Preparing yourself properly before your portrait sitting will help your photographer immensely with your end goal of getting the best possible photographs from your session. In this post, I will lay out a few tips and tricks that you can do in order to give you the tools you need to achieve this goal. Most if not all of these tips are common sense ideas to help you get better organized for your shoot.
If you are photographed regularly or you are a professional photographer then you most likely know most of these tips and tricks. But if being professionally photographed is something you only do rarely then these tips and tricks will benefit you and your photographer greatly.
Most professional photo-shoots not done last minute or on the spur-of-the-moment. They are generally booked well in advance and then they are meticulously planned out. Some of these tips may need to be done at least one week prior to your shoot and some of them on the day of the session. Let’s begin.
Getting a haircut for your portrait.
Getting a haircut or even a trim before a portrait can be a good idea, everyone wants to look their best. It is also something that can backfire on you, everyone has had a bad haircut at some point even with a good hair-stylist. It does not even have to be a bad cut, it could be just a bit too short or it might be all you need is a small adjustment period to get used to it and to styling it.
This is why I recommend that if you do get your hair cut before your shoot that you do it at least one full week before the appointment with your photographer. This way if you do get a haircut that you are not happy about it will give you some time to adjust to it or to have it fixed. It also gives you enough time to reschedule your appointment with the photographer if a really bad hair day happens.
Time of day.
Unless you know for a fact that you will be shooting in a studio or at some indoor location where the photographer will be using professional photographic lighting equipment, then you will be outside on location somewhere. Be it close to your home or at the beach, or some other outdoor location in and around the greater Victoria area. The time of day that you are photographed at will make a great difference to the quality of the light that the photographer will have to work with. The more beautiful the light, the more beautiful the photograph, it’s that simple.
In the studio, the photographer makes the light, but outside on location, the photographer finds the light. In the studio the only time the light changes is if the photographer makes an adjustment to the lights or if the subject moves. On location different times of the day give you different levels of quality to the light. Your photographer should know in advance how the quality of light will be at different times of the day in the location where the portrait will be made.
In a perfect world, photographers would only shoot at sunrise or sunset for their outdoor location portraits to get the best light possible. Since this is not always feasible for many clients most photographers learn how to use outdoor environments at different times of day to get the best light possible.
For your portrait session, I recommend that you try and book your shoot as late in the day as you can. The worst time to photograph a portrait outdoors is mid-day when the sun is at its zenith. Sunset is ideal, even after the sun has set the photographer still has the light before it gets dark, and the quality of this light is wonderful. I would avoid shooting at sunrise or even in the morning unless you are a professional model in their prime, not because the light is not good, but because of morning-face.
Morning-face affects everyone including models but to a lesser degree because of genetics and youth being on their side. When you sleep there is pressure on your face from the weight of your head on your pillow, and because you are lying down when you sleep the blood in your body has an easier time reaching your head which makes your face swell-up during the evening as you sleep.
I find most people do look better and photograph better from the afternoon onward after gravity has had a chance to correct the swelling that sleeping causes to your face. So unless you sleep sitting up I would highly suggest not being photographed in the morning.
Eyeglasses and sunglasses
Something that is a routine everyday occurrence that most people would not even consider is wearing eyeglasses or putting on sunglasses when they go out. If you are not planning on wearing your eyeglasses or sunglasses for your portrait then it is a good idea to not wear any glasses before being photographed.
Eyeglasses can leave indentation marks on your nose, and while it may not be the worst thing in the world and it is easily repaired in post-production, it is still better to do the shoot with no indentation marks on your nose at all.
You know your frames best, and you know how long you need time-wise for your skin to recover from indentation marks so please consider this before you are photographed. I find that the best photos are always the ones with the least amount of post-production retouching.
Wear loose fitting clothing to your session.
Like eyeglasses, some clothing can leave marks on your skin. If you are doing a shoot with clothing changes, then it is best to be mindful of which of your clothes leave marks and where they leave marks on your skin, just in case one of your other outfits might show those marks on your skin.
