Regardless of what type of photography session you are booking, you want to make sure your shoot is successful and you go home happy, with pictures you can cherish forever. Your photographer wants you to be happy, as well. It is always a good idea to ask your photographer for tips before you go out for your shoot. They will be more than helpful, and their experience means that they have done most of the trial-and-error learning for you in advance. They have usually seen it all and will have a good idea of what works and what doesn’t. Don’t be afraid to ask their advice or opinions on locations, outfits, etc. Below are some of my tips. Hopefully you find them helpful!
General tips for all photography shoots:
-Coordinate your outfits in advance. Gone are the days of matchy-matchy outifits were everyone wears the exact same shirt, but your clothes should look like they belong together. You don’t want to show up in jeans and a t-shirt and have someone else in your group show up in a tux! Decide what look/style/theme you want, and build your outfits from there.
-When choosing outfits, you can work with your photographer. As photographers, we’ve seen it all. If you aren’t sure about an outfit, bring a few variables and options, and ask your photographer his/her opinion. We want you to be happy with your pictures, and we can tell you what we think will look best. It is okay to call your photographer before your shoot and ask for advice!
-Not all colors are the same color. If you are working with large groups of people, just keep in mind that not every red is the same color, and not every blue is the same. It is okay to do different shades of the same color, as long as it is on purpose. You just don’t want Aunt Marge to show up with a “Navy blue” that clashes with Grandma’s “Navy blue.” For larger group photos where everyone is finding their own outfits, pass out paint chips in your desired colors so everyone knows what shade to look for.
-Choose 1-2 neutral colors and 1-2 other colors. For your outfits, you can mix and match colors a bit. I’ve found that it works best to choose a few neutrals (white, black, gray, cream, and sometimes brown or dark blue), and then pick one or two colors that go well together. Generally, the colors that look best together are next to each other on the color wheel (blue and green, red and orange) or across from each other (blue and orange, purple and yellow) but you can make just about any combination work with careful planning. If you need outfit combination ideas, type “photography- what to wear” in Pinterest or Google and you will get endless ideas. You can also contact me and I can give you some ideas.
-If you are doing a shoot with more than one outfit, work it out with your photographer ahead of time. If your photographer doesn’t know that you would like to do more than one outfit, he or she might take most of your pictures with one outfit, and you might not get as many as you hoped with the other outfit. Also, some photographers will only allow one outfit unless coordinated in advance. Some outfits might work better in certain locations or under specific lighting conditions, so show your photographer all of your outfits at the beginning of your shoot.
-Wear your favorite outfit first. If you are doing multiple outfits, wear your favorite outfit first. This will ensure that you get some great pictures with that perfect outfit!
-Keep clothing visually simple. Some patterns are okay, and I’ve seen multiple patterns in a shoot work out beautifully, but be conscientious about any patterns you use, and don’t wear shirts with words or logos on them. There are ways to break every rule, just make sure that if you break this rule, you do it on purpose.
-Makeup. Apply makeup like you would for any other day. Don’t go overboard. You don’t want to look like a stranger in your own pictures. Also, bring some powder to put on your face. This will help you avoid a glossy look in your photos.
-Pay attention to the details. Moisturize your hands, clean off your shoes. You never know if your hands or feet are going to be in a close up shot. Also, take cell phones, keys, etc. out of your pockets.
- A word about props. Props can often make a picture great. Plan out your props ahead of time, and coordinate with your photographer. You want to keep a few things in mind if you are thinking about using props:
1. Keep your location in mind. If you are going to do a lot of walking, you might not want to lug large props around.
2. Some props are trendy and could date your photos. You just need to decide if this is the look you are going for. If you update your photos frequently, then it probably doesn’t matter as much if you have props that will date your photos, and trends can be fun. If you don’t take family photos very often, and your photos might be hanging on your wall for 20 years, you might not want to use the really trendy prop of the year.
3. Don’t feel pressured to use props. You can have a great photo shoot with lots of beautiful pictures without a single prop. Your photographer might ask if you have any specific props you’d like to use. Don’t feel like you have to come up with something just because they asked.
-Don’t be afraid to let your personality shine through. This is your chance to express yourself, be creative, and enjoy your moment. Find ways to make your images interesting and really capture who you are as a person, family, etc.
More specific tips:
-Take your pictures well in advance. Give yourself plenty of time to get your engagement and bridal pictures. Well edited pictures take some time, and if there is anything specific you would like edited/changed in your pictures, it might take some back and forth between you and your photographer before you get it figured out. Also, if you want prints made for your wedding day, this might take a little time. Keep timing in mind when getting your pictures taken.
