Preparing for Your Session

Here are some tips on how to prepare for your photo session.

General Advice

  • Hair – If you’re getting a hair cut for your shoot, do so about two weeks beforehand, just in case it goes wrong – you just never know. For men, a fresh cut a couple of days before the shoot is fine.
  • Hair accessories – If you’re shooting outdoors, be ready to put your hair up and make it look nice in case of a windy day. Bring bobby pins, hair clips, headbands or any other favorite accessories.
  • Glasses – If folks wouldn’t recognize you without glasses, you want to wear glasses in your shoot – however, the glare on glasses can detract from your eyes in photos. You can have your lenses removed from your frames for your shoot (don’t worry, it’s what Hollywood does to avoid glare in movies), ask your eye doctor to loan you a pair of similar frames, or you can also visit an inexpensive company online like Zenni Optical and buy a suitable pair of duplicate frames on the cheap.
  • Red eyes – Visine is your friend.
  • Lips – You will probably wipe or lick your lips during your shoot, so bring fresh lip gloss or lipstick to do touch-up. Use lip balm for a few days in advance of your shoot to make your smoochers look their best.
  • Teeth – If you want to brighten your smile, start your treatments about two weeks before your shoot.
  • Breakouts – Don’t cake on a lot of make-up to try to hide blemishes – it’s almost always easier to Photoshop away pimples than to clean up overdone make-up.
  • Make-up – A subtle application of make-up can really soften your skin and accent your facial features. Try to keep it matching your natural skin tone, or your face may look orange compared to the rest of your body.  Heavy make-up can be obvious with natural or studio lighting.
  • Facial hair – Men, be freshly shaved with a new razor, shaving cream and a moisturizing after-shave lotion to avoid bumps and redness. Trim up your beard, sideburns, moustache or goatee, especially looking for wiry stray hairs. Ladies, even if you have some light facial hair (particularly around your lip or chin), indulge in a waxing in advance of your shoot – even barely-there light facial hair will be noticeable in your photos. Men and women both, pluck and clean up those eyebrows.
  • Moisturizer – Dry skin can really detract from a great photo shoot. Start moisturizing nightly a week in advance of your shoot. When you get out of the shower, dry off until lightly damp, and slather on moisturizer. Focus on your arms, shoulders, neck, face, hands, anywhere you’ll be exposed to the camera. This includes your legs if you’re shooting in shorts or a skirt.
  • Nails – A fresh coat of nail polish will make a world of difference in your photo shoot. Pick a neutral color that won’t distract in your shoot or clash with your outfits. Freshen the morning of the shoot, then be careful not to scuff it while prepping.  Your photo shoot is a great excuse for a fresh manicure, but if you can’t go to the salon, make sure your nails look tidy and clean, including the cuticles.
  • Undergarments – Bra straps won’t do anything to help your outfit look its best. Be sure you bring a set of bras and strap-adjusting accessories to work with any outfit you want to shoot in to keep those straps well-hidden.
  • Sun burns and tan lines – If your shoot is booked for Saturday, don’t go to the beach on Friday. If you plan to tan before your shoot, do so at least a week beforehand and don’t get burned. Be mindful of clothing tan lines, sunglass tan lines, hat tan lines, etc.
  • Ironing – If you iron, iron the night before and then hang the clothes for your shoot. If you’re wearing something that wrinkles easily, don’t wear it in the car on the way to the shoot – just change at the location.
  • Shoes – Ladies, can’t go wrong in heels or wedges. Men, clean’em up! Dress shoes are best, but as with most things, let your momma or your wife decide.

Here are some specific suggestions for certain types of shoots:

Headshots

1. Clothes

Select your clothing options and accessories to wear during your headshot photo shoot and put them in a bag the day before your headshot photography session, so you’re not stressing to find and assemble them the next day. A headshot photo pictures the shoulders, or mid-chest, up to the top of the head, so the shirt is the most important item. 