Unlike the marks eyeglasses might make, marks from tight fitting clothes may be more difficult and time-consuming to fix. If your shoot has several clothing changes then it is best to wear loose fitting clothing to the shoot and to wear the tighter fitting clothing later in the shoot.
Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate.
Not everybody remembers to drink six to eight glasses of water a day, but if you want to look your best on the day of your portrait then it is important that you do. One of the most common problems I see when photographing people is chapped or cracked lips. Your mouth is one of the first things that will dry out when you are dehydrated, and your lips shrivel from the lack of water.
Fixing shrivelled dehydrated lips can be done in post-production, but it is more difficult than retouching skin because there is less surface area to work with and because of the texture and colour of the lips. I recommend that you drink six glasses of water a day for at least three days before your portrait session. It will not just hydrate your lips, but it will make your skin look better overall.
Weather calls are a normal part of doing outdoor location portraits, especially in a city like Victoria BC. Sometimes you just have to reschedule a shoot because of rain, strong winds, or cold. Sometimes you just know that it is going to rain for days at a time and the photographer will be able to reschedule well in advance of an appointment, and sometimes the shoot will be cancelled last second on location because of a sudden severe change in the weather. This is always the photographer’s call as they generally have the experience to make this decision. This is normal and is nothing to be worried about, if this happens we will just set a new date and go from there.
Water and snacks.
Hunger and thirst are two things that can affect the mood of a shoot very quickly, making some people grumpy, temperamental, or even lethargic. I always bring extra water on location shoots, as well as snacks. It is also a good idea for you to do the same. Even if you do not end up using any of it, it is still better to have some food and water on hand, just in case. Just avoid bringing messy foods and poppy-seed bagels at all costs.
Preparing your clothes.
Preparing your clothing for a portrait session is something I wrote about in great detail in another post. It is a good read and has a lot of relevant and important content for anyone that wants to have the best possible portrait of themselves made. Here is the link that will open in a different browser-tab to the content.
What clothes should I bring to my portrait sitting?
A few final tips, checklist, and conclusion.
Depending on where I am going on location, I usually pack a few items that I may need for the shoot. Most of these I always bring with me and some items I use often. You can pack them all into a small bag to have at close at hand in case you have need of them during the shoot.
Even though there are hardly any mosquitoes around Victoria there are a few places I like to shoot in that bug spray saves the day. If I am planning any shoot in a wooded area or more inland then I always bring a can of insect repellent.
I also bring several assorted items that help me with dealing with most of the most common problems with clothing. This includes clips, I use the clips to help style the clothing so it looks more fitted. A small sewing kit in case a button comes off. A lint roller to remove distracting bits of dust or lint on the clothes, lint rollers save me a lot of time later on the computer during post-production. You can use masking tape as a substitute for lint rollers by wrapping the tape around your hand with the sticky part facing outwards.
Items the person who is being photographed should bring are personal grooming tools, anything that you would use to manage your hair, comb, brush, hairspray, hair-clips, etc.
If you suffer from allergies then it is a good idea to make sure you take your antihistamine before you go to an outdoor location shoot during allergy season.
Use this checklist to help you get ready for your portrait sitting.
- Avoid getting your hair cut right before your shoot.
- Try and book your appointment for later in the day.
- Try to not wear eyeglasses/sunglasses on the way to your portrait sitting.
- Wear loose-fitting clothing when going to your shoot.
- Drink plenty of water several days before your photo-shoot.
- Make sure to bring water and light snacks when going on location.
- Prepare your clothes in advance.
- Bring insect repellent if shooting inland or in the woods.
- Bring personal grooming items.
- Don’t forget your antihistamine.
Confidence in yourself and in your photographer leads to great portraiture. When you make the right choices and prepare yourself well for your portrait it will show in the photographs. No one will know all the details that went into your shoot when they see the final images, they will only know that you look confident, relaxed and that the photographs that you had made look amazing.