- Decide on your goals for the shoot. One of the questions I always ask clients before a session is, “Imagine someone is seeing your image for the first time. What are three adjectives you’d hope they would use in describing you?” From that, I always get a range of answers, often including things like “approachable, trustworthy, experienced, professional…”. Then, with that in mind, take some time looking around the internet to find some images that really stand out to you. You’ll likely see a pattern start to emerge. Maybe everyone in those images looks very friendly and relaxed. Maybe the lighting is dramatic and lends more of an iconic edge. Maybe all the images you love are light and airy. Once you make that distinction, it will serve as a great guide when you begin looking at local photographers’ websites and comparing their styles. Just because a photographer has great reviews doesn’t necessarily mean they are the right fit for you, so start with your own particular goal.
- Think about where your portraits will be used. Will they be strictly for LinkedIn? A press kit? Do you have a plan for where you want them on specific pages of your website–maybe the ‘about page’, the homepage banner, and the contact page? If that’s the case, what are your brand colors? That may influence the clothing you bring. How is your website situated–do the images need to be primarily vertical or horizontal? Communicate that with your photographer so he/she can keep it in mind during the session.
- Choose your wardrobe well in advance… I’d say at least several days in advance, to give yourself time to do a little shopping, if need be. If you’ll have few clothing changes during the shoot, think about how you can achieve some variety. Possibly a business look, a more casual look, and maybe something a little on the glam/stylish side just for fun. This way, you’ll be able to use the images in a variety of places and really capitalize on the time spent with your photographer. People always ask me what they should wear, and this is something that varies widely from person to person. All of us are different, right? A good question to ask yourself is, “What do I wear that I’m constantly getting compliments on?” Do people ever say things like, “Wow, that is really your color!”? That will be your beacon in the fog of your closet search. Bring along the shoes you would normally wear with your outfits–even if they won’t be in the shot, they’ll make you feel more composed and put together. Also, don’t forget about the accessories! If you can’t decide, bring along an assortment of things and your photographer can help you choose what will work best in front of the camera.
- ….And know what to avoid. Just as important as what to wear is what not to wear. Generally, I tell clients to stay away from bold prints/graphics. The style may be flattering on you, but that pattern is going to steal ALL the attention from your face and put it on your body. Just go ahead and remove them from the closet before comparing your options. I suggest solid colors or small prints. I also personally don’t love all white/all black outfits–we tend to lose clothing details while exposing for the face. One last thing, and this is probably obvious, but…only wear sleeveless if you don’t hate your arms.
- Stay hydrated and get your beauty sleep. Of course, we all know we don’t look our best after a late night. So plan a nice relaxing night before your session, and drink plenty of water. If you think your eyes look a little puffy in the morning, cold tea bags on your eyes for 5-10 minutes work wonders. If you’re doing your own hair and makeup, allow plenty of time of that, as well.
- Give yourself extra time to get there. Maybe traffic is bad that day. Do you know exactly where the studio is, and do you need to allow extra time to find parking (the photographer should give you a heads up on that)? Be sure that you have his/her phone number in case you run into a jam. Giving yourself extra time ensures that you’ll be arriving as the best version of yourself, not the frazzled and sweaty version. Being relaxed when you get there is a much better starting point.
- Trust your photographer. I’m going to give you a little insight from my world. Almost every single person that comes into my studio tells me something to the effect of, “Ugh, I HATE getting my picture taken,” or “I’ve been dreading this all week.” It’s not just you, it’s everyone. There’s something incredibly vulnerable about being in front of the camera. Remember that you chose this photographer for a reason, and likely it was because the people that you saw on his/her website looked GOOD. Maybe even great. Remember that those are people, just like you, who were nervous about being in front of the camera. And they survived–and even looked good–doing it! It’s ok to trust your photographer and know that you’re in good hands. You don’t need to practice all your different smiles, or try out poses at home in front of the mirror (in fact, I’d prefer my clients not to ‘practice’). Just come in as yourself and leave the rest to the professional.
I hope this has given you some good direction in how to prepare for your upcoming shoot! No matter which photographer you choose, I think these suggestions will apply across the board. Good luck!
Jenny Boyle Penney is a Seattle-based portrait photographer, specializing in personal and professional branding photography. To inquire about a session, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org