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My brother, home from Toronto for a visit, decides he needs some portraits done for various professional sites. So we troop down to the studio and I get everything set up, then I ask, “Do you know what you’re wanting to do?”

My brother, ever the casual guy, says, “Nope.”

Right. Well. It is my job, after all, to be a portrait photographer who knows how to capture people in comfortable, ‘lightly posed’ photographs. So we get to talking about what he wants the photos for and how he wants to come across. I break out the stool, hand him something to fiddle with so he has something to do with his hands and away we go…

Except that now he looks awkward and uncomfortable:

Awkward...? Party of one...?

Need to relax! Keep trying...

Right. Well. It is my job, after all, to be a sister who knows how to tease her brother. A few stabs at making fun of his appearance (“Where did the buck teeth come from?!” or “Dude, stop looking like you’re going to attack a small animal hiding just off-camera!” tend to do the trick nicely) and he’s wondering why he’s suddenly the target of my jabs, but he’s laughing so we’re in business.

That's more like it!

Background light misfired, but the photo worked anyway...

Making fun of my subjects is not something I’d do with my average, everyday clients, but it certainly works for family – and provides me with cheap entertainment while I’m at it.

Props make for great icebreakers - and blackmail photos!