-Interact with each other. The best pictures come when couples are comfortable with each other and interacting. The more you pay attention to each other, the more natural your pictures will look.
-The devil is in the details. Most photographers will take detail shots, so make sure your hands look good and your shoes aren’t all scuffed up!
-Kissing on camera. First of all, if you are uncomfortable with kissing on camera, let your photographer know. Some people don’t want kissing pictures, while others love them. When you do kiss for pictures, you need to keep a few things in mind:
1. Don’t smile while you’re kissing. It looks funny and unnatural.
2. Don’t smash your faces together.
3. No wide open mouths. Save that for more intimate environments!
4. Don’t pucker up. Relax your mouth and jaw.
5. Kiss as straight on as possible. You should almost be nose to nose.
6. Hover a bit before the kiss. Sometimes the best pictures are anticipation pictures- taken right before the couple kisses.
7. Relax your body, especially your hands.
-Make sure you pick outfits you are both comfortable with. I can’t tell you how many times a couple comes to a photo shoot and I can tell right away that a guy’s fiancée has picked his outfit for him. He is so uncomfortable in it, and it shows through in the pictures. If you want natural looking pictures, make sure you are both happy with what you are wearing.
-Consider coordinating your outfits with your wedding colors/invitation colors. If you know what your invites are going to look like, or your wedding colors, you might be able to tie those into your pictures somehow. This doesn’t mean that if your colors are blue and green that you come head-to-toe in blue and he comes head-to-toe in green. Maybe he wears a green shirt and you wear a nice blue necklace or blue shoes.
-Match your outfit styles. Keep like styles together. He probably shouldn’t come in a full suit if you are wearing cut off jean shorts (unless there is a specific reason for it).
-Pick a place that’s meaningful to you as a couple. Many couples have a hard time thinking of a good location to take their engagements. Think about what is meaningful to you and use that as a starting point for your location. If you can’t think of a location, contact your photographer for suggestions.
-Use your bridal session as your dress rehearsal. This is a great time to practice your make-up and hair. It will give you time to work out any kinks before your big day.
- Wear a different pair of shoes. You might have to walk around your location a little bit to get some ideal photos, so wear some comfortable shoes that you are okay with getting dirty and are easy to slip in and out of. You can change into your real shoes when you take pictures.
-Bring something white to sit on. Most photographers will bring something for their clients, but just in case your photographer doesn’t bring anything, it’s a good idea for you to bring a white towel or blanket. You don’t want to be worried about getting your dress dirty anytime you sit down.
-Get your bridals done far enough ahead of time that you can take your dress to the dry cleaner. While photographers will do anything they can to keep your dress looking beautiful and new, I’ve seen it all (bird poop, baby spit up, burs). Schedule your shoot in advance, just in case you need to get your dress cleaned. You just never know.
- Bring a copy of your bouquet. It is so much nicer to do your bridals with your bouquet. If you are using silk flowers, have your bouquet made up in time for bridals, or if you are using real flowers, get a copy of your bouquet, or something similar, that you can use for your bridals. You can use this as a dress rehearsal as well so you can make sure your bouquet is exactly what you want before your big day.
-Bring someone with you. It is very important that you have someone (your mom, maid of honor, friend) come with you for your session. They can carry things for you, help you with your dress, and watch for the small details. Let them know what to watch for. You might hate it when your hair moves or sticks out in a certain way. As a photographer, I have no way of knowing that, and it might look fine to me. Also, we try really hard to check for twisted collars, fly-aways, etc., but we have other things to think about, so sometimes they get overlooked. If you have someone with you, they can lookout for the little things. I suggest that you don’t bring more than one person with you (unless it’s your fiancé). Too many people become a distraction and slow you down, and you might get fewer pictures.
-Consider taking groomals instead of bridals. Groomals (or black tie) is when you bring your fiancé and get pictures taken together instead of the traditional bride-only. If you are a traditionalist, you might not want your groom to see you in your wedding dress before the big day, and that’s fine. There are some definite ups to bringing your fiancé to your bridal shoot. You will get some really great pictures of the two of you together, and you won’t feel as rushed to get a lot of good pictures on your wedding day. Also, most weddings take place in the middle of the day. This is the worst time to get great outdoor pictures, and so it is sometimes harder to get good pictures of the bride and groom right after they are married. Doing a black tie shoot guarantees that you’ll get some great shots of the two of you. You will also be able to display pictures of both of you at your wedding/reception. Lastly, you will be able to get some great “first look” shots, and capture your fiancé’s reaction to seeing you in your gown for the first time. Please be aware that most photographers charge extra to have to the groom in the pictures, so check with them ahead of time.
