Portrait Session Style Guide
What Every Client Needs to Know
I am so excited for your portrait session! Whether we are capturing your sweet family, or celebrating a special moment in your life, I am honored to help you create memories you’ll cherish for a lifetime. I’ve created this guide to help you get the most out of your photos, and by the time you’ve read through this guide, you’ll have all your questions answered and feel more than ready and prepared for your session. Then I’ll take care of the rest! Your job is to be yourself, laugh a lot and let me create photos you’ll love forever. I can’t wait to get you in front of my camera!
Choosing Time & Date
I believe that natural light, from the sun and its reflections, create photographs that feel fresh, timeless and truest to you. I begin all portrait sessions one to two hours before the scheduled sunset during “the golden hour,” when the light is the dreamiest. The sun sets much earlier during the colder months of the year and much later during the warmer months, so make sure to factor that in when choosing your portrait session date, especially if you’re taking off work or have evening plans afterward. We’re only able to shoot when natural light is still in the sky, so we’ll want to take advantage of every minute we have together before the sun goes down.
QUICK TIP: Weekends fill up fast and far in advance, as does the fall season. You can get a Fast Pass to the front of the line by scheduling mid-week or off-season.
Selecting the Right Location
The location of your portrait session is up to you. I love shooting in wide-open natural spaces because the light is amazing, especially during golden hour. There are great options all around our area, so even if you’ve never seen me photograph in a specific spot before, I am always up for exploring a new spot! If you get stuck or need inspiration, check out my blog. I have some great go-to locations around town that we can always hit, too. Just let me know which type of session you’d love and we’ll go from there.
Styling your Session
Want your photos to look more editorial? Bring a little extra something with you! Fresh flowers bring an extra “wow” factor to just about everything, especially when they’re attached to something else, like a bicycle basket, tree swing, tent, picnic basket, balloons or car bumper. Whether you want to incorporate larger items like classic cars or bikes, or smaller ones like blankets or hats, even planning for just one extra styled item could be a fun way to make your session more unique.
Style Tips: For Her
Because you always want to remember this.
Dress in outfits that represent you and your family. Wear what you like. Dress your kids in the kind of clothes they like. This is a good chance to really show your personality.
Keep it simple. Solid colors work well. While I like patterns, try to avoid large or bold patterns. They draw attention away from the face. Layers are also good for adding texture to your pictures.
Accessories can really make a difference in making your pictures unique and really stand out. Jewelry, heels, scarves, hats, tutus for kids, etc., are all examples of accessories to use.
Coordinate your attire from head to toe, carefully selecting appropriate shoes, as we may take some full-length portraits.
Necklines are important: A V-neck or scoop-neck is best if your neck is short and your face full. A turtleneck or high necked is more flattering if your neck is longer and your face is slender.
Dress everyone in the same style of clothing – do not mix casual and formal attire. Try not to be too matchy, matchy.
Don’t Be Afraid to Dress It Up
Quick Tip: There’s no such thing as too dressed up.
Say Yes to the Dress
Dresses and skirts look most stunning because they really flatter every female body, especially on. Long, full-length, flowy dresses and skirts look amazing on camera because they bring extra movement to the photos.
When considering the length of your dresses or skirts, it’s also a good idea to factor in whether or not there will be little ones in your photos. If you have smaller children, we’ll likely have you sitting or crouching on the ground to interact up-close with them. Cute, shorter cocktail-length dresses photograph beautifully, but if you have little ones in your photos, a floor-length dress or skirt, or perhaps a cute midi-skirt, will make moving around with your kids much easier, and look perfect on camera, too.
Make a Statement
Pairing an accessory or two with your outfit can really help bring some extra dimension to your images, and be a nice tie-in when you’re coordinating with a group. Big statement necklaces bring a lot of pop to the photos, while the smaller, delicate ones are not as noticeable on camera.
Belts, bracelets and earrings bring great visual interest, so choose one or two that don’t compete for attention.
When styling a photo session, I like to start out with a basic color palette and go from there. It can help to have one “rock star” in the photos who carries a pattern in their outfit that the rest of the group’s clothing or accessories pulls from, while keeping everyone else’s outfits more simple. You can do this with a neutral and a few colorful brights, or try a softer palette that has different tonal ranges of the same shades.
When choosing colors for your outfits, we recommend selecting softer, lighter tones and more muted shades. By avoiding ultra-bright, bold colors, it will help bring all the attention to your faces and let the eye focus on the way you feel about each other. The camera loves shades of soft pink and muted blues, mixed with sophisticated light neutrals like heather gray, creams, leather brown and white. That softer color palette fits beautifully into almost all natural outdoor environments, and especially compliments the desert.
Flattering Your Features
In my experience, every woman, regardless of her shape has an area of her body that she’s self-conscious about, so recognizing what area that is in advance is key. Choosing flattering silhouettes and colors that complement your natural features is the best way to ensure you’ll love the way you look in your photos.
Three-quarter length sleeves create an awesome slimming effect on all arms, so be on the lookout for an option with a longer length sleeve. You could also bring a cute jacket, blazer or cardigan along, too. Skinny straps or strapless dresses have the opposite effect on arms on camera, so we recommend avoiding those whenever possible if your goal is a set of slimmer-looking arms.
Heels elongate women’s legs, making them look fabulous. Closed-toed heels in particular look great on camera because they carry out the line of your leg all the way down to your toe. If your toes are showing in a peep-toe heel, you might want to schedule a pedicure before your session so you don’t regret letting your feet show. These little tricks make all the difference!
Quick Tip: Bring a pair of easy-to-kick-off flats to wear when moving from place to place in between photos. Your feet will thank you later!
