Preparing For Your Shoot

Getting custom portraits professionally taken isn’t quite like everyday picture taking, with awkward posing, when everyone cries “cheese!”. Keep in mind that your photographer is there to capture you as you are.

One of the things professional models are able to do is be aware of their entire bodies, not just their faces. Most people aren’t models! But you can take some tips from the modeling world:

  • Be aware of what your hands are doing. Relax them, don’t have your hands clenched or clutched to you. Allow your hands to drape casually across something you might be leaning on, open up your fingers and relax your hand if putting an arm around a family member, or holding hands with a spouse.
  • Hang out, talk with each other. Don’t look at the photographer the whole time. Allow yourself moments (and even though it’s hard to), really try to forget that there’s someone there watching. Don’t stare at the camera. Your photographer will direct you in this.
  • Be aware of where the brightest light is coming from, and turn in that direction when possible, especially your face. Turning your face toward the light will reduce dark shadows and cause skin to look smoother. Don’t stare at the sun or anything, but don’t turn away from indirect light coming though a window!

What to wear?
Be yourself and wear things you love! Comfort is important — you may be climbing onto benches, sitting on tree stumps, walking through a field, so wear something that you can move in.

Keep in mind that you’d like to be able to display or show these portraits for years, and ideally that they’d represent you at this point in time, rather than being a sample of today’s fashion. Twenty years from now, you probably don’t want first reactions to seeing these photos to be musing about the trends of the time. So, try to choose clothing, right from head to toe, that is more classic and less trendy. If it’s something that you think you could wear and walk around forty years ago and not be remarkable in the style of the time, it’s probably a good choice. Think plain and classy.

Earthier, more natural tones look great. Darker, solid colours, particularly classic or neutral colours are good choices. Not to say you have to wear boring clothing, far from it! A dark red blouse, or a blue sweater can look great. Blacks, grays, and browns let the personalities wearing them be more noticeable. Natural fibres that will absorb the light are ideal, rather than shiny fabrics that will reflect light. Leather, wool, and cotton are all very classic materials that look great in photos.

Wear something that covers your upper arms, and I’d recommend that men wear long pants. Make sure your shoes are clean, and wear dark socks (unless you are wearing sandals, of course). Watches don’t generally look good in photos, and any other jewellery should be small.

Avoid patterns and especially avoid large logos or text on shirts, not only can they look dated (remember all of the plaid flannel of the 90s?), but they can be very distracting. White clothes, even though they are clean, crisp and classic, can present exposure challenges for your photographer, so please avoid white if possible! Especially on a very bright, sunny day. Darker clothes make you, and not your outfit, stand out.

One look I have always personally liked is contrasting clothes to surroundings. If it’s autumn (green, yellow, and orange outside) and you are shooting in a park, consider a black and brown outfit with bits of navy. Or, if it is winter and you are shooting in a natural location, bright colours like orange or pink. Or, you can choose to coordinate with your surroundings, by wearing pastels in winter and greens and blues in summer — this takes a little planning but I think it makes for wonderful, harmonious photographs.
Matching outfits?
Completely up to you. Personally I tend towards coordinating rather than identical, but that is a personal choice. I’d say 10% of clients do the matching outfit thing, and it really depends on your shoot and what your ideal images look like. If you love the way matching outfits look, then go for it. But it’s not something you should feel like you have to do.

I put together a board on Pinterest of outfits I thought would work well for engagements, click for more ideas!

Ladies: makeup & nails
If you’ve ever been in a stage performance, you’ll know that everyone wears quite a bit of makeup for it. Photos are similar, so wear makeup — maybe a little heavier than you usually wear. If you don’t usually wear makeup, consider doing so for your session. The main things to concentrate on are a nice foundation and powder (ensuring good coverage), and eyeliner on your upper lid plus a bit of mascara. Eyeshadow will add that extra impact. This will make a huge difference in your photos, and the way your skin and eyes look. Other things to think about: make sure your eyebrows are plucked, your teeth are clear of bits of stuck food, any blemishes are concealed, and your nails are clean and your cuticles moisturized. Your hands might be in a photo, and you’d be surprised how close up (and the level of detail!) photos can be.


Other than what to wear and think about while being photographed, show up relaxed and looking forward to your shoot — they’re fun!