You’ve booked the date, and paid the deposit. Congrats, the first big hurdles are finally done! You’re officially on the calendar for a beautiful portrait session. Here’s a comprehensive checklist that will walk you through every step of the portrait process to help you feel confident and prepared for your session. If you have any additional questions please send me a note! I’d be delighted to hear from you, or provide any other photo shoot advice that would be useful.
THINGS TO DO BEFORE YOUR SESSION
• Plan your outfits at least a week in advance — don’t wait until the last day, trust me! You want to wake up feeling relaxed and prepared, so plan these details out early. I will send you a Wardrobe Guide – with links to purchase items to make it even easier. Feel free to text me photos of your wardrobe if you’re having a hard time choosing! I’m happy to help.
• Make hair, nail, wax, and/or makeup appointments for before your session. Makeup, my recommendation is to keep your make-up natural in look and avoid trends that may date your photos. If you don’t normally wear make-up don’t feel pressure start now. Nails, no matter how you like to keep your nails be sure the day of the shoot they look great. Clean, clipped and if you want fresh paint, just avoid the chipped worn look. Facial Hair. Ladies if you wax, shave, or pluck, do it in advance, day of may not work out well for your skin. Men make sure your mustache and/or beard it is trimmed and combed for the shoot.
• Prepare your kids (and husband!) with laid-back, low-key references to let them know what’s happening. Tell them you will be “hanging out with our friend Jess on Saturday!” or “going to the park to play!” and keep things fun, lighthearted, and casual. (Families have shared that this tip is especially helpful if they have a particularly shy child.)
• Brainstorm about specific props, mementos, or special types of images you want captured. Some families bring heirloom quilts, a special stuffed animal, an embroidered keepsake, etc. Some families know they want a very specific type of photograph taken. If you have these preferences, be sure to brainstorm them in advance and let me know as well!
• Review all the things I emailed you: links to blog posts, this Session Guide, and Session Wardrobe Guide. These are all very important because they are full of tips and information that is very useful!
• And of course, make sure everyone gets a good night’s sleep and eats a good meal beforehand.
• Plan to arrive at your session location at least 15 minutes beforehand to allow time to find parking, make any last-minute clothing adjustments, and find our meeting spot. If you know you tend to run late, I would even recommend getting there an hour ahead of time. The time we’ve chosen for your session is very specific for lighting reasons
• Pets – Exercise your pet before the session. You don’t want them to be exhausted however they will be more cooperative if they have burned off some excess energy first so they can focus. Consider your clothing color choices to be sure they coordinate with your pet’s coloring. Neutral colors tend to work well. Don’t forget to groom them too, if needed. Bring an assistant. If you have a friend /family member that can mind the pet for shots that we won’t include them or if they don’t want to corporate it will make our life a lot easier. *If you want some family photos with your pooch, cat, turtle (hey no judgement!) I think it is a fantastic idea but please do check with me first as some locations aren’t pet friendly.
HOW TO DRESS FOR YOUR SESSION
• I recommend women wear medium or long dresses because they capture more movement and generally photograph more flatteringly. You’ll feel prettier, and it’s extremely flattering.
• Pick a dress that’s figure flattering. I recommend any kind that has a fitted waist. Skip the shift dresses and swing dresses because one gust of wind and you suddenly look twice as wide as you actually are.
• If you’re not a big fan of dresses, choose a skirt and top combination. But again, choose one that’s an A-Line style (fitted in the waist and flows out over your hips). I promise it’ll be 1000x more flattering than anything else you could pick.
• Wearing something more dressy than your everyday. T-shirt material doesn’t hang as well as chiffon, rayon, linen, double knit, or silk, and could look cheap and unflattering from some angles.
• I recommend men wear pants and comfortable shirt with either henley shirt, cardigan or blazer; shirts designed to be worn un-tucked, button-downs with sleeves rolled up to elbows, sweaters layered over collared shirts, especially if they’re textured (think chunky knits), slim-fit jeans, leather shoes/boots, boat shoes, Converse & Vans
• Don’t wear matching clothes— no more jeans-and-matching-shirts these days! Instead, wear colors in a complimentary color palette, such as earth tones and neutrals
• Shoes , make sure they are clean and in good appearance. No tennis shoes , if photographing at the beach, I recommend just simple sandals.
• Wear comfortable shoes and clothes you can move in. If your dress gets suddenly too short when you bend over, or your pants are too tight to sit down in, opt for more breathable pieces. Be prepared to move!
• Limit distracting patterns and large logos.
• Do opt for accessories! Shawls, bowties, suspenders, hats, flower headbands, chunky scarves, beautiful flowing dresses and skirts—these create visual interest and movement in your photos, and really help the images stand apart. Photos are a special occasion; take advantage of this fun opportunity to dress up a little more.
• Opt for fitted clothing, you don’t want your clothing to be too baggy or too tight. Properly fitted clothing looks put together and will show your shape. For women, your upper half and lower half should be balanced: so for instance, blousy shirt + skinny pants, or tight shirt + flowing skirt.
• Consider your home decor. If you’re planning to hang your images in your living room that’s decorated in all white, you probably don’t want your clothing to be dark. If you’re hanging them in a colorful nursery, then wear vivid outfits.