The Big Day:
-Plan out your picture-taking time. Many couples rush their wedding day and don’t plan ample time for taking pictures. They rush from the ceremony, to lunch or dinner, to the reception, etc. You are paying a lot for pictures of your wedding, and you don’t want to short-change yourself by not planning the time you realistically need. You aren’t going to get enough time by accident- it needs to be preplanned and have some thought put into it. How much time do you realistically need to get all of the pictures you want? Go over your shot list with your photographer and have them make suggestions. If you are planning on a small group to take pictures with, you won’t need as much time as if you have a large group. Also, if you have done groomals ahead of time, you won’t need as much time for couple portraits. I generally suggest 1-2 hours of after ceremony picture time if you are doing groomals the day of your wedding.
-Decide what pictures are a must for you ahead of time and put them on a shot list. Do you want “getting ready” pictures, a picture of you kissing your dad on the cheek, your fiancé with your puppy? Most photographers will have a shot list. Look it over and decide if it is missing anything, or if there are pictures you don’t want, and let your photographer know. You’d hate for your photographer to miss something that is important to you because it isn’t something he or she normally does.
-Warn people ahead of time that the photographer will be grabbing them or their items for photos. Some pictures look better taken outside of formal picture-taking time after the ceremony. If you want shots of the rings by themselves, or shots of all of the bouquets, those might be taken during a lull at the reception. Most people are really understanding, but letting them know in advance that the photographer might be asking for their bouquets, shoes, a special necklace, etc. is always helpful.
-Let the photographer know of any unexpected practices or unusual happenings during the wedding. If there is a special tradition, cultural event, etc. that might be out of the ordinary, let the photographer know so he or she can be ready for it. Also, let him or her know if you are planning on doing the bouquet and garter tosses, first dances, cake cutting, etc.
-Let the photographer know of any rules/expectations. Some churches have specific rules about what you can and can’t photograph. Also, if there are times your photographer needs to be completely quiet (shutters make a little noise), or if there is a certain distance you would like him or her to keep, please let inform him/her. Different couples have different expectations, and it is important that you share yours with your photographer. If you don’t say anything, you photographer will to assume that just about anything (within reason) goes.
-Let your photographer know of any difficult family relationships. If there are divorces, deaths, etc., please let your photographer know in advance so they can plan for it. The last thing a photographer wants to do is inadvertently bring up a touchy subject and create awkward feelings on your wedding day.
- Don’t rush the bouquet and garter toss. Play with the crowd a bit, pause before you throw them. This will guarantee that the photographer gets some great shots.
-Show it up for the camera. If you are having games/dancing, etc., don’t be afraid to look at the camera once in a while or dance to the camera. You don’t just want backsides of yourself dancing, so have fun and play it up to the camera for some great shots. Exceptions would be the daddy/daughter dance and first dance. You usually want to completely ignore your photographer for those.
-Getting ready pictures. “Getting ready” pictures (pictures of you putting make-up on, doing hair, tying ties, etc.) can be a great way to remember your big day. If you want “getting ready” pictures, plan these in advance with your photographer. Have a conversation with him/her about exactly what you want. Decide what your comfort level is, and what getting dressed pictures you want. Some brides are comfortable bearing it all in front of their photographer, while others don’t want any pictures of them getting dressed. Having the conversation about this in advance will keep you from feeling awkward because your photographer will know exactly what you want, and you won’t have to worry about his or her reaction when you ask if he or she can step out for a moment. Also, prepare your bridesmaids on what to expect ahead of time. If you want pictures of all of them getting ready, make sure your expectations are in their comfort levels, as well. Consider what shots you want and plan your room accordingly. Clean up any non-wedding messes for better pictures. A great “getting-ready” picture is one of the dress hanging on a hanger, or draped over a chair, so if you don’t want your photographer taking actual pictures of you getting dressed, you might want to wait to get in your dress, and have your photographer take some pictures of it. Your photographer can then step out. Another great picture is of your bridesmaids zipping up your dress, so you could have your photographer step back before your dress is zipped.
-Keep your pictures in mind when planning your reception lighting. Dim receptions can have a lot of ambience, but they are not good for photography. Photographers will need to use a flash in low light situations, and the quality of pictures usually isn’t as good. You might opt for more lighting, or you may want to take more important pictures before it is dark out (if you have decent natural lighting). If not, just be aware of your photographer’s limitations and be okay with the flash. Also, low light situations will mean that other guest’s cameras will be flashing, and unpredictable flashes can ruin a picture.
