As I was sitting here thinking about what I should write next it occurred to me that there isn't a lot of information out there for people preparing for a photo session.
Questions like who picks the location, what should I expect, what should I wear, what should the kids wear, should our clothes match, can I wear my baseball cap (NO, but we'll cover this later) are all very common.
With this in mind, I decided to write about most if not all of the questions you may have before a shoot.
At the moment of booking and meeting with you to go over my pre-session questions, I already have in my head what I want the shoot to look like and have probably imagined several different locations that you or your family would look great in. With that being said I like to be the one to pick the location. Having been shooting for several years I'm aware of what makes a good backdrop and what doesn't, but this is not a steadfast rule. If there is a place you want to shoot that has sentimental value to you or is very important to you for other reasons I would be more than happy to accommodate you. If you follow this link to my portfolio you can see my style and the backdrops I like. https://www.theviewfromscottsoffice.com/portraitis
At this point, let's dive right in as I walk you through preparing for a session. Let's start with clothes.
I have two hard and fast rules of clothing. One is that if you wear tee shirts there should be no logos, pictures or sayings on them. This will help keep the image timeless and not trendy. The second rule is that you feel comfortable and wear clothes that make you feel like you. If you feel good you will look good. Choose colors that compliment each other and our chosen background. Lay out all your clothing choices and make sure they look good together. This goes for family sessions as well. Your clothes should coordinate but that doesn't mean they should match. We've all seen those awkward family photos and wondered what those people were thinking. Let's not be those people. Also unless you wear wrinkle-free clothes please iron your selections before the shoot. When choosing your clothing keep your unmentionables in mind as well. A showing bra strap does nothing to compliment your clothing. Bring some bras and bra strap adjusting accessories that will work with all your clothing choices. With shoe choices Heels or wedges look good on women when practical and men CLEAN dress shoes or boots. For most men, your best option is to just let your better half pick your shoes for you.
Let's move on to the kids. I want to capture their personalities not just a cheezy smile so let them be who they are, let them have fun, unscripted can make for some great shots. Build the session up ahead of time, don't make it a scary or serious thing. Ensure them it will be fun and if they want to run and play for a while we will let them. If they want to take a break that will be more time I can spend with you mom and dad. The most important thing to remember with children is clean hair, clean face, clean feet, clean noses and clean teeth. Especially us boys, I know I was dirtier more often than I was clean not that mother didn't try. Did I mention they need to be clean? In all seriousness the cleaner the child the better the images will turn out. Depending on age make sure they are well rested ( naps may be essential ) and well fed ( avoid colorful drinks or food ). Clothing choices for girls could be cute dresses or rompers and boys always look good in jeans and polos or tees with a button up or just a button up. Moms since you are usually the style guru of the family you should be in charge of picking out the clothes and that isn't age dependent ( take note teens ).
Now we will get into personal appearance.
Hair, ladies if your getting it cut please do so at least two weeks in advance in case there is a problem. Bring hair accessories that will compliment your clothing choices in case you need to put your hair up. Men, getting your ears lowered a couple of days before should be sufficient and please do not wear a hat of any kind to the session. Allow me to get a few shots of you without it then if it's a must I would be happy to shoot you with it on. I've been at this for awhile now and in most cases, the images without the hats always look better besides nothing looks worse than hat hair and no it cannot be removed in photoshop.
If you wear glasses all the time and feel you must have them on in the pictures for people to recognize you please consider buying a cheap pair and remove the lenses. The glass can cause glare and make it impossible to see your eyes. As talented at photoshop as I am I can't replace your eyes if you can't see them because of glare. Speaking of eyes, if you have red eyes for any number of reasons, Visine, Visine Visine.
Makeup, make it subtle to soften your features and please if nothing else make sure it matches your skin tone. If you happen to have a break out before the session please do not use a lot of makeup to try and cover the blemishes. Unlike some other issues, blemishes can be photoshopped out a lot easier than fixing overdone makeup.
Moving down the face we come to the lips and teeth. If your lips are dry and cracked use lip balm a few days prior to the session and ladies bring extra lip gloss and lipstick.
If you are thinking about getting your teeth whitened do so about two weeks ahead of time.
As for facial hair, men should be cleanly shaven with a new blade to avoid razor burn and the red bumps associated with it. Gentlemen if you have a beard and stash they should be trimmed and look groomed. Ladies if you have light hair especially on or around the lips and chin consider having it waxed before the session. Even the lightest of hair can show up in photos. Men and women alike check those brows.
If your skin is dry and flaky make sure you moisturize. The dry cracked skin on the face and body can detract from a great shoot. While on the topic of skin think about tanning and sunburns. Try to tan a week or so out and don't burn. Be aware of clothing tan lines, sunglass tan lines, and hat tan lines.
Nails should be trimmed and painted if you want.
If bloating is an issue please avoid high salt and high-fat foods the days leading up to the session as I've said before, if you feel good you'll look good.
All of these tips can be applied to a family, engagement or senior shoot but to get more specialized I'll add a couple tips for maternity and newborn sessions.
Things to consider for a maternity session are moisturizing the belly if it's going to be shown. Bring the props you would like in the photos such as baby shoes, ultrasound, stuffed animals etc and again wear what makes you feel comfortable. Long flowy dresses in solids look very nice, tube dresses show off your shape and regular jeans and a button up shirt make an easy transition to showing your belly.
If you’re doing semi-nude/implied nude photos, bras and underwear will create noticeable lines on your skin, so wear loose-fitting clothing to the shoot. You can add undergarments as necessary for photos later in the shoot.
Most importantly bring your spouse, they make great props to complement your photos. You may need to pick out their clothes, shoes, and color coordinate for them though.
When it comes to newborns and, photographing them in the first two weeks usually works best. They are very moldable and sleep most of the time. Just like the older children, the babies should have full tummies and if we are shooting in your home you should have the heat up warmer than usual especially if we will be changing their clothes or if photographing in their birthday suits. Babies are known to have dry flaky skin after birth so moisturize the skin and trim all those tiny nails. I would be happy to plan the session around your little one's nap time and if they usually fall asleep right after eating wait to feed them until right before the shoot. I will have some props and clothing on hand but please feel free to bring your own such as sentimental items such as a blanket from Grandma. Make sure to bring a pacifier if you use one and extra bottles. As for clothes again I will have some items but feel free to bring clothing choices or stylish cloth diapers. If you don't use cloth bring bloomers or solid color decorative diaper covers.
I hope this article will help ease your mind when preparing for a photo session with me, but your mind should be at ease anyway. I know how to think on my feet and adapt to just about anything thrown at me, oh and I'm pretty easy going too. So just relax, follow my tips, and I guarantee you will have a great not to mention fun session.
Please feel free comment and let me know what you think of these tips. Do you have any tips of your own, if so please share?
This article is the first of a three-part series. The next will be what to expect during the session and the third, yup you guessed it, what to expect after the session. Please sign up for my email list so you can be the first to know when I publish a blog, release a new product or offer discounts. I will never sell your email or send you spam.
Thank you all for your continued support,