Eva Phan Eva Darling Preppy Ballerina Glamour Shot by Annie Fairfax
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How to Prepare for a Photoshoot as a Client

You’ve decided to invest in a photoshoot with the photographer of your dreams, and you’re either ready to hop in front of that camera, or you’re very nervous. Either way is okay and completely normal! I’ve been photographing people for nearly a decade. In my time as a photographer, I’ve met people who came alive the moment the camera was pointed at them and others who were visibly very uncomfortable. I want to start by saying that either is okay! If you’re tremendously nervous going into it, I recommend having a family member or friend take some practice shots of you before the shoot so you can get more comfortable and practice posing.

Eva Phan Eva Darling Preppy Ballerina Glamour Shot by Annie Fairfax

Just know that your photographer is there to help and that if you have any questions, need posing ideas, etc., you should always ask them. When I photograph someone, I always offer to show them the photos as I take them so that they can give me feedback, see how they’re coming along, and make any changes they’d like to see.  I find that this helps open up communication and shows my models how beautiful they are, and it allows them to try different poses as the shoot progresses. Below are my favorite tips when being photographed: How to prepare, what to wear, things to bring, the role confidence plays and having a fun shoot! If you have any additional advice, feel free to share in the comments below!

Click here to see my full photography portfolio!

Selecting A Photographer 

Pick a Photographer With a Photography Style You Love
If you book someone with a dark editing style, don’t expect them to know that you want your photos edited in a bright and airy style. Photographers, in general, do not give unedited images to clients, nor will they re-edit images over and over until the client is satisfied, so don’t just book an inexpensive photographer and expect to be able to edit/dictate what they do. By selecting someone with a portfolio, you find beautiful and a style you know you love, you can rest assured that you will get similar looking images that you will be happy with.

Pooja Portrait #2 by Annie Fairfax

Communicate Expectations
– During the consultation/meeting with the photographer, tell them what you want! If you have any ideas for the theme, color scheme, location, time of day, etc., let the photographer know so they can do their best to give you what you want. If it isn’t something they are capable of (say, for instance you want underwater shots of your newborn’s baptism and they don’t have the proper equipment for that), or something they don’t do (some photographer don’t do weddings or birth photos for instance), they can let you know before you book.
– If you have any inspiration for the type of shots, poses, or lighting you’d like, bring that with you as well and discuss it with the photographer. While a good photographer won’t copy another’s work, they can better understand what you’d like, and you can come up with something unique together!
– Do you want them to edit your weight? Straighten your teeth? Whiten your smile? Change your hair color? Ask if this is something they do before booking, as most photographers don’t do heavy editing, and if a client requests it, they have to outsource it to an editing team which will cost you extra.
– If you have a special request like wanting to have your freckles removed or your eye color changed, let them know that beforehand, otherwise many photographers enhance your natural beauty instead of making you look like a different person. Again, select a photographer with lots of examples of their work so that you can ensure you like their quality, style of photography, editing style, etc.
– Are you looking for specific props or backdrops? If so, your photographer may have something similar. If not, you will have time to find and order something suitable.

Read the Contract You Are Given
Read their contract before signing as well. Contracts are legally binding agreements between photographers and their clients that outline when you can expect your images to be delivered, payment deadlines, how many photos you will receive, any extras that come in the package, such as albums or prints (which are generally sold separately), how you’re allowed to use the photos (on social media, if you’re allowed to enter them into contests, etc.), whether or not you’re allowed to manipulate, edit, or crop the photos, how many outfit changes or locations you will be shooting at, etc. Contracts exist to ensure that you and the photographer are protected and that both parties promptly get what is expected from the other person. Should any issues arise, refer to the contract and know that it sets the expectations for your shoot.

Joyce Portrait by Annie Fairfax

Preparing For Your Photoshoot

3-6 Months Out
– If you want to begin a diet/exercise regimen to get fit for your shoot, or even just tone up a bit, consult with your doctor and begin working at it. The most question I have from clients is them asking me to “make them thinner,” and the best way to do that is to make lifestyle changes. Even just a few hand-weight exercises and leg lifts each day can do wonders!
– Keep in mind that as long as you are happy and healthy, nothing else matters. Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes, so be confident and embrace the way you look. The world would be very boring if we all looked exactly the same.
– Get in the habit of drinking at least 8 glasses of water a day (coffee, tea, and sodas do not count towards this!). It will help clear your complexion, decrease the appearance of wrinkles and under-eye bags, brighten your skin and decrease dark circles, decrease bloating and make you feel better too!
– Plan where you’d like your shoot to happen. Some places require special permits for photography which can take a while for the photographer to obtain, so let them know if you have a preference.