Avoid shirts with busy patterns, as they distract from your face. Go for a solid colored shirt that elongates or features your neck. So, turtlenecks are out, as are solid black and solid white shirts, as they wash out your skin tone. Also avoid clothing with large logos. We don’t want anything to distract from your face and eyes. See “What Clothing To Wear For Acting Headshots,” for more top clothing tips.

2. Skin

If you can, drink plenty of water in the week prior to your headshot phootshoot, as this will keep your skin plump, smooth and clear. Try to eat healthy foods, as fried and salty foods cause bloating and water retention. Also avoid sun exposure, which can make you look tired and leave your skin irritated. Get plenty of sleep to avoid dark circles under your eyes!

3. Hair

Choose a haircut and hairstyle a week or two in advance, as freshly cut hair can look strange on camera. Understanding that you should look like your headshot photograph, choose a hairstyle that you can easily recreate for your auditions. A neutral style that highlights the natural curve and shape of your face is always the best choice for an acting headshot.

4. Facial Hair

Prepare your facial hair for your headshots by trimming, plucking and/or choosing a style for shaving facial hair in advance. Knowing that plucking can leave red marks, and bleaching can irritate skin, be sure to do these things a couple of days before your session.

5. Teeth

Avoid anything that may stain your teeth on the day of your headshot photographs. If your teeth are noticeably yellowed or stained, invest in having them professionally cleaned and whitened, but don’t worry if you don’t have the time or money, we can easily get the same result with a little bit of Photoshop magic.

6. Nails (Yes, Nails!)

Your hands may end up in some of our shots, so get a manicure for your nails. For women choose a neutral, skin tone polish, or a clear coat, so as not to distract from your face. For men a clean trim is enough.

7. Peace Of Mind

For total peace of mind write down all the details for your headshot photo session and add them to your clothing bag: helpful info to include would be time, location, directions, and any instructions provided. It’s also a good idea to have your photographer’s number already saved into your phone in case you need to contact them on the way. If you are working with your own hair stylist or make-up artist, make sure to send them all these details too.

8. Know What You Want

Modeling for a headshot photograph is like acting for a still camera. Take some time in advance to consider what kind of feeling you are trying capture in your image. Prepare by thinking ahead of some of the characters you want to be cast as and then practicing their “looks” in front of the mirror. Don’t worry if you are not certain about this, a good headshot photographer should help you figure this out, but if you can come in with your own ideas that will help!

9. Don’t Rush

For a lot of people having their photograph taken is already a stressful event, so set yourself up to minimize your stress. Be sure to GPS the photoshoot location in advance and allow yourself plenty of time to get there. Map your route in advance and consider what the traffic conditions will be on the day of your shoot. Give yourself at least two hours to spend at the studio. It’s important that we go at a comfortable pace and not feel rushed during our shoot.

10. Communicate

Be in communication with your photographer before your session. You should definitely feel that your photographer cares about you and you’re not just another client. Be sure to ask them any questions you have and a good photographer should take the time to answer your questions and put you at ease. On the day of the photoshoot make sure the you are in text message communication with your photographer, that way they can help you if you’re having any trouble finding the location or for anything else that comes up. This is your photoshoot, it should be a special event where you feel supported by your photographer throughout the process and great communication is definitely a big part of that.

Children

  • Clean, clean, clean – clean nails, clean hair, wipe away eye boogers, clean feet (sandals on kids = black feet!), wipe snotty noses, fresh-scrub teeth. The cleaner the kid, the better their photos will turn out.
  • If your child is still in diapers or pull-ups, tuck’em in or wear underwear.
  • If your child is still of napping age, make sure they nap before the shoot.
  • It is perfectly okay to bring bribes to a photo shoot – given a stage and being the center of attention, it’s like our kids know exactly when to act their worst. Some cereal, smarties or other candy that won’t stain teeth can help a short photo shoot go by smoothly.
  • Avoid colorful drinks or lollypops within 24 hours of your shoot, don’t let them eat or drink anything that will stain their face, teeth or mouths.
  • Wardrobe – You can’t go wrong with dark, rich monotones, which drive the attention in photos to sweet faces and darling expressions instead of loud prints or colors. If nothing else, pick a color that compliments your child’s eye color.

