show them the images, then say “now, let’s get a few serious ones.” You should see the mood switch and their facial expressions should be more relaxed.

Review the images

It’s best to shoot wirelessly to an iPad or tethered to a laptop. This allows the client to review the images on a larger display. If you don’t have access to this, still show the clients the final images from the back of your camera. Let them choose which one is their favorite. If there are too many outtakes and not enough serious images, they will catch that and will be open to shoot a few more  images. Don’t get trapped into the client asking if you can swap heads from one image to one another to make the final image. Although this can be done, it’s time consuming and a retake is much quicker.

As photographers, it’s our job to command the set to keep the portrait session fun, exciting and under control.