Photography Tips

What Every Family Photographer Can Do to Create Connection During a Photoshoot

Elena S Blair Education For Photographers art of lifestyle photography

One thing I really want you to know is that connection starts with you. Before you can create meaningful photography you have to be able to connect to your subjects, even if you have only just met them.

This may sound impossible but it's doable.

Get the know the family and be relatable.

Creating connection within a lifestyle photograph is twofold. You are creating connection between the subjects you are photographing and you are also creating connection with the viewer.

When a viewer is drawn into a photograph they are connected to it, it builds interest and depth.

I believe for someone to feel something when they view a photograph something had to have been felt when the photograph was made.

You have to put genuine effort into getting to know your subjects and also be relatable so that they feel comfortable opening up in front of your lens.

I do this by having an effective client questionnaire completed prior to the shoot. I make sure to ask about each family member and simply ask them to tell me about their family. I am always surprised by how much info they give me.

I also work hard to connect with my families. I talk openly with them during the whole session to make them feel at ease. I truly enjoy getting to know them and want them to know that I care about who they are.

Because I create an environment for them to connect with me, I am able to create more authentic and connected photos.

So, really work hard to make a connection with your families. The results will be amazing!

Ready to take your lifestyle photography to the next level? Check out my free mini course download: How to Create a Relaxed Family Session!

10 Questions Every New Photographer Has

10 Questions Every New Photographer Has

I will never forget when I was first starting out on this journey.  I knew I wanted to learn how to use my camera. I knew my images looked very different from the professional photographers I was following. I knew I might want to start a business, but knew very little else. It was overwhelming, and was enough to make me want to curl up into a ball and forget about this whole photography thing!

I have searched far and wide and found ten of the most common questions asked by the new photographer. Hopefully this will jump-start your journey, because I promise you it is a beautiful one!

  1. What does “manual mode” mean, and do I have to learn how to shoot in this mode?  If I do then where do I start?

Manual mode puts the photographer in complete control of how the photo will turn out. You have to manually set both the aperture and the shutter speed.   You can take this a few steps further and control the ISO as well as the white balance.  The camera will not make any automatic changes to the exposure. Your camera will still guide you to the best exposure with it’s built in meter.  

2.  How do you achieve sharp focus?

Focus can be one of the most frustrating elements of photography when you are first starting out. Nailing focus could be an entire article in and of itself, but I wanted to touch on this very common beginner question. There many factors that go into getting a sharp image, but there are two focusing methods that help you to stay in control of focus rather than relying on the camera's autofocus function.  Chances are most professional photographers are using one of these methods and that is why their images are sharp. The two methods I am referring to are toggling your focal points or using back button focus. To toggle focus, you manually choose where you want to focus within the frame. The focal points available for your camera depend on the make and model, but they will likely look something like this:

{toggle diagram}

In the following image, I have toggled the focal point right to the inner corner of the subjects right eye.  If the subject had been on the other side of the frame I would have toggled to the eye on that side. In the following image the red dot indicates where the focus was toggled to.  

{image example}

Back Button Focus is a focusing method many professional photographers swear by. Cameras are setup to auto focus when you hold down the shutter button halfway. Back button focus changes it so that the shutter button does not control the focus activation at all, instead you assign another button on the back of the camera to activate focusing on the camera.

3.  Do you really have to edit all your photos?  

In a word, yes. While it is best to nail an image in camera, editing is how it all comes together to become a finished image. Some photographers are more artistic with their editing and some are more clean. This is really just a personal preference and will come with time.

4. What gear do I need to achieve great photos?

The gear you have in your bag is a personal preference and really depends on what type of photography you are interested in. It is recommended to start your journey with the “nifty 50,” AKA a 50mm prime lens.  All major manufacturers have great 50mm options and this really is a fantastic starter lens. After you have explored with the 50mm lens, you can try your hand at more wide angle and then longer focal lengths. If zoom is appealing to you, there are plenty of zoom lenses out there, however you will hear many professional photographers who swear by prime lenses.  

5.  Do I have to be in business to be considered a professional photographer?

No!! There are many, and I mean MANY photographers who are not in business and only photograph their children and they are incredible!  You absolutely do not need to be in business to be respected or taken seriously.

