How To Prepare For Your Photo Session | A Complete Guide

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When getting your photos taken, there are things you rely on your photographer to do well: posing, lighting, and composition. As a client and the subject, you should be able to show up and let the magic happen, right? There are several things you can do to prepare for your photo session and make it even better. Yes, a lot relies on your photographer’s skills and abilities. But a tremendous amount also comes down to your preparation for your portrait session.

Want to learn what you can do to get the best photos and also have a great session?

I’ve built a comprehensive list of things you can do to make your session a tremendous success.

This post will serve as a high-level guide with links to more in-depth articles.

Here’s my complete guide for how to prepare for your photo session.

prepare for photoshoot with right clothes

1. Pick Out Your Clothes Early

I highly recommend working with your photographer to get suggestions on what to wear for your portraits. Some shoots have themes or specific lighting schemes in mind, and clothing can make a huge difference in elevating the images’ overall look. As a starting point, here’s my guide for what to wear for your portrait session and which colors to pick for photos. Once you know what you should wear, make sure to assemble your wardrobe a few days before your session. Get items laundered, ironed, and anything else needed so that you’re not rushing at the last minute. Another helpful tip is to figure out how you’ll change your clothes on location. 

2. Practice Hair & Makeup

If you’re getting your hair and makeup professionally done for your shoot, it’s worth doing a test run of both. Make sure both come out how you want; this way, you’re not worried about how your hair or face will look on the day of your photoshoot.

3. Gather Your Props

If you are utilizing props for your portraits, make sure to assemble them a few days before the shoot. You don’t want to be late for your session because you couldn’t find your baseball glove for your senior portraits. 

4. Eat, Drink, and Rest

Keep your body happy. This advice goes for life in general, but it’s essential for your portraits. Make sure to eat something, drink plenty of water, and get a good night’s sleep before your session. Your body will thank you! Photo sessions are a blast but can be exhausting, so you’ll want to feel comfortable and happy! Contrary to common belief, drinking water has limited benefits for your skin to make it look better. Here’s an article that will help with that.

5. Bring The Necessities

There’s no point in being miserable during your photo session. I highly recommend bringing some creature comforts to keep your mind and body happy during your shoot. Here’s a list of items you may want to bring to your portrait session.

6. Shave The Night Before

This tip mostly applies to facial hair or if you’ll be getting detailed shots of your legs. Shaving the night before your photoshoot will reduce any redness that may come from irritated skin. If you’re like me though and have a 5 o’clock shadow, here are some tips for minimizing redness on the day of your portraits.

7. Get On The Same Page As Your Photographer

To have a successful photoshoot, it’s a great idea to share photo concepts with your photographer, so you are going for the same result. Pinterest boards are my favorite way to communicate concepts. And if you need help coming up with a concept, check out this article.

8. Pre-Plan Locations

It’s a lovely idea that you’ll show up, and awesome things will happen. But photoshoots take planning (as we’re learning here). Simply put, location matters. It helps bring context to your portraits. Studio or on location? A park or the mountains? Where’s the best park in Atlanta for pictures with graffiti? I’ve got a few articles comparing portraits on location vs. in a studio with recommendations for where to shoot each.

9. Have a Back-Up Plan

Weather is unpredictable, and rain can ruin a shoot. To prepare for your photo session, check the weather the night before. If it looks bleak, contact your photographer and plan what to do if it rains on your photoshoot.

10. Know What Happens After the Shoot

You’re going to be exhausted but excited after your photo session. If all went well, the first question after the shoot would be, “When will I see my images?” Please talk with your photographer and learn their process. Make sure you know what to expect, so you’re not surprised later. For example, here’s my process after a portrait session:

  1. Images will take about two weeks to do first-round edits.
  2. An ordering session will then happen over Zoom to pick which images are getting printed, delivered, and hung on the walls.
  3. I do any remaining detailed edits on ordered images before sending them off to the print lab. These edits take about two weeks with product delivery taking another week after that. That’s three weeks total for those counting.
  4. Once everything is delivered, and my clients are raving about their finished pieces, I send over a final contract. This contract confirms all items have been delivered, and my work as the photographer is complete.
  5. I send over a feedback request to make sure my clients are satisfied and ask if there’s anything I can do better next time.

And that’s the list! That’s how to prepare for your photo session to have the best experience and images possible. I tried to make this as comprehensive as possible, but if I missed anything, check out my Frequently Asked Questions resource page or let me know in the comments below.

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