Leading Up To The Shoot (4-6wks Out)
-Ensure your final payments are in order. Some photographers require payment in full 30 or 60 days before the shoot.
-If you plan to have your hair or makeup down for your photoshoot, be sure to book those appointments 4-6 weeks in advance.
-If you’ll be doing your own hair and makeup for the shoot, do a test of it to ensure you love your look if you’re trying something new. There’s nothing wrong with looking like you do any other day of the week. I personally love those shoots because they’re so authentic. Many people like to treat their shoot as a special event and get dolled up before it, which is absolutely wonderful too! A few weeks out is a great time to get a haircut, too, because it gives your hair time to look lived in and not too freshly cut.
-Start a moisturizing routine if you don’t have one already to ensure your skin is bright and hydrated for your shoot.
-If you want to whiten your teeth before your photoshoot, 4-6 weeks should be plenty of time to brighten a few shades using gentle grocery store whitening strips. However, a good photographer can edit and whiten your teeth a bit in photoshop.
-Plan your outfits and have them properly tailored. Few things disrupt a photo as easily as ill-fitting clothing does.

The Week to the Day Before
– Tell your photographer what you will be wearing (colors, styles, prints, etc.) so that they can get a better idea and scout out the location for areas that will compliment your wardrobe.
– If you wax, wax your face, upper lip, eyebrows, etc.
– Don’t try new haircuts, hair colors, facial treatments, cleansers, cleanses, etc. If you don’t like it, don’t react well to it, or if you break out, you may not have enough time to fix the problem!
-Get a manicure and pedicure the day before, or do it yourself.
-Get a good night of sleep, at least 8 hours. You’ll feel better, look well-rested, and have more energy.
-Please don’t show up hungover. That is to say, don’t get drunk/high the night before. You’ll look haggard and tired in your photos, and you don’t want that!
-Keep drinking at least 8 glasses of water each day, and avoid salty and sugary or fried foods as they can cause bloating.
– Avoid getting a sunburn or weird tan lines before your shoot.
– Set a few alarms to ensure you wake up on time and that you arrive at your shoot on time.

The Day Of Your Photoshoot
– Be on time!
Photographers will not give you extra time if you’re late. If you book 3 hours of their time and show up an hour late, you’ll only have 2 hours of shooting time (which is why reading the contract is so important!), and you won’t get a refund for the time you weren’t there on time.
– Take a little extra time to get ready and pamper yourself; give yourself time to relax and have fun! Go through your routine as usual, and spend some time on yourself – today is all about you (and anyone else you’re being photographed with!)
– Moisturize with a gentle lotion or oil (I use organic, virgin coconut oil) to make sure your skin isn’t dry looking, focus on the apples of your cheeks (the squishy parts that look and feel rounder when you smile), as this is a common dry area for people, as is around the nose/nostrils.
– Take care to clean dirt from under your nails (toenails too, especially if you’re wearing shoes that show your toes)
– If you shave, don’t forget to shave and tweeze unwanted hair
– Ensure your nail polish (if you’re wearing any) isn’t chipped
– A quick, clear coat of nail polish and a gentle file to even nail edges can help you look even more put together
– Floss and brush your teeth beforehand to ensure your lunch isn’t visible!
– Bring chapstick! It will help your lips look fuller, softer and will make smiling more comfortable.
– Steam or iron your outfit(s), you’ll look polished, and you won’t have to worry about a wrinkled outfit taking away from your big, beautiful smile!
– Check the corners of your eyes for “eye goop” and your nose for “clingers” before your shoot begins. I can’t tell you how often I have to edit these things out for clients, haha.

