Preparing For Your Portrait Session

Preparing for a portrait session takes a lot of work and I frequently receive questions from clients about what to wear and bring to their session. As your photographer, it’s important to me that you look your best in your photos and that the photos are full of your personality and style.

To make preparing for your portrait session a little less stressful, I have compiled a list of recommendations below. Keep in mind that the recommendations are simply that, recommendations. It’s your portrait session so feel free to fully incorporate your unique style and flavor. If you are unsure about an outfit or prop you would like to bring and would like some advice, don't hesitate to contact me for assistance.

Coordinate Not Match

A common misconception about portraits is that everyone’s clothing in the photo should match. This couldn't be further from the truth! I highly doubt that your family walks around on a daily basis wearing matching clothes, so why would you want to do that for your portraits? Choosing to wear matching outfits is the quickest way to make your photos boring and stale.

Create visual cohesiveness in your portraits by selecting coordinating colors that work well as a whole, but will still allow the individuality of each person to shine through. I suggest choosing a base hue and then bringing it all together by choosing analogous orcomplementary colors.

Don't Fear Prints

Most photographers would advise against their clients wearing prints and patterns...not me! Prints and patterns are always an option for my clients. The trick to successfully pulling offprints in a portrait is not to overdo it. It is generally best to avoid patterns, logos and fabrics that will become distractions by drawing attention away from the faces. A portrait should showcase the people and not their favorite clothing brands. If someone in the group chooses to wear a print, I recommend having others wear solid colors that complement the print.

Layer It Up

Clothes often look better in photographs when they are layered. During the summer months this may be difficult to accomplish, but consider adding some sort of cardigan, blazer or jacket to finish your look. Layering can also be done with accessories like vest or belt, which seems to always add a little pop to the photos. Be sure to choose clothing that is comfortable and fits properly. The camera won’t add 10 lbs. but clothing that doesn't fit properly definitely will!

The Change Up

Creating image variety is essential for a successful portrait session. A great way to do this is by making simple wardrobe changes. Consider bringing additional outfits to your session to switch things up. I suggest having options such as a dressy look (e.g. cocktail dress or suit), a casual look (e.g. jeans and a vintage tee) and maybe something in between (e.g. jeans with high heels or dress shoes). Be sure that each look has the same level of “dressiness”; for instance, the first set of outfits could consist of a button-up shirt, blazer and jeans for him and a Midi Dress for her and the second set of clothing could be vintage t-shirts and jeans for the couple.

Keep in mind that if it looks a little wrinkled in person, it will look extremely wrinkled on camera. Wrinkles cast shadows that are very obvious in photos. If you’re wearing something that wrinkles easily, don’t wear it in the car on the way to your session – just change at the location. Typically, my clients make at least one wardrobe change during their session.

Put On The Finishing Touches

Wearing jewelry is great way to insert your personal style into your portraits. Any jewelry you choose to wear, should be kept simple and to a minimum. If the session will include children or infants and you are going to have your arms around them a lot, then avoid bracelets that will distract them.

Most people tend to remove their glasses when it’s time to take pictures, but if you wear glasses most of the time, you’ll probably want to keep them on during your session. Unfortunately,the lenses can create hard reflections that make it hard to see the eyes through the camera, so I recommend “borrowing” a pair of empty frames from your optometrist, or having them remove the lenses from your own glasses. If that isn't possible, I'll still get great photos, but they’ll be much better without the lenses.

Makeup, Hair-DOs, and Don'ts

You can wear your hair and makeup anyway you prefer, but having your hair and makeup professionally done can add that extra oomph to your images.

A subtle application of makeup can really soften your skin and accent your facial features. I’m sure you’re absolutely wonderful at doing your own hair and makeup on a day-to-day basis but I recommend having an experienced hair and makeup professional for your portrait session. An experienced professional will know what photographs bestand how to make you look incredible in your photos. Besides, isn't a portrait session a great excuse for a little pampering?

Please don't forget to moisturize! Dry skin can really detract from a great photo and ensuring that any area that will be exposed to the camera is properly manicured and moisturized will go along way. Pay special attention to your arms, shoulders, neck, face, hands, and legs. Speaking of moisturizing, I also suggest bringing a fresh lip balm or lipstick for quick touch-ups.


Another way to make your session personalized and fun is to bring props. Your portrait session is about you so it only makes sense to have some items that will showcase your personality. I encourage my clients to bring items that represent them, their family, and/or their hobbies. Using props that are meaningful to you are great additions to your portrait session.

Be sure that the props that you choose don’t overpower your photos.


The most important thing to remember about preparing for your portrait session is that it’s your session. Be yourself! Interact with the other people in the photograph the way you normally would – goof off, make faces, cuddle, hug, laugh, and play. Do whatever is your thing but just relax and have fun. Oh and don’t forget to bring your ‘A’ game!
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