Families

  • Dad – Have a fresh shave or trim, and use a new razor with shaving cream and a moisturizing after-shave lotion to limit bumps and redness. Make sure nails are clean and trimmed. Wash your hands. Clean up your shoes. Moisturize and scrub away flaky facial skin (see above General advice). When you wash your face, pay attention to eye boogers and sleep crusties. For wardrobe, go for jeans or pants, tucked polo or dress shirt with a belt, or go casual with just a T-shirt or untucked polo, button-up short sleeve, etc. In general, whatever your wife tells you to wear. Again you don’t have to perfectly match the rest of the family, just wear something that coordinates.
  • Mom – Women know what to wear, but in general, unless you are extremely thin you may want to wear something that covers your upper-arms. Long- or 3/4-sleeve tops are very flattering. If you wear jewelry, aim for subtlety, and be aware of it twisting or turning.
  • Kids – Same advice as above, but again, everything needn’t match, simply coordinate with the parents’ outfits. If Dad’s in a T-shirt, don’t put the kids in dress shirts – make it make sense.

High school grads

  • The biggest tips for grads are to have an even tan, don’t get sunburned, clean and freshly-paint those nails, and moisturize and scrub away dry skin.
  • Bring a variety of outfits – cap and gown, something casual, something stylish. Wear what you think you look best in, but take the opportunity to also try a new look.
  • Bring props that recall your high school years – band instrument, sports gear like a volleyball or baseball bat, your beloved (or cursed) high school car, sunglasses. Most of all, represent your style, whatever that may be. Your grad photo should be unique to your life and personality.

Maternity

  • Moisturize that belly!
  • Gather your props to bring along – ultrasound printout, alphabet blocks that spell your baby’s name, baby shoes, stuffed animals, flowers, whatever you’ve seen in other maternity photos that you like.
  • Wear whatever you feel comfortable and pretty in – long, flowy skirts, especially solids are nice, and strapless bras that coordinate with them. Tube dresses are great for showing off your shape. Bring a pair of regular jeans, not the belly panel ones. A button-up shirt also makes it easy to transition into showing your belly.
  • If you’re doing semi-nude/implied nude photos, bras and underwear will create noticeable lines on your skin, so wear loose-fitting clothing to the shoot. You can add undergarments as necessary for photos later in the shoot.
  • Do bring your significant other! They’ll make a great prop for your photos, and greatly expand on the number of different photos you can make during your shoot. They should bring outfits that coordinate with what you’ll be wearing, or a dark long-sleeved shirt or sweater and dark pants. The focus should always be on you, your expressions, your emotions, your personality, your joy and your connection.

Newborns and Babies

  • Use a wash cloth to clean away flaky skin and eye boogers.
  • Trim those tiny fingernails and toenails with appropriate baby trimmers.
  • Book your shoot around your baby’s feeding and nap times, work with the natural rhythm of your baby. The perfect time to shoot is right when the baby would be laying down for a nap. If your baby normally falls asleep after a feeding, wait to feed the baby until you’re at the shoot. Baby photographers allot plenty of time for this sort of thing to set up the best situation for great photos.
  • Nothing is the best wardrobe for a newborn – no outfit fits a newborn well, and they often look swallowed in clothes. Accessories are good, though – little hats, dainty headbands, boys in crocheted hats, etc. Bring sentimental items like the quilt that Grandma made for the baby, a baby blanket from your own childhood – they’re great for the youngster to lay on.
  • If your baby takes a pacifier, bring it – if they’re bottle fed, bring an extra bottle to help put the baby to sleep.

Credit: The bulk of this list was originally posted by James Michael Taylor at parttimephoto.com.