6.  What is white balance?

Again, a whole article could be written on this question alone so I will try and keep this answer brief.  Do you ever wonder why sometimes your subjects look bright yellow or orange, or why sometimes they look grey or blue?  Well, this is because your white balance is off. To define this very simply, in reference to digital photography, white balance means that the colors in your image are true to life.  White balance is measured by numbers, lower being cooler and higher being warmer.

Now white balance is a lot more than an exact science of numbers as it can also be a matter of preference.  There are many ways to control white balance. You can set a custom white balance, trust your camera and put your camera on auto white balance, or directly set your Kelvin temperature.  White balance is often one of the first things photographers adjust when processing their images.

7.  What is the difference between JPG and RAW?

JPG is the most common file format for digital photographs.  Your camera can be set to shoot and store the images you make in varying sizes of JPG. The thing with JPG is that a lot of detail is lost when the image is shot this way. When a JPG image is taken, the camera does some automatic processing which varies with make and model of camera.  When you go to edit an image shot in JPG you do not have as much data to work with, and it can be hard to recover over or underexposed parts of the image. It also gives you less control in post processing in the way of color. RAW files are uncompressed and unprocessed shots of all of the detail available to the camera sensor.  RAW files are completely unedited and need to be post processed.

While it is recommended that you shoot in RAW to remain in complete control of your images, there are many photographers who shoot JPG and love it. While certain benefits of RAW files are clear cut, the files are quite large and in the end It is a matter of preference.  

8.  How do I know when it is okay to go into business?

Take your time! But I know it can be very exciting and hard to wait. If you are thinking about going into business ask yourself these questions: 1.  Are my images consistently properly exposed, properly focused, and well composed? 2. Am I ready for hard deadlines and to act like a professional? Make sure the answer is yes to these questions before even thinking about going into business. You see, being a photographer may be the best job in the world, but it is a JOB. To succeed in this business you must be professional and ready to take on all that it entails. If you are thinking about getting a business started, talk to an accountant and if you can, a lawyer. You must have a proper business license and you should have insurance before you ever take a paying client.  Above all, be legal. Do not charge pennies for your time, as that is the most valuable resource you possess. You are an artist and you should receive a good wage for your work.

9.  How do I learn how to pose people?

Posing and directing is an art form, and it takes lots of practice and confidence. I recommend shooting as many people as you can as often as you can. I also recommend thinking long and hard about your vision. What do you want your images to say?  Plan ahead, and then you can guide and direct in such a way to execute your vision. Do you want your images more posed or do you want them to appear more candid? You have to know what you want to achieve before you begin posing and directing.

Check out my free posing webinar by clicking HERE.

10.   How do you find balance with life and photography?  

Weather you are in business or a hobbyist, photography has a way of running our lives.  This is because we feel so passionate about it. I think making a schedule and sticking to it is very important.  So if you have shoots to edit (personal or commissioned), pick a time each day to dedicate to editing and stick to it.  If you like to blog, pick a day of the week that you will carve out time to blog. I am a big fan of the old fashioned paper planners and I chart  out my entire week there. This really keeps me sane and in control.

Four reasons why I don't do traditional newborn posing

lifestyle newborn posing baby led posing Elena S Blair Education For Photographers

The journey of an artist is a long one.

There was a time when I brought a newborn posing bag, a stock pile of props and hats, and a space heater to my newborn shoots. It took a lot of trial and error, self discovery, and facing my fears to realize that I didn't enjoy posed newborn photography. It really wasn't in line with my "why" and my overall values as a human.

“Baby Led Posing”

Now, I practice what I call "Baby Led Posing." This means that I don't ever put a baby in an unnatural pose, that I don't spend countless hours calming or posing my babies, and that ultimately, I don't really pose at all.

Sure, I do place my newborns for portraits, however I don't "pose" in the way that many traditional newborn photographers do.

Four reasons I don’t pose newborns:

1. I don't believe that babies should be out of their parents arms for any extended amount of time. You see, I used to be a Newborn Intensive Care Nurse. During those years I learned that a newborn needs to be held, nourished, and ultimately with their parents and in their arms as much as possible. It doesn't make sense to me to have a baby on a beanbag or a surface away from their parents for an extended amount of time, even if in the name of photography. During my sessions, babies spend most of their time in their parents arms, where they belong, in my humble opinion.

why i don't do traditional newborn posing elena s blair photography education

2. I think babies are beautiful as they are. The natural unfolding of a newborns limbs when the stretch, the way they curl up when placed on their belly for a moment, they way they look when comfortably swaddled, all of that is so simple and beautiful to me. That is how I want to remember my babies so that is how I capture them.

