7 Tips For Portrait Sessions

April 25, 2016  •  7 Comments

When you have the chance to have portraits done, you want everything to go smoothly. You want your children to behave, follow directions, look at the camera and "smile pretty". You want everyone to look polished, poised and happy. We, as your photographer, want those things, too. But more importantly, we want you to love your portraits. I wrote a blog post a few months back about family portraits, which you can read here. This blog is somewhat of a continuation of that one, with a few additional tips and some reiterations of the last one. My awesome friend and fellow photographer, Blaire Ring with Second Ave Photography, allowed me to use her and her beautiful girls to help me illustrate some of these points.

1) Let your photographer do their job. We have spent a long time learning our cameras, lighting, posing, etc. Let us use our knowledge to create beautiful memories for you. If you have an idea or two, great! Tell us and we'll see if we can accommodate it. Lots of clients get ideas off of Pinterest, which is great for giving us a general idea of what you want, but we are not going to be able to replicate that image exactly, nor do we want to. Those beautiful moments are all over Pinterest because they are authentic emotions, not necessarily posed/forced ones. Allow those images to inspire us, but please don't ask us to recreate them. 

2) Cell phone- This is a personal pet peeve, but I'm sure that I speak for most photographers when I say this: Please, please, PLEASE take your phones out of your pockets. Do you know how hard it is to fix a square shaped butt/thigh in Photoshop?!?! Leave your cell phones in your purse or in your car. If you have to have it near you, then I'll even put it in my pocket to hold on to it for you. It's okay if my butt is square shaped for your portraits, it's not great if yours is. (Don't hide your cute tush behind a cellphone!)

This next part of the cell phone point is a hot topic among photographers, so I might write an entirely separate blog post about it, but here's the gist: Unless your photographer invites you to do so, please don't take cell phone shots of their set ups. You have hired us to create beautiful images and that is exactly what we will do for you, but when cell phone images are taken of the set ups, it takes away some of the magic. Plus, although cell phone cameras have come a LONG way, they likely have nothing on a professional photographers gear. Some photographers will allow you to take behind the scenes shots or pictures with the photographers in them while they're working, but taking pictures of what they have set up is a no-no. For example, here is what you see:

An appropriate behind-the-scenes shot that was taken with permission.


Here is what I see: 

What I see through my camera.

2) Forcing attention- This tip ties into tip #1. When you snap/point/yell for your children to pay attention to the photographer, it will likely do more harm than good. You're more likely to pull your attention away from the photographer than have the children focus on the photographer. Let us grab your child's attention. Also, when you are focused on what your child is doing and trying to get them to smile, you're most likely not smiling. (Except in my example, where Blaire is trying really hard not to laugh because she knows not to do this.) Relax and enjoy the time with them. I promise your portraits will turn out better!

See? Isn't that a much nicer image than the one above? :)

3) Relaxing- Remember those beautiful Pinterest images that I was talking about earlier? I can almost guarantee you that in those images, everyone looks relaxed and happy and you want to recreate that feeling in your portraits. We would love to help you create images with a sense of calm and happiness, too! So just breathe and have a good time with your family. If you're feeling anxious about your session, tell your photographer. We may be able to ease your fears a bit.

4) The 4 C's* (again)- I put this in my other blog post about family sessions, but it's so important that it bears repeating. It's probably one of the most commonly asked questions when preparing for a photography session: What do I WEAR?!?! Well, that's where the 4 C's come in. You want to have everyone dressed in  Clean, Complimentary, Complementary and Comfortable clothing. There are exceptions to this rule, namely for styled sessions, but in general, the 4 C's work perfectly. Having clean clothing is pretty self-explanatory, but especially when you're having portraits taken of children, it's a good idea to have a back up outfit, just in case toddler-life happens. Complimentary means that your clothing should compliment YOU and your body. This includes beautiful baby bellies. Maternity sessions are the time to embrace the belly and show it off! You should also use complementary colors with your family members; matchy-matchy outfits often date the portraits and don't compliment everyone's look/style or personality. Clothing should also not be too busy. The patterns should be simple, if there are any patterns at all. Your eyes can get distracted by the clothing, when we want all of that focus to be on you and your gorgeous family. (Side note: For styled sessions, almost all of these tips can be thrown out the window, but in general, this is some solid advice on what to wear.)

Dirty (but still adorable) face and a busy (but super cute) dress: 

Clean face and simple dress: 


6) You may hear your photographer take a large number of images and then be surprised to only find a small number of those images at the end. We will take all of the BEST images and prepare them for you to see. This popular photography meme pretty much sums it up: 

Bottom line: We want to show you how beautiful you are. (And by the way: Even someone as gorgeous as Beyonce can have a bad image taken of her sometimes.)


These tips will help you better prepare for your portrait session, but here's possibly the biggest one of all:

7) Find a photographer that you L-O-V-E. If you find a photographer whose work you love, contact them, meet with them and if everything seems awesome, BOOK THEM. If personalities don't mesh, keep looking. Don't get me wrong, if I found a photographer whose work I absolutely adored, but didn't love them personally, I might still book them for a one time session, but I'm talking about finding "your" photographer. (This also goes for portrait cost, but that's another post.) That photographer that will work with your family for years to come. Your family and that photographer will form a bond that can be so incredible! Your kids won't be anxious to go for pictures anymore. Your spouse or yourself won't feel anxious about meeting a new person all over again and having to "explain" about your children or your quirks. Your photographer will know you and you will know them. It makes it infinitely more comfortable and less anxiety producing. Find a photographer that you love and you'll have portraits that you love. Enjoy!




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How beautiful these photos are. I liked them all.
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Amy Kolodziej(non-registered)
Such great tips and SOOOO true!!!! Love that Beyonce one :)
Danyel Stapleton(non-registered)
As a photographer, I love everything about this!!! Great examples. I will be using your 4Cs!!!
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