Tips for Your Portrait Session

Today I spent a few hours photographing Sara (pictured above) in her home. It was a photoshoot for a brand but the goal was to keep things casual and relaxed. The photos were to be candid, Sara never looked into the camera. I was so excited about the photos that I captured and it got me thinking about what makes a great portrait shoot. While I’m not solely a portrait photographer, I think I make people feel comfortable when I’m behind the camera. I remember, back when I photographed weddings, I was standing in the elevator with a bride. We were alone. She was crying (this is common), looked at me and said, “I’m really glad you’re here.” I encourage many of the people that I teach Photography 101 to separate strengthening two skills: technical and relational.

If you’re about to get your photo taken for work or for fun, here are a few tips from someone who’s been on both sides:

Treat The 24 Hours Before With Importance

I can’t tell you how many people stumble into photoshoots or meetings with me way too frazzled. Not only does it make your hair frizzy (it’s the sweat and elevated temperature in your body) but you’re stressed. If you’re investing in a shoot, treat the 24 hours leading up to that photoshoot as an extra special time. Don’t overbook yourself, go to a park, take a nap and have fun with friends. Laughing is huge! It does so much for the body. Prioritize sleep, don’t try that new outfit or makeup (stick with the tried and true) and remember that this is your time. If you’re running late, let the photographer know. If you’re relaxed when you arrive, the photographer will get better photos even with lost time.

Bring Your Favorite Selfie

Have you ever noticed that you love selfies that you’ve taken but when someone else takes your photo at a concert…you stand there puzzled. “Is that me?” It is you! And it’s how we all see you! Selfies, specific lenses and angles all play into how your photo looks. I often ask my clients to show me a photo of themselves that they love. It’s usually a selfie. I try to pinpoint why they like that photo. Sometimes it’s because they’re drunk and extremely relaxed. But other times it’s because of the angle (the camera is higher) or because the smartphone is mirroring their face differently than my camera will capture. Sometimes it’s because of how their chin is directionally angled or how their hair is covering their forehead. It all matters!

Don’t Bring Your Kid, But Maybe Your Dog

I tend to find that many parents who are on camera have a harder time relaxing when they can see or hear their kids in the other room (or nearby). It’s not true of everyone but…most. The opposite is true of pets. I can’t tell you how many photos I’ve taken of people with their pets. PURE BLISS. It’s amazing. So, if you can. Keep the furry friend nearby.

Ask To See The Photos

If you’re feeling a bit insecure or curious, just ask to see the photographer’s photos. But keep in mind that, depending on the photographer, they might end up doing some retouching. Focus on your body language and angles. Observe your smile. Does it feel real? Don’t worry about the zit or the dark shadow. A lot of that will be corrected in the editing process. I love showing my clients the photos on the back of my camera or tethered to my computer so that we can correct any issues. Everyone is self-conscious of different things. If you can catch a wrinkled shirt, I’m happy to re-shoot a few photos after you bust out the steamer.

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Have you ever gotten your photo taken professionally? What were things that helped you?

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2 Comments
  • Angela
    Posted at 23:17h, 26 June Reply

    I love yours, but I can add a good stretching or yoga at least the 48 hrs before shooting to feel loose and open :)

  • Caitlin McGillicuddy
    Posted at 23:41h, 26 June Reply

    Ah, such good advice! I’m in desperate need of some good headshots, but I’ve been procrastinating—I’m always so afraid I won’t like how I look! These tips are seriously awesome, and so helpful. Thanks for sharing, Allie!

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