Your Portrait Session Guide
How to Prep for Your Portrait Session
Part of my job as the photographer is to relieve as much stress as possible before the day of the session arrives, so that my client can fully enjoy their portraits with no worries! So, I will be including some tips and tricks to guide you while choosing outfits as well as tips for hair and makeup and more!
Choosing what you will wear for your photo shoot is a huge decision that can make or break your portrait session! I know that sounds dramatic…but, if you accidentally wear something that isn’t flattering on camera or something that you don’t feel confident in…it can ruin the experience for you! So, here are some of the best ways to choose what to wear:
1. Be COMFORTABLE and FLATTER YOUR FEATURES:
If you do not like tight fitting clothing (super tight dresses or pieces that fit awkwardly) then leave them at home! Personally, I try to steer clear of items that are fitted in the tummy area (don’t we all?) just because it makes me self-conscious and I’m constantly wondering if it looks bad. So, if there are pieces in your closet that make you feel self-conscious or uncomfortable, don’t include them in your portrait wardrobe! Having said that, I would also like to add that the slightly more fitted (not too tight) items photograph better. Billowy items tend to make you look bigger than you are. Additionally, we will most likely be sitting on the ground, laying down, walking and doing other things that could be difficult if your clothing is uncomfortable!
In my experience, every woman, regardless of her shape has an area of her body that she’s self-conscious about, so recognizing what area that is in advance is key. Choosing flattering silhouettes and colors that complement your natural features is the best way to ensure you’ll love the way you look in your photos.
Three-quarter length sleeves create an awesome slimming effect on all arms, so be on the lookout for an option with a longer length sleeve. You could also bring a cute jacket, blazer or cardigan along, too. Skinny straps or strapless dresses have the opposite effect on arms on camera, so I recommend avoiding those whenever possible if your goal is a set of slimmer-looking arms.
Quick Tip: Bring a pair of easy-to-kick-off flats to wear when moving from place to place in between photos. Your feet will thank you later!
2. NATURAL COLOR CHOICES:
On camera, solid black and white can make skin tones look very washed out and unflattering. When choosing colors for your outfits, I recommend selecting softer tones and more natural muted shades that compliment your hair and skin colors. By avoiding ultra-bright, bold colors, it will help bring all the attention to your faces and let the eye focus on you. Choosing colors that go with the season of your session is also a good idea. Izzie nails it by wearing rich fall colors for a fall photo session:
3. Add LAYERS:
In the cold months (fall + winter), adding layers to your outfits always looks STUNNING in portraits! A sweater with a flannel underneath paired with a vest and statement necklace or scarf adds so much dimension to your images and makes for super fun posing options! Even in the warmer months (spring + summer) you can add these layers and dimension by wearing a tank top with a cute sheer cardigan or by throwing a denim vest over a dress!
Ella Hanna and Briana are spot on for fall photos with their flannels layered over their tee shirts. Flannels and necklaces from Primp Salon Boutique.
And Delaney looks AMAZING here with this cactus tee shirt and fuzzy vest! This is a great example of warm weather layering. Adding layers also means that we can REMOVE layers to create multiple different looks with just one outfit!
4. Play with TEXTURES:
Sometimes textures like sequins, furs and sparkles can be considered “daring” or “over the top” but, in portraits, they are the BEST! Adding texture to your outfit makes the biggest difference, and it prevents the images from looking dull! Combining textures that you may not normally use together like sequins and cable knit sweaters or leather and fur make GREAT pairs!
Below are a couple of good examples of how interesting textures look in photos. On the left, Lillian is wearing a crush velvet shirt and on the right, Savannah is wearing a lace kimono. Both pieces are from Primp Salon Boutique and they show how great textures look in photos.
In these photos, Mary is totally rocking the sequins and the fur.
5. Don’t be afraid to ACCESSORIZE:
During a portrait session, or any photo shoot, the more the merrier!! When planning your outfits, don’t forget to plan accessories!! Stacks of bangles, long necklaces, statement pieces, scarves, hats, bright shoes and other add-ons can make or break an outfit! Have you always wanted to rock a floral crown but never had an occasion for it? This is your chance! Don’t be afraid to over-accesorize, either…it’s always better to have more than not enough!
Quick Tip: Confidence. It’s always the best accessory.
Below, Briana, on the left, picked out some leather tassel earrings and a beaded pendant necklace. In the middle, Hanna picked a long beaded necklace and wrapped it to create the combo choker and long necklace look. And on the right, Ella is wearing a leather choker wrap necklace. All accessories from Primp Salon Boutique.
