Having photos taken can be a stressful experience – I get it! Most photographers actually dislike having their own photo taken, and that goes for me. So in order to make your photo session a wonderful experience, I've compiled some tips and tricks to help your photos shine.
This guide has everything from wardrobe help, to props, to general tips.
General tips and tricks and advice
Many clients spend a lot of time searching through their wardrobes and/or buying new outfits for their sessions, and they should, right? These are, after all, pictures they’ll have forever!
Try to avoid wearing white clothes in your photos. White always wins the eye, and it also tends to overexpose and make you blend into the backdrop!
Neon is also best avoided as it creates awful colour casts on skin tones.
If you’re planning on wearing multiple outfits, change up your looks! Try one formal outfit, one casual outfit (jeans and a tee), and something in-‐ between—perhaps a cute sundress for girls, or jeans and dress shoes for guys.
Our best advice is to be yourself! Would you naturally go out to the park or a restaurant wearing the same thing as your spouse? Not likely. That’s the main reason why I try to shy clients away from wearing all white/black shirts with denim. It tends to look unnatural…
So, the big question is “What do we wear?” we say, find a style and then pick a colour scheme. For example, if you wanted a casual autumn style with earth tones: greens, khakis, beige and browns. That doesn’t mean that everyone in the picture has to wear ALL of those colours, instead just find outfits that complement each other without being too matchy.
Don't forget things like coats, hats, scarfs and gloves for those outdoor winter shots!
Patterns can definitely be used, if done so tastefully. Patterns can overly consume the photo when they’re too loud, and too clashy. We don’t want crazy patterns taking away from the beauty in the image - you! Subtlety is key!
Layers are a GOOD thing! If you have a cardigan/shrug/scarf that you’d like to incorporate into an outfit–bring it! Think it might be too much? Bring it anyway! You never know how it will look in the camera!
Still can’t figure out what will work best? Let me introduce you to the squint test! On your bed or couch, lay out the outfits you have for each person in your session. Once all outfits are laid out, step back so you can see all the outfits, and squint your eyes. Everything should blend in perfectly! If there’s something that pops, it doesn’t go. Remember, we’re looking for articles of clothing that complement each other.
Bringing personal items can help make your session more meaningful. Some ideas to get you started:
Newborns: hats, headbands, woven baskets, sentimental items like the quilt that Grandma made for the baby, or a baby blanket from your own childhood, even a favourite teddy.
Kids: Dressing up outfits, bubbles, balloons, giant lollipops, costumes, sunglasses, hats. The list is endless. Bring anything you would like in your photos.
Engagement: Something that shows off your relationship or interests! Bikes, headphones, books, coffee mugs, etc. Bring a blanket if we’re shooting in a field. “Save the Date” or “Thank You” signs for future card designs are also cute!
Maternity: ultrasound printout, alphabet blocks that spell your baby’s name, stuffed animals, flowers.
Pets : Favorite toys, sticks, blanket/basket. Anything that helps them relax and shows their personality.
If this list stresses you out too much, then IGNORE it. All you have to do is show up to your session. I promise to make you look your best.
Bottom Line: BE YOURSELF!
A little more info for families and newborns.
Ideally I like babies to be 3-14 days old but babies up to 4 weeks are considered newborns. If you are booking a newborn session, I love to hold your session before your baby is 2 weeks old. Little newborns change, almost every day. So I want to capture them when they are as tiny and new as possible!
Parents: We won’t do too many of these, but please try to smile for the entire duration of the “posed family photos.” It might be tricky to get a smile out of your child at times, so I need you to be ready in that split second your child flashes that fabulous face you want on your wall.
It is perfectly okay to bring bribes to a photo shoot. Some cereal, Smarties or other sweets that won’t stain teeth can help a short photo shoot go by smoothly. You might want to think about what colour clothes the kids are wearing so the snacks don’t dirty their outfits.
Newborn portrait sessions can last longer than regular sessions as we have no idea how they will be feeling that day, so be prepared to spend some time relaxing between shots at your session. I never rush newborn sessions; I clear my schedule to allow for the feedings, nappy changes, and mood swings that can and do occur.