Senior and Teen:
-Bring a few outfits of different colors. You will want some variety for your pictures, so different colors and different styles are good. Don’t forget accessories, matching socks, etc.
-Bring some items that represent you. Show your personality. If you play a musical instrument or a sport, you might want to bring something along that represents it. Bring other hobbies along as well!
-Bring one or two of their favorite toys, books, food, etc. Favorite toys can be handy to get kids to look towards the camera, and sometimes it’s fun to use them as props. You are getting pictures taken because you want to remember your child at the stage he or she is at and sometimes it’s fun to remember what they loved at that stage, too. Bubbles are also a great trick for getting a child’s attention.
-Make sure your child is comfortable in his/her outfit. If your child has never worn something before, make sure it is comfortable enough. An uncomfortable child will never quite smile and open up for the camera.
-Bring snacks. Hungry children usually do not enjoy getting their pictures taken.
-If you are doing more than one outfit, think layers. Sometimes it is easier to change up an outfit by throwing a jacket on it, changing a hair bow, etc. Think about changing the outfit up in easy ways instead of a full wardrobe change. This might be easier on your child and you.
-Mom or dad should help the child look at the camera. Telling a child to “smile,” or “look at the camera” usually produces forced photos. If mom or dad is good at making the child smile, he or she should get the child’s attention and try to make them laugh. Make sure you stand behind the photographer so that the child looks in the right direction. Many parents stand off to the side of the photographer 10 feet or so, which doesn’t help get the child’s attention towards the camera.
-Consider bribery! Being able to remind children of an activity or treat they will get when you get through with pictures can do wonders to get them to focus and perform for the camera!
Infants and Newborns:
-Consider pictures with baby, mom, and dad. Some moms are unsure if they want to be in the newborn pictures because they just had a baby, but they make such great memories for the family. Your photographer will usually do a good job posing you to minimize your post-baby insecurities.
-Try lifestyle newborn pictures. Lifestyle pictures (taken at your home, in the baby’s environment) are always so sweet. You can get pictures of them in their nursery, with siblings, etc.
-If taking pictures in your home, turn up the heat. Baby will be much more comfortable if it is warm, especially if you are doing any pictures without clothes. I’ve found that turning the thermostat up to 75-80 degrees works great.
-Natural lighting is best. Lighting for pictures should be bright, but not too harsh. If taking pictures in your home, watch the lighting. Find out what rooms have the best lighting at what time of day, and coordinate that with your pictures. If you want pictures in the nursery, watch the lighting and see when it is the best.
-Think about keeping baby awake for a while before pictures. This will ensure that baby is nice and sleepy for pictures.
-Consider taking pictures of newborns at the hospital. You can get the baby’s going home outfit, get that cute little foot with the tag on it, and have pictures much faster to show off!
-Newborn pictures tend to work best sometime before 6 weeks. Newborns still need to be sleepy enough for pictures, and after 6 weeks they start to wake up more. This will also be early enough that baby shouldn’t have too much newborn acne yet.
-If taking pictures of older infants, take their schedule into account. When is the baby happiest? If he or she is happiest in the AM, then schedule morning pictures. If he or she is happiest at night, then schedule evening pictures.
-Babies poop, pee, cry, and need to eat. Your photographer will understand. It is normal for babies to poop or pee on the photographers blanket, need a break to eat, or will cry and need comfort. Don’t be embarrassed by it, the baby will just feel your anxiety. It is all part of taking their pictures, and the photographer is used to it.
-Think of props ahead of time. Favorite toys, stuffed animals, books, ultrasound pictures, etc. are adorable props for infants. Your photographer will usually bring some props and blankets, but it is always nice to find something that is meaningful to you.
-Plan your timing. Most people like to have maternity pictures at the beginning of their third trimesters. This guarantees that your belly is nice and round and great for pictures, but also you aren’t to the point that you might not feel like getting pictures taken anymore.
-If possible, include dad in the pictures. Maternity pictures are just cuter with dad.
-When choosing a location, take your health into consideration. Those maternity pictures at the top of your favorite mountain might sound like a great idea when you are at the bottom, but you might not be in the physical shape to hike up there. Find a location that will fit your comfort level with walking, climbing, etc.
-Wear good shoes. If you are shooting at an outdoor location, you might need to walk some distances. Wear good walking shoes, and change before you get your pictures taken.
-Bring a few props. Your favorite outfit, toy, book, or shoe for baby can make a great prop. Also, bring your ultra-sound photo, just in case!