Getting Ready for a Portrait Photography Session

There are many factors to consider when you're getting ready for a portrait photography session. Here I've listed a few details you might wish to review. If you follow these simple tips when you're getting ready for your portrait session, you're much more likely to present yourself in a positive light.

Please don’t become worried about the number of options listed here. Remember, they're intended to serve as helpful guidelines and not be considered requirements.

Wardrobe

Before you arrive for your portrait session, I recommend that you assemble at least four (4) different outfits. I'm happy to accommodate as many wardrobe changes as possible during our time together. For my style of photography, there's no such thing as too many choices. When you arrive for your session, I'll help you choose the wardrobe options that might suit you best and promote your likeness in the most complementary fashion.

If you don't have access to a large, stylish, or new wardrobe, you may wish to consider purchasing a few new items prior to your portrait photography session. If you're already investing in photographs, it's helpful if you can ensure that your wardrobe will enhance rather than detract from your portrait. If your budget doesn't allow you to purchase new apparel, you may wish to consider another option. Many of my subjects purchase new clothing from their favorite boutique or department store and then return the items after our session; if you elect to return those items, you shouldn't remove the tags. If you consider this option, please take note that some stores don't allow returns. Check on the store's return policy before you buy!

Avoid selecting wardrobe items that feature patterns, bright colors, busy prints, or logos. Apparel featuring those characteristics can draw attention away from your face, the most important area of your photos. 

I also suggest that your select outfits that feature a few different necklines. If your selected apparel items are too similar in cut or design, you may not be provided with much diversity in your photographic choices. Speaking of diversity, you may wish to consider bringing sweaters or jackets during the summer and summer outfits during the winter. And although you’re welcome to wear trendy attire, please remember that wardrobe selection can quickly date your photos.

Also bring a lint brush or roller. Although I sometimes have one on hand, it's better if you come prepared. A lint brush becomes especially important if you plan on wearing black wardrobe items. And to make sure your wardrobe is presented in the best possible light, you should make sure it's pressed and clean. An insignificant wrinkle can sometimes ruin an otherwise great photo. You should also ensure your undergarments aren't visible through your outer layers of clothing. Women’s bras and bra straps are notorious for causing problems in photos. And if you're wearing white or semi-transparent items, try to remove the tags from your garments. Under certain lighting conditions, these tags can often be visible in your photographs.

If possible, avoid wearing multiple layers of clothing. Multiple layers can often add perceived weight to your body in photographs and make you look bulky.

For women, if your outfits contain skirts I would highly recommend stockings or pantyhose.  A color that will compliment your wardrobe or at least nude.  During the final processing of your images I have found that the sheer material allow for clean smooth looking legs and helps in removing any blemishes that otherwise would be visible and distract from the photo. 

And finally unless you're very thin, avoid sleeveless shirts, sweaters, or blouses. Even for slender subjects, it's often difficult to focus attention on your face if your bare arm is competing for attention in the photograph.

Choosing Complementary Colors for Portrait Photography

It's helpful if you choose wardrobe (and makeup) colors that complement your skin-tone, hair color, and eyes. These color schemes and their complementary colors are traditionally segmented into four groups, named for the seasons Winter, Summer, Autumn, and Spring. 

Winter

People with Winter complexions have dark or very light hair. Their skin is often pale white, olive, or dark. Many Asians, African-American, Hispanic, and natural white-blondes fit within this coloring category. Intense colors like black, navy blue, red, and hot pink are ideal for individuals with these characteristics. For apparel or makeup using lighter colors, bright white and pastels in blues, pinks, and yellows are also often found to be very complementary. It's always best to avoid brown earthy tones along with subdued colors like beige, orange, and gold.

Summer

People with Summer complexions have very pale skin with pink undertones. Many individuals with natural blonde hair and sometimes brunettes with pale skin and eyes are often segmented to this category. Since there's not much contrast between the skin, eyes, and hair of someone with a Summer complexion, clothing choices are particularly important. For best results, try to choose neutral colors and pastels. Some excellent color choices include powder blue, dusty pink, mauve, lavender, plum, and pale yellow. Vivid colors, earth tones, black, and orange should be avoided.