3. Frankly, I don't think major posing is safe. If a baby has to be molded into an unnatural position, I believe their safety is at risk and that is not worth it to me, even in the name of a pretty photo.

4. I don't want my photo sessions to be stressful. When I used to pose babies, I would spend up to four hours at a session, trying to make the baby sleep, trying to get the poses just right etc. I know what it's like to have a newborn. It is already so stressful. I want my families to know that I think their babies are perfect as they are. Awake or asleep. Placed on a bed or in their parents arms. I have no expectations. I am in and out of my families homes in under two hours now that I don't pose. I don't wan to invade their precious time any longer than that.

why i don't do traditional newborn posing elena s blair photography education

The Takeaway: Babies are perfect.

There you have it. My top 4 reasons why I don't pose newborns, mostly, because I think babies are absolutely perfect as they are.



P.S. I have a FREE downloadable PDF to get you started with lifestyle newborn photography today! Click the button below to get yours.

How to attract high quality clients with a high quality portfolio

high quality clients high quality portfolio Elena S Blair Education For Photographers

Hey there, friend!

I hope you are enjoying your summer.

I wanted to talk to you about something very important and that is your portfolio.

There are two main things I want you to focus on when you are preparing your online portfolio.

Your portfolio should be a place where you:

1. Show your best work.

2. Show the work you want to attract.

This can be tricky when you are first starting out or trying to make a shift.

For example, if you want to attract clients who appreciate emotive lifestyle images YOU CAN'T post images that aren't in this fashion. If you have a portfolio full of images of everyone perfectly posed and all looking at the camera then that is what you are going to attract.

Clear as mud?

Okay let me go deeper.

I strongly believe that you should push your portfolio to its limits. For example, if you check out mine, there are no photos of everyone looking at the camera. Do I take shots like that at every single session? You bet. But I never show those images on my portfolio or online. Why? Because I want to be absolutely sure that the clients I am attracting are connected to my true artistic style.

As I mentioned above, you have to only show your best work. I see so many photographers with super out of date portfolios full of images that are not their best work.

Don't do that.

How can you expect to attract high quality clients if you aren't showing high quality work?

Now I get it. When you are learning your work will change and grow rapidly. So this means that your portfolio needs to reflect that. Go in regularly and remove your subpar work and replace it with your better work.

Your portfolio is where you show off your talents and skills AND where you share your unique style.

Okay, friend. So ask yourself this. 1. Am I showing my best work? & 2. Am I showing what I want to attract?

You got this!



P.S. I have a free mini course that I think can help you! Hit the button below for three steps you can take right away to ensure that your clients arrive relaxed and ready for a laid back and fun family session experience.

My number one trick for "posing" newborns

One of my favorite things to do when posing newborns is to use the parents' hands.

Now I use the word "pose" loosely as I do very minimal, newborn led posing.

But I do like to get some shots of the baby alone on the bed, awake or asleep, if the baby is okay with it.

Simply ask the parents to come and hold the baby firmly in the position you desire. This allows you to capture the newborn with their parents loving hands on the baby, which is a beautiful shot, then allows you to capture the newborn alone. The baby is usually very calm after he or she has just been comforted by familiar hands.

Parent’s hands:

lifestyle newborn posing baby led Elena S Blair Education For Photographers

Calm baby:


Try it out next time you photograph a newborn. Let me know how it goes.



P.S. I have a FREE downloadable guide to get you started with lifestyle newborn photography. Click the button below to get it sent straight to your inbox!

The common misconception about lifestyle family photography

common misconception about lifestyle family photography Elena S Blair Education For Photographers

I wanted to share with you a common "lie" I hear about Lifestyle Photography. Hang with me?

One thing I see all the time on social media, and from well known or talented Lifestyle Photographers at that, is they say things like "I just adore in between moments." Or, "I am obsessed with capturing candid shots." Or, "I hate posed photos."

And this always makes me do a silent eye roll. Why? Because it is probably not true and I think it confuses new photographers or even potential clients. Because the truth of the matter is that most "in-between" moments or "candid" moments were orchestrated. They were posed and directed.

