When you book a portrait photo session with me, we will already have discussed your general requirements for the session. After the booking is made I’ll create and send you a mood board of images. This helps to further clarify the look and feel you’re wanting to have in your portraits, based on what you’ll be using the images for. We’ll also discuss what you’ll be wearing and any possible changes of outfit.
What to wear
What do you want the images to say?
If you’re not sure about what to wear for your photo session, the first things to consider is what are the images for and what do you want them to ‘say’? For instance if they’re for a social media profile, you might want them to show something about your personality and to show the best version of how you ‘normally are’. So what you wear could be something your friends would be used to seeing you in. It’s also fine to go a bit smarter. It’s about what you want. If the images for your company, then you may want to project a slightly different image depending on what your company does. So your choice of clothing might reflect the culture and dress code accordingly.
Rules of thumb for colour, design & branding
Unless you want to advertise a particular brand, a good general rule is to avoid prominent brand names in what you wear. Brand names can easily draw attention away from the subject (you) and age the image prematurely, as names come in and out of fashion. Similarly for choice of colours, unless bold and saturated is your usual, preferred look, or you’re doing a fashion shoot, such colours can distract from the main subject. More neutral tones that fit the intended use of the images are often best. The same goes for design. Unless you want to draw attention to your outfit, simple is good.
Lastly, choose any accessories according to the above and the type of portrait session. So if you’re having some headshots, necklaces are best avoided, because they will tend to get cut but the crop of the headshot. For fuller portraits, since our eyes tent to go first to the brightest object in an image, do you really want to wear a big shiny watch or handbag and have that be the first thing people notice?
With all the above in place, is there anything left for you to do, before the day? That depends. If you’re feeling relaxed, or maybe a little excited about it, and there’s nothing you want to get in touch with me about before the shoot, then no. Just turn up and enjoy the experience. If, on the other hand you’re feeling anxious or camera shy, read on.
Portrait photo session anxiety?
Anxiety is normal, expect it to be short lived
It’s quite normal to feel slightly anxious about having your picture taken. We’re often presented with impossible standards of appearance (by companies selling stuff to give us some momentary hope of achieving it). Plus when our pictures are taken it’s usually not by a professional photographer, where the lighting, angle and moment are all chosen with deliberate care. So most of the time a normal, non-professional photograph isn’t showing us at our best anyway. Just realizing how those two elements could combine to create anxiety and then knowing that you’re in the hands of an expert can help you regain some perspective and calm.
Film star looks are not the key to great portraits
Almost regardless of how we fair in the genetic lottery, what makes a portrait universally appealing is how comfortable we are in ourselves. That may sound cheesy, but it also happens to be true. It’s that approachable confidence that will result in our best portraits. Part of my job as a portrait photographer is to help you relax and feel that way in front of the camera. Stepping into that mental state can be as simple as remembering a time when you naturally felt that way and spending a few moments virtually walking around that time, recalling the most salient or emotive details of it. Then allowing that feeling to flow into your breathing, your facial muscles and each part of your body and posture.
Consider the context of who will see your portraits
Remember who will see the pictures and what their points of comparison will be. Will you be showing them to friends, loved ones and family? Then they’ll be used to seeing you as you are on a daily basis. So naturally they’ll be amazed with the results of a high quality, professional portrait photo session. Supposing mainly your colleagues will see them. Then, again, bare in mind the regrettable majority of work pictures are still taken with a cheap camera in front of a wall under poor lighting. Why wouldn’t they be highly impressed then with your professional portraits or business headshots? What if people you don’t know will see them (perhaps on social media or online dating)? Then here too, the norm, without meaning to be unkind, is a mediocre snapshot. So your professional portrait photos will naturally draw positive attention.
Finally, let’s say you want to get into modelling and will be showing your pictures to agencies who will judge your suitability for their books. You’ll know it’s a competitive industry. And because of that they’ll be used to seeing a lot of tense or nervous looking hopefuls. That’s where having your portfolio shots taken by a good professional photographer is a big advantage. Because they will be able to help you relax and show your character.
Of course, if there is anything at all you want to discuss before your photo session, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.