The biggest thing I do is create a connection with all my portrait clients before the shoot. I've found that if you break the ice before the shoot, the client relaxes faster and gives more personality. I’m generally a laid back person that loves to laugh and smile (although I rarely smile on photos).
During my shoots, I make small talk and don’t focus too much on posing. I tend to follow the client’s natural poses and make small adjustments from there. This keeps them from "trying" too hard. Also keep the positive feedback going during my shoots. We are our own worst critics and making sure my clients know they are doing a good job reduces stress and worry. And the photos are authentic as a result.
So with my latest session with Cherie, we chatted about a month before the shoot about her vision for the photos. She was actually running a little late for the shoot (even though she arrived on time, she wanted to get to the location early) and was a little frustrated. I told her to take to minute to relax. She did, and here is the results of the shoot.....