I would say that 99% of my clients aren’t professional models. For many of my subjects, doing a photo session with me is their first experience being photographed professionally, so they usually don’t have a very clear idea of what the process is like. Making sure my clients know what to expect from the session, what’s expected of them, and what’s expected of me is critical to developing the relationship needed to craft beautiful, compelling images. It’s my job as a photographer to put my subjects at ease and to create a space in which they feel comfortable opening themselves up and allowing me to capture an intimate glimpse into their lives.
Below, I’ve provided some helpful information, suggestions, and tips you should know in order to have the most kick-ass photo session ever. Heck yeah education!
Disclaimer: I think it goes without saying that although much of the information presented here can be applicable to other photographers as well, the majority of this information is unique to working with me. Always talk with your photographer about what you should expect, what his or her creative process is like, and what steps you can take to be prepared for your session.
What to Wear
This is one of the most important elements to get right because what you wear during a session can either make or break your photos. I always recommend keeping it neutral–grays and browns photograph really well, but every color has neutral hues. Reds, blues, yellows, greens can all be neutral. Try to avoid loud, bright hues because they easily become the focus of the photo and distract from what’s most important. Be cautious of black and white in large areas because blacks can get lost in the shadows and whites can be blown out in the highlights. Keep these two colors for smaller items like shoes, accessories, or text on a shirt, and try to stay away from anything that’s all black or all white like black leather jackets and white pants. As a rule, too much of one color can be a bad thing.
For couples, I recommend wearing outfits that compliment each other without being matchy. Matching can be cute, but it makes for cheesy photographs.
At the end of the day, the most important thing is that you feel comfortable and confident. So keep the suggestions above in mind, but wear what you feel most like yourself in. Remember, these are your photos.
Hair & Makeup
Hiring someone to do your hair and makeup professionally for a session is an investment you simply won’t regret. After all, you want to look your absolute best for a moment like this. Makeup artists are skilled at bringing out the best version of you while keeping it natural and comfortable at the same time. Whenever possible, have a trial session with your hair and makeup person(s) prior to the session. Tell them the location(s) of the session, show them what you plan on wearing, and make sure you’re all on the same page with your vision and comfort level.
Keep the makeup light, natural, and in harmony with the setting you’ll be in. Warm, earthy tones on the eyes work in any situation. Just like with the clothing, bright dramatic colors can be a distraction. If you’re not sure about something, don’t hesitate to ask your photographer. Although photographers usually aren’t technically-trained makeup artists on the side, they do have a skilled eye for what will and won’t photograph well.
I’m going to let the guys in on a little secret: makeup can do wonders for you too. Seriously. Women aren’t the only ones who experience uneven skin tones, redness, and acne. If women can look their best, so can you. Now I’m not saying that you need to go to Sephora right now and develop a daily makeup routine (but if you do, then kudos to you), but for something as important as a photo session, really consider having your makeup done to fix any imperfections on the skin. This can drastically cut the photographer’s editing time down. Believe it or not, most of the time I spend retouching is done on guys–fixing imperfections that a bit of makeup could have easily gotten rid of.
If you choose to skip the makeup route, then simply moisturizing your face prior to the session can do wonders at giving you a healthy radiant glow and getting rid of dry flakey skin.
Clearing Your Schedule
If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that photo sessions are unpredictable. Despite all the planning that goes into them, you just never know what situations can arise as the session goes on. I always recommend that my clients clear their schedules so that we have the opportunity to fully immerse ourselves in the experience and capture all the beautiful moments that occur–free of any time constraints.
I like to describe my photo sessions as hangouts and adventures during which I happen to have my camera with me. Nobody says, “Hey! Let’s go on an adventure today for exactly two hours.” Crafting beautiful images requires more than just going to a scenic location and clicking a button–it requires genuine human connection. It’s all about connecting with your subjects, understanding them, developing a relationship with them, allowing them to open themselves up to you, and then capturing their essence in that moment. This is something that simply shouldn’t be rushed.
What to Bring
I always recommend that my clients bring a second outfit to their sessions. Since I do a lot of shooting outdoors, it’s comforting knowing that you have a change of clothes in case something happens and you get dirty. But also, sometimes you just want to change outfits in the middle of the session.
During my sessions, we do quite a bit of walking. After all, it’s not an adventure unless we’re out and about exploring. So I recommend bringing a pair of comfortable shoes, preferably ones you don’t mind getting dirty, to wear in between locations.
Like I said before, photo sessions are unpredictable. They can last anywhere from two hours to four. It all just depends on the amount of locations we travel to, our level of spontaneity, and the moments that arise. I recommend bringing a backpack or something of the sort with snacks to fuel up during the session. Nobody wants to be photographed when they’re hangry.
This last thing is by far the most important—always bring excitement, a sense of adventure, love, and a willingness to explore and try new things.
That about covers what you can do to make your photo session the most kick-ass photo session ever. Nobody likes going into a session unprepared, so my hope is that the information presented here can be a valuable resource to you, but don’t forget to communicate with your photographer about what your experience will be like. Happy photo session-i-ng-or-something-like-that. Yeah!