Go Pro: Hair & Makeup
Professional hair and makeup is on the top of most of our clients’ checklists because it looks amazing on camera and removes the stress of getting ready on your own. This is the time to treat yourself! Whether it’s lash extensions or blown-out hair, professional hair and makeup will give you an extra boost of confidence in front of the camera, and it always photographs like a dream. If you need a recommendation for hair and makeup, let me know.
Please schedule your maternity session two months before your due date. Those babies have been known to appear early! Wear something to show off your beautiful curves.
If you’re an expecting mother, we always recommend floor-length gowns or maxi dresses. These dresses create the best silhouettes to flatter your figure and really highlight your bump. A lot of our expecting mothers love to incorporate flower crowns or headpieces as well.
Quick Tip: Confidence. It’s always the best accessory.
Skip the Spray Tan
I recommend that you do not get a spray tan before your session, even a few days prior, because it tends to photograph orange even when it’s applied subtly and by a professional. Your actual skin tone will photograph the most beautifully and naturally.
Fashion Tips: For Him
The Best Fit
Long, fitted pants and closed-toed shoes are the most sophisticated and masculine looks for men. They draw attention away from his legs and feet and place it where you want it: on his handsome face. Fitted dress pants or jeans pants work best on camera. Solid shades of gray or navy are a strong compliment to most women’s outfits, whereas pinstripes or plaid patterns tend to distract the eye. We also recommend staying away from graphics and logos.
How to Prep Your Man
Most men aren’t overly excited to take photos for one or two hours, because they don’t have an expectation of what’s to come and why it’s so important to you. Show him some of your favorite sessions that I’ve done and express to him how much it means to you. Trust me, once he knows it’s important, he’ll light up the camera for you!
Prepping Your Family
Because they won’t be little forever.
It is recommended, that newborn pictures are taken in the first 5 to 10 days of life while they are still nice and sleepy. Have your baby in a loose diaper for two hours prior to the shoot so there are no diaper marks and so they are used to being less clothed. On your way to the shoot have your baby in a onsie so we can disturb them less when removing clothing. Swaddling blankets and textured quilts are great. I do have a few props on hand, including wraps, blankets and baskets. Feel free to bring a few of your own props that will personalize your session. Examples include hair bows, hats, blankets, etc.
Coordinating the Crew
As you’re coordinating your outfit with your family, keep in mind that your outfits will look the most cohesive on camera when the color palette and wardrobe pieces coordinate, but don’t actually “match.” I recommend that you avoid thinking about “matching,” and instead think about what “fits” together. This will create more visual interest, and allow each personality to shine through.
Make sure that the children can move freely in their outfits and that they aren’t going to be pulling and scratching at their new clothes. You want them happy and comfortable, not grouchy and miserable during the shoot! This means letting them have some input in what they wear. Kids who help dress themselves will not only be much happier campers when shooting time comes, but you’ll let their own beautiful personalities shine through in the images. Also, try not to make kids change outfits more than a couple times – another reason all those layers and accessories can be handy. The same goes for you – make sure that you select an outfit that makes you feel stunning and relaxed. Beware of new clothes bought “to grow into”; shirts hanging from shoulders and cuffs turned back can look untidy, better to wear an old favorite.
Mixing Up the Pieces
If you have multiple children, don’t feel like you need to put them all in the same type of outfit. For example, one of your daughters could wear a dress and flats, while the other wears a skirt and boots. One of your sons could wear a bowtie, while the other one wears suspenders. Mixing up the wardrobe pieces will bring a great visual interest to the photos.
Prepping Your Little Ones
Before your session, pack a bag with snacks, water and any small toys that might help us get their attention when it’s time for them to look at the camera. If they are old enough, it’s a good idea to prepare them for what’s to come before the session starts. Explain how much the photos mean to you so they know to be on their best behavior. A lot of families pick something fun in advance as a treat after the session if they’re good listeners, like an ice cream cone, for example. It also helps if they’re bellies are full and they’ve has some good rest beforehand. Once you prepare them physically and mentally, then feel free to give them (and you!) grace! They’re little, and I know that some days don’t always go as planned. I’ve seen it all and will make sure to get you great photos, regardless of their moods. My goal is to make this as fun and stress-free as it possibly can be for you and your family!
I have found the best way to photograph children is in their own timing and on their standards. If they want to run around for a bit, let them. If they want to dance, let them. If we work together, we can find fun ways to entertain them and catch their natural smiles when they are just having fun.
Try not to tell your child to smile, they will just pull that funny expression, which you know only too well and most certainly do not want hanging on your wall for all time. We will take some smiling poses as well as some quieter and more thoughtful ones, which are often more appealing. Feel free to bring along any kind of props for your children that would make them feel more comfortable. Some examples are a favorite blanket, tutus, toys, candy, snacks, flowers, balls, riding toys, etc.
I know I just gave you a lot to think about. I created this guide to help make your portrait session experience something you’ll look back fondly on for years and years to come. At the end of the day, though, the location you choose and the outfits you select won’t matter nearly as much as the memories you make together. I want your session to be a time for you to just be yourselves and enjoy it. Have fun together. Laugh a lot. And I’ll take care of the rest!
Portrait Session Checklist
- Set date, time and location
- Review guide for style tips
- Schedule hair, makeup and nail appointments
- Choose your outfits
- Pack a bag with:
– Water bottle (for warmer sessions)
– Coat or cover-up (for colder sessions)
– Snacks for the little ones
– If you have a toddler or younger, small eye-catching toys to hold their attention
I can’t wait for your session!