6. MIX it up:
When planning your outfits, make sure that you have a VARIETY of looks! I tell all of my clients to choose from these categories: casual, cozy, or dressy. I always recommend choosing 2-3 of those categories and finding outfits accordingly. This provides a beautiful array of looks during your portrait session, so each outfit looks dramatically different!
Here Hanna wears 3 looks. Casual, dressy/casual and dressy.
Check out my Pinterest board for more outfit inspiration: Wear This
HAIR & MAKEUP:
This is another HUGE part of a portrait session that can completely alter the overall outcome of your images! I HIGHLY recommend professional hair and makeup to ALL of my clients for SO many reasons. I promise I’m not just saying it to get you to spend more money! It really does make HUGE differences.
1. They are TRAINED professionals:
When you are investing in a professional photographer, you want to make sure that the images look their absolute best. Professional hair and makeup artists are TRAINED to do hair and makeup so that they photograph well. While your makeup may look AMAZING in person, it will look completely different on-camera, and these professionals are trained to know the difference! They will conceal spots you don’t like, contour your face so it looks the best in every light, use colors that compliment your skin to make it look flawless, make your eyes POP with false lashes and shadows, manicure your eyebrows to perfection and more! Some may think that there isn’t a difference…but I PROMISE you, the difference is HUGE!
2. Less STRESS:
Preparing for a portrait session is stressful in and of itself. Trying to do your hair and makeup by yourself can make things ever harder. Professional camera equipment is designed to pick up every little detail in an image (even details that the eye can’t see) so hiring a professional makeup artist is the best way to go.
3. Who doesn’t like being PAMPERED!?
I don’t ever want my clients to feel like their portrait session is just simply “taking pictures”, I want it to be an EXPERIENCE. So, if my clients arrive after an hour of being pampered and beautified, the entire experience has already started on a good note! If a client arrives frustrated or stressed, it can affect the entire experience, including the way you look in photographs!
Below, Izzie is wearing some beautiful rich fall makeup that works perfectly with her outfit. Makeup done by Makeup By Donna.
*If professional hair and makeup is simply not in your budget, that is a-okay, too!! I just recommend doing your makeup slightly heavier than normal, making sure to add a pop of color on your lips and using fake lashes if possible! Those little details will make the biggest difference!* Below: Molly did a great job with her own hair and makeup for her session.
Don’t Neglect the Nails!
And, one last tip!! In all of the chaos of portrait session prep…don’t forget to pamper your nails! During your shoot, a lot of the poses we do will have your hands close to your face and in the frame, so make sure that your nails look just how you want! Try to avoid any chipped polish or crazy patterns. French manicures, light/natural colors and even nails with no color at all photograph best!!
If your toes are showing in a peep-toe heel, you might want to schedule a pedicure before your session so you don’t regret letting your feet show. These little tricks make all the difference!
Skip the Spray Tan
Although it might seem counter-intuitive, I recommend that you do not get a spray tan before your session, even a few days prior, because it tends to photograph orange even when it’s applied subtly and by a professional. Your actual skin tone will photograph the most beautifully and naturally.
Choosing a Location
The location of your portrait session is up to you! For most of my sessions, outdoor, open-air environments are always my first choice. I love shooting in wide-open natural spaces because the light is divine, especially during golden hour. There are great options all around the area, so even if you’ve never seen me photograph in a specific spot before, I’m always up for exploring a new spot together!
Think Outside the Box
This is the time to think outside the box! I encourage you to brainstorm unique locations that you might have special access to that most people don’t. For example, maybe you, or someone in your personal or professional network, can secure permission to a location that would otherwise be off-limits, like a beautiful private estate, country club or resort. Maybe it’s a family ranch, upscale hotel or even a boat, airplane hangar or a rooftop view. The sky is literally the limit! Spend a few minutes thinking about it and checking around. You’ll be surprised with what you come up with. Plus, if something seems out of reach, just remember: you never know until you ask! I have some great go-to locations around town that we can always hit, too. Just let me know which type of session you’d love and I’ll go from there! Easy. Peasy.
Styling Your Session
Want your photos to look more editorial? Bring a little extra something with you! Fresh flowers bring an extra “wow” factor to just about everything, especially when they’re attached to something else, like a bicycle basket, tree swing, tent, picnic basket, balloons or car bumper. Whether you want to incorporate larger items like classic cars or bikes, or smaller ones like blankets or hats, even planning for just one extra styled item could be a fun way to make your session more unique. In these shots, Mary styled it up with hats.