Portrait of a Woman in Tears, California

What to Bring to a Photoshoot

Bring a friend, family member, significant other, or parent/guardian to your photoshoot. Photoshoots are always more fun with more people. However, make sure that your guest knows not to disrupt the photographer. For anyone under the age of 18, I require them to bring a parent or guardian (although I’ve never had anyone’s parents not want to come along, haha)

– Oil Blotting sheets can do wonders if your face starts to look oily during a shoot
– Chapstick (see above)
– Fashion Tape
– Appropriate outfit changes, plus one or two extra in case you make a last-minute change
– Lint roller to remove lint, dust, pet hair, etc. from clothing
– Bobby pins, headbands, hair ties, hairbrush or comb, hair spray/gel, etc., in case it’s windy, and your hair becomes tussled.
– Bring accessories you can easily pop on and off, like hats, jackets, scarves, etc., to help mix up your looks without having to take the time to change the entire outfit.
– Drinks or snacks are great if your shoot will be more than a few hours, but just remember you don’t want to feel bloated or need to use the bathroom more than is necessary during your photoshoot

Jamie & Shane's Walt Disney World Animal Kingdom Tree of Life Engagement Photoshoot by Annie Fairfax

What to Wear 

This depends entirely upon what sort of photoshoot you’re doing, so I’ll give some outfit recommendations later on for different types of photoshoots.
It’s important to be comfortable. For some outfit inspiration, check out my Style Archives.

– White, black, blues, greys, purples, and greens look lovely on anyone, any time of year, and flatter any complexion.
– Again, iron or steam your clothing before your shoot.
– Wear something that isn’t pilled, doesn’t have holes or stains, and fits well and comfortably.
– Remove hair ties from your wrists
– Ensure that your bra straps aren’t going to stick out from your outfit. Find a strapless, nude bra that fits properly if you’re going to wear a strapless, halter, or short sleeve tops.
– Make sure that your footwear isn’t scuffed, damaged, or stained, and if your shoes can be polished, they should be polished before your shoot.
– Bring any props you want with you

Solo Portraits
Follow these tips, and you’ll be ready for your close-up in no time.

– Wear something you’re confident in
– Bring a few different styles with you
– Bring a jacket, cardigan, or blazer in case your cold or if you want to get a few totally different looks without changing your entire outfit.

Above: Pink & Green Tie-Shoulder Dress

Senior or Graduation Portraits
– Bring your cap and gown, any cords or certificates you want to be photographed with, along with any items important to your education and time at schools such as sports equipment and balls, uniforms or jerseys, varsity letters/jackets, school spirit wear, or anything else that reminds you of your time in school.
– Be true to your personal style. I generally recommend people wear something classic and timeless for their portraits. Still, when it comes to graduation photos, I recommend bringing at least one “trendy” outfit as a way to commemorate what was “in” while you were in school, along with one business casual/dressier outfit and an outfit in a style you have been wanting try but haven’t, yet are still comfortable in.
– When selecting wardrobe pieces, keep in mind your school colors, or current favorite color.

Couples Photos
– Couples photos look best when the couple is coordinating or wearing similar colors or an identical pattern. Avoid wearing two different patterns unless they share the same color scheme. If you’re wearing a blue dress, have your partner’s tie, shirt, or what have you be either the same shade, a complementary color, or similar shade. Check out my Pinterest board of color combinations here to get some inspiration!
– Make a date night out of it! If your partner is less than thrilled at the idea of having his or her photos taken, brighten their day by taking them to lunch/dinner and a movie afterward!
– Have fun and highlight important parts of your relationship during your photoshoot. Did you meet playing paintball? Take photos of the two of you playing paintball! Do you both love the outdoors? Have a fall-themed photoshoot outdoors, complete with flannel shirts, colorful leaves, mugs of hot cocoa, a campfire, and a thick wool blanket. The possibilities are endless!

Jamie & Shane's Walt Disney World Animal Kingdom Tree of Life Engagement Photoshoot by Annie Fairfax

Above: Engagement Session at Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom

Maternity
– Moisturize before your photoshoot to look and feel smooth and to help you feel more comfortable. Dry skin is the number one complaint my pregnant clients have when taking photos. They say that it hurts or makes them self-conscious. If this is something you’ve noticed before, address it so you can focus on your shoot.
– Long, flowing dresses are a beautiful choice. You can find inexpensive, loose, maxi dresses on eBay, Poshmark, Etsy, ASOS, or BHLDN (be sure to order these at least a month in advance)!
– Flower crowns, chalkboards with the baby’s name and due date, ultrasound photos, baby clothes, and more all make lovely props/accessories, so bring what you’d like to be photographed with you.
– Be sure that you’re comfortable and feel your best, above all else!