• SAY NO TO | Formal clothing – Let your clothing match your surroundings. A tuxedo or formal dress will look out of place in the woods. Bright white – If you love white, try off-white or ivory instead. Dark colors – Black and dark navy/brown/gray should all be avoided, since they tend to darken the overall feel of your photos and keep them from feeling bright & airy. Neon colors – These create skin tone/color cast issues. Very saturated colors – I.e. bright red, bright yellow, etc. Instead, try more muted versions of the same color: so for instance, replace bright red with dark red; replace bright yellow with mustard, etc. Logos and texts – Words will draw attention away from your faces. Tiny plaid, small stripes, and complicated patterns – These don’t always translate well in-camera.
HOW TO POSE DURING YOUR SESSION
Super important , so please read carefully
• No need to ‘Cheese’! I’m chasing natural interactions and unposed moments. I strive to capture and encourage authentic expressions. No need to coax your children into fake smiles!
• On a related note, children around the ages of 3-8 will sometimes try to “cheese” in the photos, because that’s what they’ve been conditioned to do when they see a camera! Help me create more candid shots by interacting playfully with your children.
• We will go for the money shot , meaning I do start off each session with a few simple posed shots where everyone is looking at camera smiling .. or trying too.
• Laugh, play, tickle, and snuggle. This is how we’ll capture the REAL moments.
• Not everyone has to be looking at the camera. Actually, I usually encourage my gentlemen to NOT look at the camera. (they seem to prefer that, as well!) I like to especially encourage my dads to focus on their partners and their kids.
• When in doubt, just smile and look at your family lovingly. Stand close together. Actually, as close as possible.
• Relax, slow down, and don’t force anything. Don’t feel pressured to make everything perfect! Just be present with your family and I’ll do the rest. And don’t stress if any of the kids get fussy! As an experienced photographer, I’ve seen it all before, trust me. Just snuggle your kiddos and we can still capture beautiful images
• Expect me to move you around to different spots to capture images. The more variety we get, the bigger your gallery and the more great shots we have the opportunity to create together!
• Keep heads close together. It creates that warm loving closeness. We’re looking to create togetherness.
• Keep all your weight on one leg. you automatically look natural and not trying to pose.
• Don’t face the camera straight on. Most people aren’t symmetrical and it gives more opportunity for your family to get close.
• If you’re going to put your arm around someone, put it on their back, not on top of their shoulder.
• Always be touching, be sure that your always touching someone. Whether it’s a hug or snuggle, or just a tender hand on the shoulder. Make contact with your family. This shows connections and love. Don’t be afraid to pick up your children and toss them in the air!), tickle them or give them relentless kisses! Husbands give your wife a sweet kiss on the check. Wives tell your husband how much you love him and appreciate him for being there for your family. Have fun. Cuddle. Giggle. Joke. Embrace. Kiss. Snuggle. Play. Give them a Squeeze. Doing these things will allow me to capture the emotion and true beauty of your family.
WHAT TO BRING TO YOUR PHOTO SESSION
• Any personal appearance touchup items you might want, including things like lipstick, hairbrush, bobby pins, chapstick.
• Snacks + Water .. and if necessary, treats to bribe kiddos with! Bring a water bottle and stay hydrated! Keeping yourself refreshed during your session provides energy and can help you relax as well. If your shoot is outside and cold out, don’t be afraid to bring some hot chocolate, tea, or coffee to your portrait session! Get warm and stay comfortable.
• Walkable shoes. We will probably be walking short/moderate distances, often on unpaved trails, possibly with hills. Walkable shoes are a must! If you just love your wedges, bring them to change into before we start shooting.
• A spare bag (for electronics , accessories + wallets). When shooting, I always ask my clients to remove any phones, wallets, keys, watches, hair ties, etc. from their pockets and wrists if those items are not part of the shoot. Instead of lying them on the ground, bring a small bag to consolidate and carry those items. You’ll know where everything is and keep it all clean during your portrait session.
• A change of clothes for everyone, in case anyone gets muddy or dirty. As a photographer, I love when we can interact fully with their surroundings. So we may get a little dirty. Feel free to bring a change of clothes or shoes. Maybe even a towel. You never know!!
• Pets – Bring treats and toys. The magical lint roller is essential, especially if your best tends to shed a lot. Bring your assistant. If your friend /family member is planning on assisting, don’t forget them ! – that can watch over your pet while we don’t include them in some shots.
WHAT TO EXPECT AFTER YOUR SESSION
• RELAX – your part is over. Whoop whoop! Now the editing begins!
• After your session, I will be working hard behind the scenes to cull the best photos (eliminating duplicates, blurs, and blinks) Your gallery is typically ready within 2 – 3 weeks of your session.
• Sneak Peeks – After your session, I will most likely post a few sneak peeks of your images on my Instagram if you allow me to do so. Sneak peeks can be really fun for the client (and the Artist) but please remember that they are offered as a courtesy and may take a bit of time.
• Check out printing options. Look online (such as the Pinterest) for ideas about wall gallery displays. There are tons of beautiful ideas for every style and budget. In your online gallery, you can conveniently download your images for high quality prints, framed photos, and canvases,
• Leave a review ! Because hey why not..they always help ! I’m on Google , YELP! + Facebook .