Now if you have seen my work you know that my families don't look posed or stiff in the least. But I am here to tell you that I pose and direct my clients 100%.

I am fortunate enough to be friends with some of the most well known Lifestyle Photographers in the USA and we all chat about how this is a very common misconception.

And it's simply unfair to new photographers.

Why is it unfair, you ask?

Because it sets new photographers us for total frustration. I should know, I was once one of them.

I would arrive at a shoot and want to create beautiful, carefree, laid back, romantic, amazing, moments. Moments that I thought were unfolding naturally for the photographers that I admired.

I was so frustrated and literally almost quit family photography because I thought I was simply not talented enough to capture those types of moments.

But thankfully I took a different approach and started being in control of my sessions 100% and I couldn't believe the difference. I realized that I actually had to direct and pose my families exactly how I wanted them.


When I started doing this my work finally looked like I always imagined. My visions finally became a reality.

And my clients were happier too. They wanted me to tell them what to do. They wanted me to be the expert.

So I want you in on that secret. When you see beautiful moments captured, there was likely a skilled photographer directing that moment.

And you can do it too. Promise.



P.S. Take your family posing to the next level with my FREE family posing guide! Click the button below to claim yours.

Five ways to make mothers look their best during a family session

make mothers look amazing during family photo shoot Elena S Blair Education For Photographers

I wanted to share with you something that I think is so very important. 

Let's face it. Being a mother is hard and often under appreciated. When a session is booked with me 99.9% of the time it's the mom who booked the shoot. She is usually the one who does most of the arranging for the family. 

So when she gets in front of my lens I want her to feel like a goddess. I make a huge effort to reaffirm the mama of the family that she looks amazing and I spend just as much effort making sure the actually looks amazing. 

I am excited to share five posing and guiding tips that will be sure to leave your mothers looking and feeling amazing!

  1. Photograph her from above. After I arrange the family in a pose, I guide them to lean into each other. Then, I either stand on something (a stool would work great) or I hold the camera above my head and shoot from a slightly elevated angle. Or if they are sitting on the ground, I stand up and shoot from above.This flatters mother's features and also provides an intimate and unique perspective.

  2. Remind her not to look at you but instead to look at her children or spouse. I know this may seem obvious, but most people are hardwired to look right at the camera. A mother is going to look and feel her best when she is looking at her loved ones rather than right in the camera. I encourage her to interact and snuggle with her children. She is always pleasantly surprised with how much she loves her photos and I think it is because they aren’t traditional photos of her staring right at the camera, but rather looking at and interacting with her loved ones.

  3. Ask her to look down and slightly to the side. I love to make sure to grab at least one photo of my mother's alone. Remember, she may be the main photographer in the family and chances are there aren’t many photos of her alone. Her children need photos of her. I ask her to look down and slightly to the side. She immediately relaxes and I am able to capture her gorgeous face.

  4. Incorporate movement. I love to ask mom to hold one of her children and spin them around. Movement relaxes her body and usually makes her hair move in beautiful way. Moms love seeing themselves playing and moving with their kiddos.

  5. When photographing the family as a group, make sure mom's shoulders aren’t square to the camera. A slight angle really flatters the female frame.

There you go! Using these five simple tips, you can make your mothers look and feel their absolute best. Have fun!



P.S. Want more posing tips delivered straight to your inbox? Hit the button below!

Three easy ways to help dads relax during a family session

how to get dads to relax during family photos Elena S Blair Education For Photographers

I asked my IG community where they most needed help during family sessions and one thing I heard over and over again is "how do you work with cranky dads?" Or "How do you get the dads to relax during the session?" 

Well my friends, I got you covered. I can honestly say that I rarely ever have a dad who is hard to work with and the main reason is I know exactly who my people are and generally only attract those people, but the other reason is that I know how to set them at east and help them to relax into the session. 

Here are three easy tips for helping your dads to relax during your family sessions. 

1. Talk to him. Okay, this sounds easy right? But it's important. I immediately start talking to Dad during my sessions.

I ask him where he works. "Oh you work at Amazon, I have a friend who works for kindle and he says it's super cut throat." 

I let him know I understand that this may not be his idea of a fun Saturday night but assure him it will be easy. "Hey I know photo sessions can seem like torture, but I promise, mine are quick, fun and painless." 

