How to prepare for your portrait session
Model Meganne Young
Photo by Noah Asanias

In this article, you will learn how to prepare for your next portrait session. You will have the confidence and be at your best, so you can have the best experience and a photo that you will be proud of.

We all need a good photo of ourselves. Whether it’s for professional use, social media profile, or personal. It’s always nice to have a photo that we are proud of and we can show our friends and family. Even though we might have a camera at home or our uncle Joe might have an expensive camera it is still different from going to a professional photographer to get your portraits taken. Professional photographers know how to put you in the right mood, to set the vibe, and knows which lighting works best for you.

In the past 4-years, I’ve photographed people from different walks of life. One thing I find in common is that everyone is intimidated by the camera, whether it’s a well know personality or a CEO of a company, almost everyone feels uncomfortable standing in front of the lens. I heard some can’t even have a goodnight’s sleep the night before their portrait session.

Model Meganne Young
Photo by Noah Asanias

Tip #1: Clothes

Clothing is a form of expression and the clothes that you pick to wear will reflect your personality in the images. My best piece of advice when choosing clothes, keep it simple. Solid colors look great in photo sessions, avoid clothing with patterns and/or prints as they can be distracting. Bring at least 3 clothing options, start with a simple shirt slowly add layers. Make sure that all clothes are ironed and pressed before the shoot, wrinkles in clothes are difficult to fix in post-processing, it might cost you more money to have them removed in post-processing. Lastly, bring a lint brush or roller with you, those always come handy and can save you a lot of money and time during photoshoots.

When doing a family portrait session, It makes it easier and more pleasing to the viewers eye if you have a colour theme or colour scheme planned . This helps make the photo look cohesive and put together.

Tip#2: Makeup/Grooming

I needed to separate this into 2 categories as each has different needs and approaches.

For women

Start with a natural look (no-makeup, makeup), just enough to cover skin blemishes, then build up the makeup as you go. (If going for a darker makeup, maybe save that towards the end). Bring your lip balm, makeup, moisturizer, and body lotion to the shoot as there’s a high chance you might be needing them. It is important that the night before your portrait session that you brush your lips with your toothbrush to help get rid of any dead skin. Also, avoid extreme beauty treatments up to 3 days before your shoot, (facial, tanning, or extensive exfoliating). Your skin may get irritated and will not look good on photos. Get rid of any unwanted hair at least 3 days before the shoot. Clean up brows and upper lip hair.

If you can afford it, hire a makeup artist to do your makeup and stay with you during the shoot for touchups.

For men 

If you are planning to shave, shave right before you leave for a shoot and make sure to use cooling gel or aftershave to help with skin irritation. But if you wanted to get more “looks” from your portrait session its best that you trim your beard at the day before the shoot and bring your shaver with you on your session so you can shave and have 2 different looks. Also, bring some oil absorbing sheets to help with oil build up during the shoot to avoid shine and moisturizer for dry skin.

If you can afford it, hire a makeup artist to do your grooming and stay with you during the shoot for touchups.

Model Meganne Young
Photo by Noah Asanias

Tip #3: Hair

Hair is the most overlooked part of the portrait session. In my experience hair is as important as wardrobe and makeup as hair gives motion and adds an element of emotion in an image. When going to your shoot bring your hair tools such as hair dryers, hair straighter, hairbrush, and hair product. Start with a simple hairstyle or hair down and you can build your way up towards the end of the shoot. It’s always easier to add products than to removing products.

If you can afford it, hire a hairstylist for the shoot. This removes a lot of weight on you which helps you have a better experience during your session.

Tip #4: Practice makes perfect

Look at yourself in the mirror before the shoot and see which side you like better. Remember that whatever is close to the camera will appear bigger, so if your one eye is noticeably smaller than the other you might bring that side of your face towards the camera. Also, try different expressions in the mirror, this will help you warm up for your upcoming shoot.

Tip #5: Music

If you have some time before the shoot try to prepare a playlist that will get you in the mood or make you feel more comfortable. Most studios/photographers have music or speakers on set but it’s always good to bring your own wireless speaker just in case.

Model Meganne Young
Photo by Noah Asanias

Tip #6: Nails

You might not think about your nails much but don’t forget that can still see your then on a portrait session. I recommend having them done and cleaned the day before the shoot. Make sure that there is no dirt under your nails and no broken cuticles. Taking care of your nails is easy to do at home, or you can go to your local nail salon to get them done too.

Tip #7: Get some rest

The most important tip I can share is getting some rest the night before your portrait session. Nothing is worst than not having enough rest and feeling tired on the day of your shoot. Do your skincare routine, drink plenty of water (helps make the skin look healthy), and get to bed early. Avoid eating oily food as this can cause skin breakouts.


Model Meganne Young
Photo by Noah Asanias

This article is a little different from my usual articles. Most of my writing is about how you can improve your photography, but it is as important to get ready behind the camera before you jump in front of it. If you are a photographer who’s wanting to take portraits of your friends or family, you can use this article to help them prepare for their next portrait session with you combined retouching and photo editing tips.

Let me know what your thoughts are and if you have any more tips that I might have missed in preparing for your portrait session.

Noah Asanias
I am a part of Best Buy’s in-house photography team, and am passionate about portrait, beauty, and fashion photography. I’m fascinated by light and addicted to stories. Over the past 3 years, I have photographed a number of personalities, brands, and have been featured in numerous publications such as Monte Cristo, The Wrap, TIFF, and Vogue.