If you look through your phone, I'm willing to bet you'll find a good amount of selfies and group shots with your friends and family. However, many of us have never had photos taken by a pro. My first time was around four years old, and while the images turned out cute, my sister and I still ended up looking like miniature Hamburglars.

On right, McCheese-ing with the fam (1991)

Let's face it. Having your photo taken professionally can be a bit daunting even under the most ordinary of circumstances. With the right tools in your back pocket, you'll be confident and camera-ready in no time.


Think about your upcoming photoshoot as a whole. What type of session are you going for? How many people will be involved? Where does the shoot take place? Below, I'll go over the steps you can take to plan your look, ease those nerves, and make your portraits pop!

"I'VE NEVER HAD MY PHOTO TAKEN BY A PROFESSIONAL. HOW CAN I PREPARE FOR MY SESSION?"

1. Clothing


Picking an outfit for your shoot is one of the first things you can do ahead of your session date. Whether you’re going for an individual, couples, or group shoot, what you wear plays a big part in how your portraits turn out.

 

When going for a solo session, choose an outfit that makes you feel confident and helps you stand out at your location. If your session is celebration-related, I suggest a look that shows more of your personality. If your session is for professional purposes, I suggest leaning toward a more tailored look or uniform.


When going for a couples or group session, I suggest choosing outfits that color-coordinate. If ever in doubt, neutrals are usually a safe bet.


Before you've settled on your look, check your clothing items for tears, stains, price tags, logos, and text. Unless the logo or text on your clothing is directly related to or something you want to showcase in your photos, I advise against it.

2. Hair & Makeup


Even if you don’t usually get glammed up, doing your hair and makeup can help frame your face, showcase your features, and give you a boost of confidence!


A touch of makeup can even out your skin tone and aid in brightening your eyes and teeth. Concealing blemishes and putting on a layer of mascara can make all the difference! If you are pale like I am, a bit of blush can also go a long way. For my makeup divas out there, you know what to do! However, I also suggest using a natural or matte-leaning concealer and/or setting powder to prevent unnecessary highlights. Keeping shimmer products to a minimum will also aid in creating a more flattering look.

 

Plan on cutting/coloring your hair or getting your eyebrows waxed? I recommend doing this at least 3-4 days before your shoot to steer clear of skin staining and irritation. This will also give you time to get used to styling your new do. Avoid trying out any new skin care routines within two weeks of your session as well. Men should trim and shave any facial hair the day before the shoot to prevent cuts and razor burn.


If you want to try a different hair and/or makeup look or technique that you aren't super familiar with, don't be afraid to do a practice run! For this, I recommend applying your makeup in bright, natural light. Head outside or stand near a bright window to take a selfie once you are finished for an accurate representation of how you will look in your photos.

"I'm not sure what to do with my hands..."

Will Ferrell, "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby"

3. USING PROPS


Have you ever felt self-conscious about your hands when taking photos? Using props and accessories are the perfect way to keep your hands busy and your head in the game. Adding the right bag, hat, watch, or pair of sunglasses to your look can add detail and natural movement to your images without distraction.


For celebration sessions, bringing items connected to the theme of your shoot are highly encouraged. For graduates, this could be a hobby-related item such as an instrument, book, sporting equipment, or even a camera of your own!


While I also recommend accessorizing for group photos, keeping it to a minimum. Coordinating accessories and props here will allow all members of your party to shine equally, creating a more visually pleasing final image.

4. Location


When choosing a spot for your session, keep in mind that location should compliment you/your group - never distract from it. Whether your shoot is for an individual, couples, or senior session, you can add depth to your photos by choosing a location that represents your personality or has personal meaning or importance. Many people also tend to choose their outfit before their location, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that! However, locking in your location can help you select your wardrobe more carefully.

 

If you are having your shoot at a park or garden, a green outfit can hide you depending on the tone. That being said, wearing the right color green for the location can also create a bold and moody atmosphere, or a more natural look that brings focus to your face. If you’re going for something lighter, you may prefer to wear white or lighter neutrals to a location that has a similarly natural color scheme.


Of course, you can generally count on contrast to stand out as well. This could be wearing red or orange to a green- or blue-heavy location, choosing jewel tones for a neutral location, or wearing white to a darker or more colorful location. If you choose a busier location such as a mural or graffiti wall with patterns and textures, a monotone or neutral-leaning outfit can be a benefit to you.


Your photographer will also be able to help you pick out the right place based on your preferences, so let them know if you're having a hard time choosing. Keep in mind that your location may have a different look depending on the time of day and weather.

5. Communication is key


If ever in doubt, reach out to your photographer! We get all sorts of questions and concerns about many of the things mentioned in this blog post, so you are not alone. When we have your input, it allows us to create images that you, the client, will find more flattering.

 

You’ll want to let your photographer know if certain things are important to you during the session, like which side of your face you prefer or if there's a particular shot you want to get. Many photographers will edit out zits and other minor blemishes that are not permanent, but be sure to ask ahead of your shoot just in case!


For those scheduled to have a group session, let your party know if there is a color or style theme they should be following, how early they should arrive at the location, as well as any other important information your photographer may send your way.

"Alright, Mr. De Mille. I'm ready for my close-up."

Gloria Swanson, "Sunset Boulevard"

6. practice Posing


While your photographer will be able to help position you/your party during the shoot, it doesn’t hurt to know what your face looks like when you make certain movements and facial expressions. Are you more serious, or more smiley? Which side of your face do you favor?

 

A great way to practice posing is to create shapes and angles with your body in the mirror. A simple knee or elbow bend can significantly up your pose game! Be sure to keep your grip and fingers light to the touch. I suggest practicing poses with and without any props or accessories you plan to bring, as adding props may require you to create movement or change your stance for a more flattering look. Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone a bit here - it could be the look you’re going for!

 

Currently, two of my favorite posing resources are fellow photographer, David Suh, and content creator, Christine Buzan. Pinterest is another excellent place to search for posing ideas inspiration.

7. SELF-CARE


In addition to the information above, do your best to get enough sleep, nutrients, and hydration in the weeks leading up to your shoot. This will help you look and feel your best when it's time for your big day.

BONUS TIPS: DAY-OF SHOOT PREP


If you’ve read this far, SURPRISE! You’ve won some day-of bonus tips!


Bring the necessities. This generally includes hair and makeup items such as lipstick, a brush, mirror, or hairspray for last minute touch-ups. Oil blotting sheets are also great for especially bright sunlight and warmer weather sessions. Speaking of warmer weather sessions, it's always a great idea to bring along a water bottle to stay cool and keep hydrated.


As for your outfit, you can “touch-up” with a lint roller or subtly secure clothing with safety pins. If you think you may have to do some walking to get to your location, wearing a more comfortable pair of shoes and switching to the ones you’ve planned out once you arrive could save your feet from future pain and allow you to feel more comfortable during your actual shoot.


Before your session begins, get in the mood with your favorite tunes! When you arrive at your location, make sure to set aside keys, wallets, phones, and anything else hiding in your pockets. For those with longer hair, this also includes putting away hair ties you might be wearing on your wrist.



Once you've passed the vibe check, it’s time to shake out those hands and strike a pose - you’re on your way to having an amazing session!


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There are many aspects of working with a photographer/videographer from session type, to creative lighting, to choosing clothing and shoot time for specific environments.


As a former educator, I love to provide information that helps guide you through the photo/video process. Is there something you'd like to know more about? Let me know by clicking the button below!