Autumn

People with Autumn complexions have golden skin undertones that can be described as pale peach, golden beige, or golden brown. Many individuals with red and brown hair and golden or dark eyes fall into this category. However, individuals with golden brown or black hair can also fall into this category. Colors that are most complementary include rich warm colors seen in autumn leaves along with colors like camel, beige, olive, orange, gold, dark brown, and warm gray. Colors like black, white, pastels, and blue tones should be avoided.

Spring

People with Spring complexions have subtle golden skin tones that are usually creamy white or peach. Individuals with this coloring usually include natural golden blondes, auburn, or strawberry blonde redheads. Members of this group also often have light green or blue eyes as well as freckles and rosy cheeks. Colors that are most complementary include pale, soft colors like peach, camel, golden yellow, golden brown, aqua, ivory, bright greens, reds, blues, and coral. Colors like black, white, and dark or dull colors should be avoided.

 

Accessories

Don’t forget your bring all of your accessories like shoes, socks, belts, necklaces, earrings, make-up bag, brush, curling iron, hair spray, or special mirrors. Even if you only need a simple headshot, you never know what we'll capture during our session. You should also avoid wearing distracting jewelry including watches, large rings and earrings, and prominent necklaces. Jewelry should be kept at a minimum as these items can distract from your face in the finished photo. You should also avoid large buttons or shiny objects on your clothing or body. Shiny objects can also include glitter and rhinestones.

In addition to your standard accessories, you may wish to bring along a prop like a piece of jewelry or clothing, a tool of your profession, a book, a hat, a scarf, or even children’s toys. Try to choose items that help identify you, but won't detract from your appearance.

Grooming

For both men and women, you should pay particular attention to your facial hair. Women should take a close look at their eyebrows and upper lips before the session. Even if your facial hair is masked by makeup, it can still appear in photos. For men, although it might prove difficult, I recommend you carefully shave no more than two hours before the photo session. This is a good practice because evidence of facial hair can often appear right away. Trimming your beard, goatee, moustache, and/or sideburns is also strongly recommended.

In the same vein, I also recommend that you visit your barber or stylist at least one week prior to the session. And if you're not comfortable styling your own hair or applying your makeup, please consider seeing a professional on the day of your session. That step alone can make a world of difference.

Finally, you should try and use hand moisturizer immediately before our portrait session. It's quite possible that I'll feature your hands in some photos. A manicure a few days before is also highly recommended, even for gentlemen. Pedicures are optional, but they often offer me additional photographic opportunities, especially for barefoot shots or if you intend to wear open toed shoes.

Couple, Family, or Group Photos

If you're participating in a couple, family, or group photo session, I recommend that everyone in your group wear similar attire. Just as in my recommendations for individual portraits, you should think about complementary colors and styles. These wardrobe choices will keep distractions to a minimum. For example, if you'd like a family portrait that includes four family members, there are few common apparel selections. One option might be to have all members of the group wearing a combination of white and denim. In a traditional family portrait, the father might wear jeans and a white shirt, the infant son a pair of denim overalls and a white shirt, the daughter a white sun dress, and the mother might wear jeans and a white blouse. A good rule of thumb is to make sure that any garment worn on the upper torso doesn't conflict with anything worn by any other member of the group. Solid black, white, pastel, khaki, and denim combinations are generally the most successful colors for these types of photographs. 

Final Considerations

Try to get a good night’s sleep before your photo session and avoid alcohol. You'd be amazed how easily bags under your eyes can detract from your photos! You should also avoid stress during your photo session. Since my goal is to make sure you look natural, bring things that help you relax. We can even play your favorite CD. Avoid stressors like your ringing cell phone, young children (who aren't going to be in the photos), and arriving late to your photo session.