8 Steps to a successful photography session
Assuring that you get great photos from your professional portrait session does not fall entirely on the expertise of the photographer. It also takes some planning and effort on the part of the client. Here are 8 things that you, as a photography client, can do to help your photographer get the best portraits of you and/or your family:
1) Plan your wardrobe wisely. For family, children’s or couples photos, please co-ordinate everyone’s clothing colours, patterns & styles. You can work with a colour palette of 2-3 complimentary hues. Bright hues, denims and natural tones (i.e. blues, greens & browns) are a good choice. Avoid white. And do not, I repeat DO NOT dress everyone in jeans and white shirts, or khakis and white shirts or any other kind of identical outfits that went out back in the 90s.
For adults, classy casual wear looks best. A dressy pair of jeans and a nice shirt and jacket can look really classy–especially if they’re accessorized with the right scarf and jewellery (or a nice watch for men). Also, don’t forget about wearing nice shoes. No one wants to see dirty running shoes in photos, so opt for nice dress shoes, boots, flats or heels.
Please note that it is not the photographer’s responsibility to spend extra time photoshopping clients to look thinner due to poor outfit choices. To avoid possible disappointment, stay away from clothing that is too tight, too short, too baggy, sleeveless or too revealing in any way (ie. showing too much cleavage, leg, etc.). Check out my Pinterest boards for what to wear for a family photo shoot, a maternity photo shoot or an engagement photo shoot.
2) Bring at least one change of clothes per person. Adults don’t have to change outfits, but it’s nice to add variety to the photos. However, I strongly advise that parents bring at least one change of clothes per child, just in case they get dirty or have an accident. For example, last summer I did a family portrait session, which had three small children. One of the boys got so excited during the session that he actually peed his pants while sitting on his father’s lap, so his pants were soaked as well as part of his dad’s shirt. Need I say more? Ha! Ha!
3) Have your hair done. This doesn’t mean that you have to go to the salon and have a professional style your hair, although this is not a bad idea. Just make sure that you put much effort into styling your hair so that you look your absolute best. You are paying money to have your portraits taken and probably plan on hanging the photos in your home, so why not look your best? After all, you WILL be on display. For those who dye their hair (especially brides and grooms for their wedding day), please make sure that you do not have roots showing! For the love of all that is good and holy, please make sure that you keep your roots under wraps! In my opinion, nothing looks worse than an inch of roots sticking out, whether it be greying roots or roots that are darker or lighter than the rest of the hair. I admit that I dye my hair, so a few days before I got married, I made sure that my roots were touched up so that my hair looked fabulous. I must again mention that it is not the photographer’s responsibility to photoshop a person’s hair because the client didn’t take the initiative to groom their hair properly or dye their roots.
4) Women, have your makeup done. Whether it be done professionally or done by you, make sure you wear some makeup. I understand that some women don’t normally wear makeup. However, please make an exception for your photo shoot. You don’t need to wear much. Loose powder will keep the shine factor down on your skin–especially if it’s a hot summer afternoon. Concealer will help to hide blemishes, dark circles under the eyes and smooth out uneven looking skin. A little bit of lipstick or coloured lip gloss will help to make your lips stand out from your skin.
I have had several brides who schedule their wedding makeup and hair style trials on the same day as their engagement photo shoot so that they end up looking fabulicious in their engagement photo shoot. One lady had her makeup and hair done for her engagement photo session, while the other had her makeup done for her engagement photo shoot.
5) Make sure everyone is well rested. Try to at least go to bed early the night before your photo shoot. You don’t want to have dark circles and big bags under your eyes, which will show in your photos. If you’re having your children’s photos taken, DO NOT schedule the photo session during their regular nap time. Either schedule it several hours BEFORE, or schedule it after their nap time, so that they’re well rested, energetic and in good spirits. Tired children have little tolerance for sitting still and smiling for a camera when all they want to do is sleep.
On the flip side, for newborn photo sessions, you actually want a tired baby in order to get those cute sleepy baby poses. If it’s possible, don’t have them sleeping just prior to the photo shoot. And then feed them just before the session starts as a full belly and a tired baby will make it an easier newborn session.
6) Make sure everyone has eaten. Make sure all children and babies have eaten before they have their photos taken. Nothing shuts down a photo session faster than cranky children and what better way to make them cranky than to make them do something when they’re hungry. They don’t have to have a full meal right before they come, but at least make sure that they’ve had a snack or two before the photo shoot. I always advise my clients to bring snacks with them during a photo shoot involving children. Even for newborns, there are several feedings during the session as this is the best way to get those cute sleepy newborn poses. A full belly gives a higher chance of getting baby to sleep.
7) Consult with your photographer prior to the photo shoot. If you have a particular idea that you would like to do for your photo shoot, go over your ideas with your photographer so that they’ll know what you’re looking for and bounce ideas off with you of how they can accomplish this. Most photographers will have various great locations to choose from, so one may be better suited for what you want. It may also depend on the lighting, due to the time of day that your photo shoot is scheduled.
Hint: the best time of day (at least in my humble opinion) is in the late afternoon/early evening when the light begins to turn more golden. The absolute best time of day is during golden hour (about an hour before sunset) when the sun is starting to go down and you get that dreamy golden light and some sun flare.
8) Relax and have fun! You hired a professional photographer for a reason. I would hope it’s because you have enough confidence in their skills to get the best angles and to get those great smiles and shots. Let them do their job in capturing candid moments of you and your family. Just have fun because this will translate to real smiles.