If I'm shooting at your home, an hour before the session, please turn the house temperature up. A good rule of thumb is if you’re hot, the baby is at a good temperature (they’ll be more sleepy and easy to pose this way).
Don’t worry if your home is messy!!!! Most newborn photos are taken using a very small amount of space. For wider shots, such as the baby’s nursery, I’ll help you rearrange furniture (if necessary) to minimize visual clutter.
Please take off your baby’s nappy a little before the session so any lines have time to disappear.
I'll do most of the shots without clothes, since most outfits tend to visually overwhelm newborns in pictures. If you do have a special outfit I recommend keeping it to just one as babies tend to get cranky during outfit changes.
For family pictures, please have a couple of dark-coloured shirts on hand (they don’t necessarily have to be black, just dark enough to provide a good backdrop for the baby).
Parents’ clothes should be simple and solid-coloured when posing with newborns.
We all know a lot of babies and quite a few small children fuss from time to time because that’s how they communicate. For newborns, because they are unpredictable, I schedule plenty of time to feed and comfort the baby as necessary. For all other baby and child shoots I do not put a time limit on your session. For babies 3 months and older, if they are well and fed have a clean diaper that goes a long way. Same for small children. If none of that helps, I have other tricks up my sleeve. And, if all else fails we will reschedule if we have to – that’s certainly not anyone’s first choice but isn’t it nice to know that if your child is having an ‘off’ day you don’t need to worry about it?
Pet photo shoot advice
Here's a few things you can do to prepare for your pet photo shoot. Of course, we will have a great session ether way but following some of these tips will greatly reduce your stress.
Work on your dogs sit/stay, stand/stay commands. Most dogs know how to sit but holding a sit stay is a little harder. Trust me its worth the extra training for stunning photos.
Exercise your dog before you session. A few hours before your shoot take your dog for a good long walk or run. This will help bring the energy levels down a little. Do not overlook this important step!
Have you pet come a little hungry! Yes we know it sounds mean but you want to be able to motivate them with healthy treats, they won't be hungry for long.
Bring only 2 people to the shoot. One person to hold a lead ( if needed) and another to help get the dogs attention where we need it. We find more family members can be overwhelming and confusing for the pet. Unless of course the family are going to be in the photos too! Don't worry if you're coming on your own with your pet, I am very experienced and will help you.
What if I can't keep my appointment?
Just call me, my phone number can be found on my Contact page. I know babies and small children and I know the unexpected happens. Please just call as soon as you possibly can.
What if my child is sick?
There is sick - runny nose, sniffling, etc. And then there is SICK - up all night, fever, red eyes, throwing up. The first is iffy, the latter is a definite reschedule. If you're in doubt just call me, my phone number can be found on my Contact page, and we'll figure it out together.
How many pictures will I get?
It depends on the session, but you’ll have enough to select from with various poses and a variety of expressions, close-ups, mid-length and full-length. I will always go over your expectations before the session and always ask at the end of the session if we've done everything you wanted to do.
How many poses do you take during a session?
I take as many as necessary depending on the session to give you what you truly deserve – incredible photographs! You will always have more than enough to choose from. In fact, I almost ALWAYS hear that there were too many good images – which I think is a great problem to have!
I have stretch mark. My child has a scratch. Can you fix us?
I can retouch boo boos, scars (if desired), scratches, blemishes, baby acne, stretch marks and a host of other things on portraits so don't sweat the small stuff, I've got you covered.
What if the session doesn't go well?
I leave a lot of time for every session just so that we have flexibility if the unexpected should occur. I also have a world of patience and a few tricks. And, I know how to approach almost any child/pet in any situation. Still, sometimes babies, small children and pets just have a bad day, no matter how well we plan. I am great at judging how things are going and if I feel they are not going as well as I'd like no matter what I try, I'll call it a day and we'll find a time to reschedule.
Hope this was helpful, and I very much look forward to photographing you. Suzanne x