The Secret To Relaxing In Front Of the Camera

Family of four - two moms, toddler son, and baby girl - read books together on the couch.



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I'm Marjorie


I work with parents who want relaxed and unposed photos, providing them with images that capture the joyful and unscripted moments in life.

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As ubiquitous as phone cameras are, I don’t know anyone who can remain completely unphased with a big camera pointed at their face. That means we could all use a little help when it comes to relaxing in front of the camera.

It’s intense to be professionally photographed. Especially when taking documentary-style photos. Without all the posing, dressing up, or performing, you are being totally exposed for who you are around your family. That can feel intimidating.

So what is the secret to get everyone – especially parents – to relax in front of the camera?

Photo collage of a family laughing together looking engaged and relaxed in front of the camera.

There are two key things that I learned while working as a filmmaking director in my previous life. Believe it or not, even professional actors can have a hard time relaxing in front of the camera. In almost any acting class, including the Meisner class I briefly took, the first step is always learning how to relax and be in the moment. 

These simple techniques are the secret to relaxing in front of the camera.

Black and white photo collage of a dad with his toddler daughter, shot through a window.

Table of Contents

  1. Two Easy Tips For Relaxing In Front of the Camera
    1. 1. Focus On Someone Else  
    2. 2. Focus on Something Else
  2. The Importance Of Dressing Comfortably
  3. Mind Your Face
  4. Ask For a Break
  5. Curious About A Photo Session With Me?

Two Easy Tips For Relaxing In Front of the Camera

By following these two simple steps – or even picking one or the other – you will find yourself relaxing in front of the camera and organically starting to create beautiful moments of love and connection with your family.

1. Focus On Someone Else

By putting all of your attention on someone else – namely, your child or partner – you will not have space to think about how you might look on camera in this moment. 

It sounds simple, but it works if you really do it. Look at your child. If you have a newborn, then memorize their features, take in all the little details. Notice their smell, the tiny creases on their hands and fingers, their eyes fluttering as they sleep. 

Two photos of parents looking at their newborn baby.

If your child is older, make yourself 100% available to them. If they want to tell you a story, then listen. If they want to draw a picture, then join them. 

By staying present in the moment with your family, you can avoid being in your head and spiraling into a state of anxiety or self-consciousness.

Photo collage of a family of four engaging with each other; first reading on the couch, then running and playing outside.

2. Focus on Something Else

If the act of noticing, as I suggested above, feels too abstract, then place your focus on an activity. 

This can be anything. With newborns, it can be swaddling them, singing to them, or feeding them.

With toddlers or young kids, you can read together, bake, do a puzzle, play a game… The activity doesn’t matter too much as far as the photos are concerned. What matters is picking something that is engaging and will make them happy. By actually doing something together (rather than pretending or just going through the motions,) your attention will be fully in the moment, making it much harder for you to be in your head about how you look.

Photo collage of moms relaxing in front of the camera and playing with their young kids.

The Importance Of Dressing Comfortably

When selecting outfits, make sure to pick something you’re comfortable in. Not just something that looks good. If you feel physically constricted by your outfit, it’s going to keep drawing your attention to your body. You might be constantly adjusting yourself. This will work against the idea of looking and feeling relaxed on-camera.

Thank about what you’ll be doing during your photo session.

For a newborn session, you might be nursing your baby, sitting on the ground, laying down or sitting in bed. Imagine going through those motions in your outfit of choice and make sure it feels good.

A mom holding her newborn baby in her nursery.

For family sessions with younger kids, you will be running around with them, picking them up, sitting on the ground, throwing them in the air, and who knows what else! Make sure your outfit doesn’t limit any of those movements.

For a complete guide on what to wear during a Newborn or Family session, check out my other blog posts.

Photo collage of parents engaging with their young kids looking very relaxed in front of the camera.

Mind Your Face

The ultimate goal is to find a balance between acting naturally in front of the camera while also doing your part to create a joyful feel in your photos.

When I have to tell a parent, “Mind your face,” I actually take it as a good sign that they are not worried about performing for the camera. But if their resting face is a little more serious (like mine,) then I might remind them to soften it up.

It helps to maintain a positive attitude and simply delight in the company of your family. Hopefully by going back to step #1 and focusing on your child, that will happen automatically. If not, pretend like they are the most beautiful, sweet, wonderful thing you’ve even seen. Does that sound doable?

Something to note: It is MUCH easier to make adjustments once you’re in a more relaxed state. So if you’re struggling with self-consciousness during your photo session, the priority should be getting yourself to relax. Nothing more.

Photo collage of a young couple and their newborn baby girl.

Ask For a Break

Don’t be afraid to ask your photographer for a break if you are struggling. There’s no need to white-knuckle your way through a session. It’s better to take a moment to collect yourself than to try and push through, especially if things feel a little chaotic (which they probably will at some point.)

As a photographer, I try to be sensitive to how everyone is feeling. A little confession: many times during a session when I ask for a moment (to look at the photos, have a sip of water, etc.) what I’m really doing is giving the family a break. It takes a lot of energy to be in front of the camera for so long.

But if this goes unnoticed, I encourage you to ask for a couple of minutes to yourself. It can make all the difference. Especially because the photos will only feel as good to you as your experience during the session.

Photo collage of moms and their newborn baby.

Curious About A Photo Session With Me?

If you’re local to Los Angeles and ready to learn more about a Newborn or Family Session, please reach out. I’d love to chat with you!

Self-portrait of Los Angeles Newborn and Family Photographer Marjorie Cohen.


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