Session Preparation: Looking Your Best

Fading Away

A photo shoot of any kind is no small investment for most people and being well prepared for the session can make the difference between average and amazing photos. The biggest misconception is that everyone in a photo needs to match, when in reality nobody ever matches. Color coordination and choosing complimentary colors is far more important and pleasing than “matching”. Follow these easy tips and you’ll be well on your way to looking your absolute best. If you have any additional questions, feel free to contact me.

General Advice


Makeup and hair should be worn as you normally wear it. Lipstick is recommended. Be sure to blend makeup as best as possible to avoid sharp lines along the jawline and eye areas. When you wash your face, pay attention to eye boogers and sleep crusties. If you wear jewelry, aim for subtlety, and be aware of it twisting or turning.

Bring props that express who you are – band instrument, sports gear like a volleyball or baseball bat, your car/motorcycle/skateboard, letter jacket, sunglasses, or even a stuffed animal. Most of all, rep your style, whatever that may be.

Pack a snack and a water bottle.

Get plenty of sleep the night before unless dark circles and baggie eyes are the look you’re going for. :)

Hair
If you’re getting a hair cut for your shoot, do so about two weeks beforehand, just in case it goes wrong – you just never know. For men, a fresh cut a couple of days before the shoot is fine.

Hair Accessories
If you’re shooting outdoors, be ready to put your hair up and make it look nice in case of a windy day. Bring bobby pins, hair clips, headbands or any other favorite accessories.

Red Eyes
Visine is your friend. Of course, not getting drunk the night before your shoot helps, too.

Lips
You will probably wipe or lick your lips during your shoot, so bring fresh lip gloss or lipstick to do touch-up. Use lip balm for a few days in advance of your shoot to make them look their best.

Teeth
If you want to brighten your smile, start your treatments about two weeks before your shoot. Whitening is simple in Photoshop, but is only used when necessary.

Breakouts
Start using African Black Bar Soap for a week in advance of your shoot to help reduce and limit pimples and blemishes. Equally important, don’t cake on a lot of make-up to try to hide blemishes – it’s almost always easier to Photoshop away pimples than to clean up overdone make-up. For fever blisters, avoid getting them in the first place, then use Abreva if one pops up anyway.

Make-up
A subtle application of make-up can really soften your skin and accent your facial features. But make sure you know what you’re doing, and make sure it matches your skin tone, or your face may look orange compared to the rest of your body.

Facial Hair
Men, be freshly shaved with a new razor, shaving cream and a moisturizing after-shave lotion to avoid bumps and redness. Trim up your board, sideburns, moustache or goatee, especially looking for wiry stray hairs. Clean up those nose hairs as well. Ladies, even if you have some light facial hair (particularly around your lip or chin), indulge in a waxing in advance of your shoot – even barely-there light facial hair will be noticeable in your photos. Men and women both, pluck and clean up those eyebrows.

Moisturizer
Dry skin can really detract from a great photo shoot. Start moisturizing nightly a week in advance of your shoot. When you get out of the shower, dry off until lightly damp, and slather on moisturizer. Focus on your arms, shoulders, neck, face, hands, anywhere you’ll be exposed to the camera. This includes your legs if you’re shooting in shorts or a skirt.

Nails
A fresh coat of nail polish will make a world of difference in your photo shoot. Pick a neutral color that won’t distract in your shoot or clash with your outfits. Freshen the morning of the shoot, then be careful not to scuff it while prepping. Your photo shoot is a great excuse for a fresh manicure, but if you can’t go to the salon, make sure your nails look tidy and clean, including the cuticles.

Bloating
Ladies, avoid high salt and high fat foods for two to three days in advance of your shoot. Being bloated will sap your confidence and comfort in front of the camera.

Sunburns and Tan Lines
If your shoot is booked for Saturday, don’t go to the beach on Friday. If you plan to tan before your shoot, do so at least a week beforehand and don’t get burned. Be mindful of clothing tan lines, sunglass tan lines, hat tan lines, etc.

Glasses
If folks wouldn’t recognize you without glasses, you want to wear glasses in your shoot – however, the glare on glasses can detract from your eyes in photos. You can have your lenses removed from your frames for your shoot (don’t worry, it’s what Hollywood does to avoid glare in movies), ask your eye doctor to loan you a pair of similar frames, or you can also visit an inexpensive company online like Zenni Optical and buy a suitable pair of duplicate frames on the cheap.

Clothing Tips


Generally speaking, wear what you like and be yourself, however, think about your environment and the type of photos you’d like. Plan your outfits in advance, remove any unwanted wrinkles, avoid ill-fitting clothes, and when in doubt, wear jeans. Consider the following..

Try to avoid white, unless everyone is in white. Keep in mind that the eye is drawn to the brightest part of a photo, so if only one person is in white, the eye will be drawn to that shirt or dress as opposed to the person wearing it or the people around them.

It is best to avoid clothing with patterns. Faces are best showcased with a solid top. Of course, I don’t think striped tights and crazy socks ever hurt anyone. :)

People with lighter skin tones should be careful with wearing light colors. People with darker skin tones should be careful with wearing darker colors. Portraits look best when there is significant contrast between skin and clothing.

Bring lots of clothing options. Casual, formal (prom dresses, suits), sports uniforms. Dress in colors you feel you look best in and that represent your style but take the opportunity to also try a new look, just to surprise folks. Coordinate your outfits from head to toe, hats, belts, scarves, and jewelry.

You are welcome to change outfits as many times as you would like within our time frame.

Undergarments
Bra straps won’t do anything to help your outfit look its best. Be sure you bring a set of bras and strap-adjusting accessories to work with any outfit you want to shoot in to keep those straps well-hidden. Undergarments should be planned so they cannot creep out while we shoot, and think about lines that can be seem beneath the fabric. Look in the mirror from the front and the back, and think about if you raise your arms or bend over.

Unless you are extremely thin you may want to wear something that covers your upper-arms. Long- or 3/4-sleeve tops are very flattering.

Ironing
If you iron, iron the night before and then hang the clothes for your shoot. If you’re wearing something that wrinkles easily, don’t wear it in the car on the way to the shoot – just change at the location.

Shoes
Ladies, can’t go wrong in heels or wedges. Men, clean’em up! Dress shoes are nice, but as with most things, let your Mother or your wife decide. Sandals, boots, flip-flops, or Fivefingers are all viable options. Barefoot is a possibility, however, many people hate the sight of feet.

Thanks to PartTimePhoto for a significant portion of this list!

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