When I meet a client face to face for the first time, it’s usually on the same day as our shoot.

They’re busy; I’m busy, the kiddos’ hairstyles are already getting mussed, so unfortunately there isn’t a whole lot of time to relax and chat on a personal level. The introductions are usually a bit rushed and before we know it, the camera’s out, the props are set, and everyone is saying cheese.

But as the session takes shape and personalities come alive, I often wish I would have thought to suggest a few pointers to build on, making their session one to remember, for all the RIGHT reasons. Here are some "for instances".

Stop apologizing. Seriously. I’m not offended if I get a scowl flung in my direction. Your toddler has just been yanked out of his ordinary routine, washed, dried, combed, dressed, zipped, buttoned, then placed in front of a total stranger, instructed not to move, and bribed to smile big at the large black object pointed at him. It’s a recipe for a meltdown if I have ever heard of one. I know your little guy is not a monster; you don’t need to say you’re sorry every time he runs in the opposite direction of my camera. We’ll just give him a little space to check out his surroundings before asking for any smiles. Most importantly, try to RELAX. If he sees you at ease, he’s more apt to respond positively too.

Speak up. My mind is racing like a tiny locomotive during shoots. I have a thousand different thoughts dancing around in my head, but there’s always a chance your idea isn’t one of them. So when I ask if you have any ideas, TELL ME YOUR IDEAS! Even if you’re not sure how to explain it, just start talking. Trust me, you’re going to kick yourself later if you don’t. Also, if there’s a suggestion made by yours truly you’re just not sure of, I need to hear this. The last thing I want is for you to feel awkward because that will show up in your photos. The more you and I talk, the better this experience will be

Be comfortable. Placing yourself before a camera can be awkward enough, so the last thing you want to do is wear uncomfortable clothing. And comfortable clothing doesn’t imply frumpy, obviously. You just want clothes that won’t prevent you from relaxed, effortless posing. Believe me, if you feel like you have a straitjacket on, you’re going to look like you have a straitjacket on. If it doesn’t fit, don’t wear it. I don’t care if it’s your favorite color. Constantly tugging on a snug shirt or hiking up pants that are too big is going to make you feel even more self-conscious once you step in front of that camera. You want to feel your best, and part of that is wearing sensible clothing that fits you and the season. Speaking of seasons, make sure you dress the little ones for the occasion. Michigan has already proven she’s bipolar without medication when it comes to the weather, so plan accordingly. If we’re headed outside, it’s always better to dress in layers unless you’re pretty certain you’ve been lucky enough to land beautiful weather for your shoot. And make sure you wouldn’t mind being photographed in each layer! It’s a gamble to plan on snatching away the child’s tattered Spiderman coat for a few quick shots of his super cute duds beneath it. Children (especially the little ones) can’t hide their emotions, which is one of the reasons why they’re so precious to photograph. But if you can’t tell that they’re freezing from the watery eyes and runny nose, the hunched shoulders and chattering teeth are a dead giveaway. Moral of the story? Get some coats and hats that are just as adorable as what they’re wearing underneath.

Don’t compare. By the time I meet you, I realize that you may have spent hours online harvesting your favorite pictures in hopes of recreating them with your family. I actually encourage this, since it shows me your style and your vision for the shoot by the type of photographs you choose. But tread carefully here, and keep your mind wide open. Don’t get frustrated when a shot isn’t working out like you want. It doesn’t have to match the picture on Pinterest in order to be magical. Good posing is the foundation to awesome portraits, but it’s the interaction between you and your loved ones that makes it genuine and something special. So if your kid refuses to get inside the bucket exactly like the baby in the picture? It’s ok. Her dimples and toothless smile will make up for it. You won’t even remember that bucket 30 years from now.

Plan ahead. The last thing you want is to be rushing around like a maniac moments before a shoot where you’re supposed to look calm and poised. Give yourself some breathing room by mentally challenging yourself to be ready in time. Try to spare at least a half hour for the unforeseen drama that usually unfolds when you’re in a rush. Babies never spit up or you rarely ever can’t find your shoes unless you’re running late, am I right? Have your outfits and accessories laid out the night before, if that helps. Think about what you want to bring along for the little ones that might get antsy during a longer shoot and need a break (toys, snacks, etc.) I know these things are no-brainers for you moms out there.

Have faith. I know it’s hard to ignore the construction crew right to our left, or the fact that the sky is dark and gray, but trust in me, this shoot will be beautiful. Remember, my lens only sees what I tell it to see. And don’t fret over the fact your daughter only smiled for about 30 seconds of our time together. I guarantee you I’ve snapped some shots of her you will love. I’ve had so many clients believe the entire shoot was a washout, and then they’re ecstatic once they see their sneak peeks. Oh, and if you’re worried about that recent break-out? There’s no cause for alarm. My promise is to always make you look your absolute best without compromising the integrity of the photo.

Don’t wait. Obviously, photo shoots aren’t at the top of your pile of priorities. But I think it needs to be somewhere on that list. When you take a photograph, you’re freezing a moment forever. And it’s a moment you’ll never get back again. It’s something that someone you love will hang on to when you’re gone. It’s part of someone else’s history. Your great-granddaughter isn’t going to care you haven’t lost that last 15 pounds. All she will know is that she wishes she knew what her great-grandma looked like. So when the idea pops into your head to get some pictures done, don’t wait. After all, nobody’s promised tomorrow.

Have fun. In a sense, photo shoots are a celebration. Think of it as a time set aside to focus on what (and who) is special in your life. And get creative! Go exploring at the beach or apple picking at the orchard and invite me along! There’s a time and place for formal photographs, but you don’t want to forget about all of the lovely adventures you and your loved ones could go on together. Think about what your family likes to do and build a shoot around that. It will mean that much more if you do. Wherever we go to do a shoot, just remember why you’re there. Yes, it’s fun gathering Likes on Facebook or sending out Christmas cards with pictures of the kids….but more importantly, a photo session gives you opportunity to create memories. And the pictures that come from them will be treasures that you, your friends and your family will cherish for years and years to come.