Babies/Children
– Young children can be unpredictable, so do what you can to ensure they’re in a good mood. Make sure they are fed and clean before the shoot. Trim their nails, put them in a fresh outfit, and bring a few extra changes, plus extra diapers (if they wear them) just in case.
-Bring their favorite toys or comfort items to the photoshoot, like a blanket or pacifier, if they become upset.
– Arrange to arrive a bit early so that young children can get used to the photographer. This is especially important if your child is shy or fearful of other people.
– Bring snacks like fruit or a drink in their favorite cup if they become hungry or fussy.
– Photographers will look to you to help calm the child and get their attention (getting them to look at the camera). I recommend discussing what the photographer would like you to do during the shoot. Some may prefer you stay off to the side to get their work done, and others may prefer you stand next to them, toy in hand, to help keep the child/baby happy and focused on the camera.
– If the parent(s) are going to be in the photos, simply wear coordinating colors (all cool colors, blues, greens, etc.)
– Bring any sentimental items such as first blankets, gifts from family members, quilts, or other meaningful items, if you’d like them to be photographed with the child.

Wedding Portraits
There are few occasions in life more important to photograph and commemorate than the day you get married, so be sure to look and feel your best on your big day!

– Keep jewelry classic and understated. Pearls, diamonds (or look like stones), and gemstones in your wedding colors are a beautiful, timeless way to accessorize. Unless, of course, you like the opposite, in which case, do whatever makes you happy!
– Have an emergency kit stocked with items like a lint roller, fashion tape, safety pins, needle and thread, feminine hygiene products, makeup wipes, matte powder, oil blotting sheets, etc. with a family member or a member of the bridal party so that should anything happen with your outfits, it can be fixed easily and without stress.
– Try to keep bridal party members coordinating by having them wear the same colors or the same styles of outfits. I photographed a wedding where the bridal party was allowed to pick out their own outfits, and everyone was wearing things that clashed (I’m talking a camo dress, neon pink suspenders, purple pants, an orange feather boa…yea). It was wild to say the least, and it looks exciting, but the bride was not pleased with their choices!
– Consider hiring a day-of coordinator to help keep everyone looking neat prior to your photoshoot commencing, or set aside 20 minutes for your bridal party to freshen up before the photos.

I hope this has helped you feel more confident and prepared for your upcoming photoshoot! If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment or email me at anniewearsit@gmail.com!

Annie Fairfax
aka @AnnieFairfax

Click here to discover beautiful photoshoot locations around the world in my travel archives.

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8 Comments

    1. I’m so glad you found them useful Breanna, thank you so much for reading!

  1. It sure was nice when you said that you can bring a cardigan or a jacket if you want to get different looks without the need to change your attire. This is a good tip for me because I’m planning to find a photographer that offers portrait photography services. I don’t want all my photos to look the same, so I’m looking for ways for photos to have more varieties. Thanks!

    1. Hello Sharon, thank you so much for reading! I’m really glad you found this advice useful. In this case, I’d recommend bringing a couple different blazers or sweaters, or even different necklaces that you can use to quickly switch up your look to give you more of a variety without taking too much time away from your photography session. I really appreciate you taking the time to comment – Happy Holidays!

  2. Jessica Malinowski says:

    Wonderful tips!

  3. Kolby Gerling says:

    These are super helpful tips, especially the young children ones!

  4. Amanda B. says:

    This is the best photoshoot prep guide I’ve ever read, and I’m a photographer too lol! Could I share this with my my clients?

  5. Shammy Peterson says:

    You got my attention when you said that there are photographers that require full payment 30 or 60 days before the shoot. My parents are looking to hire a senior photographer that offers the best packages and deals for them. They will celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary, and they want portraits of them to be captured before the event. They will surely consider your tips to be financially prepared.

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