Simply talking directly to Dad will allow him to realize that you are on his side and not just there for mom.(when really you probably are ;) ) 

2. Let him know that your only expectation is for him to love on his family. Sometimes dads look stiff and uncomfortable because they are trying to look you straight in the camera with their best smile. I say over and over AND OVER again, "don't look at me, look at your gorgeous wife and children. That's all you have to do." Once they realize you don't want them to look at you and that you only want them to be with their family, they chill out. 

3. Encourage him to play with his kids and love on his wife. Usually dads feel most comfortable when they are doing something. I ask them to throw their kiddos in the air, spin them around, tickle them, chase them, anything playful. Then I tell them to kiss their wife, grab her butt (yup, I do that), or nuzzle their neck. This usually relaxes them and lets them know I am laid back and okay with some fun. 

Dads really just need to be reassured that this isn't a typical photo shoot. That I am not requiring them to wear a stiff outfit and a stiff grin. That they can play with their family and love on their wife. 

Luckily, I educate my families pretty well before shoots so they usually know this, but some dads need more encouraging. 

Hope this helps. :)



P.S. Want more tips about how to pose your families in a relaxed and meaningful way? Hit the button below to download my free family posing guide!

How to get your clients to stop looking at the camera

get your clients to stop looking at the camera Elena S Blair Education For Photographers

Are you sick of families who have been trained to look right smack at your lens with the cheesiest grin you have ever seen? Me too. 

But here is the thing... my clients rarely do that anymore and I am going to share with you my secret. 
It's because I have educated them BEFORE they ever get in front of my camera. They know what to do before we ever actually meet in person. 

Here is how I do it. 

1. I don't ever post photos of families looking right at the camera anywhere. Not on my portfolio (especially not on my portfolio,) not on social media, and rarely on my blog (but I will there *sometimes*.) 

Your ideal client doesn't know they need lifestyle photos until you tell them they do.

Clear as mud? Let me explain...
Take clothing companies. I haven't worn overalls since 1995, but all of the sudden I am seeing overalls all over the place and suddenly I *need* them. Like now. I am not a fashion expert so when I see a trend I trust it 100%.

But I *am* a photography expert. So I put my work out to the world and when a potential client lands on my page and sees an image like the one below they suddenly think "I want that to be my family. I want that." Bam. They aren't expecting to look at the camera. They are expecting to look like my art. 


2. I educate my clients literally as soon as they inquire. In my welcome guide I explain exactly how their session will go and I tell them that I won't be asking them to look at the camera. I explain that I want them to simply interact with their family and that I will guide them how to do so. I position myself as the expert immediately and they trust me 100% because of it. 

So getting your families to stop looking at you starts before your session even begins. Believe in yourself and that you are an expert and your families will too. 

Have a great day! Fee free to share this with a pal who you know would appreciate the tips. ;) 


P.S. Wanna learn more about creating a relaxed family session experience? Click the button below to take my free mini course!

Why every lifestyle photographer needs to know how to pose

why i hate the word pose lifestyle family photography Elena S Blair Education For Photographers

With the gaining popularity of "lifestyle" and "documentary" family photography the word "pose" has gained a bad rap. 

One of the things I see photographers posting on social media all the time is "I just love the in-between moments." Or "I swoon over candid moments." 

You guys! Let me let you in on a little secret. Unless a photographer is a 100% documentary photographer. Meaning that they are coming into a home or location and standing back and doing zero guiding, almost all those amazing "candid" moments you see were orchestrated or "posed" by the photographer. 

Yup. True story. 

Take the image in this post for example. It looks unposed. It looks candid. But I literally made the entire moment happened. I told them where to stand. I told them what to do right down to where dad is looking. I guided the children. Everything! Except maybe the dog ;). And there is no shame in that. My families trust me to make them into my art. They trust me to tell them what will look the best and yield the best photo. 

Posing and guiding is an art form. It is important that you know how to direct a session so that it yield the results you and your clients are expecting. 

I like to say that I guide my clients but really I pose them. Then I direct them to interact and that is where the moments come from. 

Heck, I will come in and move their heads how I want them. 

So don't believe the lies social media is telling you. Not many are showing up with their camera and simply getting lucky catching beautiful candid moments. They are gifted in making those moments happen. 

Posing is not a bad thing. In fact I proudly do it every time I photograph a family. 



P.S. Are you ready to get started with posing? Grab my FREE family posing guide by clicking the button below!