Tips, Tricks & Preparation for the best photos and photo session experience!
When getting your photos taken, there are things that you rely on your photographer to do: posing, location knowledge, lighting, creativity, capturing the essence of your family in an honest way, creating your vision for the photos & composition. A lot is in the hands of your photographer's skills and capabilities but a substantial amount comes down to your preparation for your portrait session.
I have built a comprehensive list of things you can do to make your session a tremendous success. It truly is a team effort. This post will serve as a preparation guide with links and examples.
Weather is unpredictable (especially here in Texas). Your photographer will most likely be keeping a close eye on the forecast leading up to your session. If the dreadful possibility that the weather may take a turn for the worst on the day of your session, communicate with your photographer. Most photographers will reschedule your session the day before or a few hours before your session if you require blue skies for your vision of your photos. You may need to reschedule your session or consider being spontaneous and winging it regardless! Getting out of our comfort zone is something that we all need to do once and while! Bring an umbrella, toss the umbrella and have a rainy day shoot, or change locations to indoors!
Have your clothes/outfit(s) ready a week prior. If you need help coordinating outfits, please check out my complete Family Style Guide: What To Wear To Your Family Photo Session. Having your outfits pre-picked eliminates any stress the day of your session - most of all, make sure that everyone is comfortable in their outfit of choice, even the kiddos - happy kids make fantastic photos!
Eat & Sleep at least an hour before the session, I can't stress this enough.
Be sure not to schedule your session around your child's naptime. Honestly, this works best if the child gets their full nap the same way they always do and not in the car on the way to the session. Being woken up short of the time they typically nap to the car door opening and then pushed into a stranger with a giant black eye (my camera); can lead to overstimulation. Please do not show up to your session with an empty stomach; it is impossible to get smiles from hangry people (Especially children & Dad's). Everyone will be more focused and energized for the session if they have eaten and slept beforehand. PRO TIP: Do not eat prior in your session outfits.
Make sure the whole family goes to the restroom before leaving to the session. If you have children in diapers, change their diaper before the session as well. PRO TIP: make sure the child wearing diapers has either a diaper cover on or has a onesie tucked into their clothes under their outfit. This will reduce the chance of the diaper showing during your session. It is not impossible to cover a diaper but it can be difficult depending on the photoshop skills of your photographer. As a photographer, I can tell you that it is not something that we want to do, especially if it can be easily avoided.
What to Bring to Your Photo Session: pack a tote or backpack.
Snacks, on Snacks, on Snacks and if necessary, treats to bribe kiddos with. PRO TIP: it is best not to tell the kids about the treats before the session (that is all you will hear about the whole session = meltdown city); wait until they are fatigued and over the session before you pull the treat card. They usually perk right up! Make sure the snack/treat won't stain fingers, clothes or lips.
Child's favorite toy/item - This can make the child feel safe and gives the photographer something to bond with the child and use for the child to focus on. This is solely up to the Parent's discretion - because there is a large chance the child will want photos with this item. PRO TIP: Do not bring too many toys - this can lead to sensory overload = meltdown city.
Any props items that you do want incorporate in the photos - Some examples: blanket, baseball mitt if you are doing Senior Photos or just want some playing catch, sign, photo, etc. Be sure to run this by your photographer beforehand.
Comfortable Shoes to walk from point A to B during the session.
Wet wipes (if you have kids of most ages).
Extra Clothes for the kids & yourselves depending on the Session Type.
If you are having an outdoor session I recommend that you spray everyone with bug spray when you arrive at the session (this is Texas).
Don't forget to bring: water, formula/milk, (For after the session).
If you are wearing makeup to your session - it wouldn't hurt to bring touch up makeup along with a mirror. (This is Texas - it is HOT!) PRO TIP: dab, dab, dab to reapply, to do rub.
If there is water at your location of choice, bring some towels & a plastic bag, just in case.
Grab that diaper bag too!
What to Ditch During Your Photo Session (leave in the car or at home):
Hair ties around the wrist.
Ball Caps that cover the face (this creates harsh shadows & limits posing options). Hats that are wide like cowboy hats or sunhats. etc. are great additions to a session.
Cell phones in ANY pocket - (do you want a square butt?) This is the request even for you Dad's in your front pockets.
Keys in pockets or on waistband (put inside the bag you brought along with you).
Please, PLEASE, be on Time To your Session. If you can't then communicate to your photographer. I am sure that this is a given but I want to elaborate on this a little bit. Part of the photographer's job is picking supreme light times for your session. If you are unable to get to the session on time, a major issue that can arise is loss of that perfect light conditions. It may be too dark by time you arrive or that golden hour glow that you were banking on in your photos may not be present. Depending on how long it will take you to get to your session after the scheduled time will be up to your photographer to continue or reschedule the session - I assure you it is not personal if they advise to reschedule. Photographer's would be in Heaven if we could control the sun. Another thing to consider is if you booked a mini session, which are usually several sessions back to back in short intervals, if you are late, you may go over your time slot and into the next person's time slot. Your photographer MAY be able to fit you in between other slots but don't hold it against them if they can't.
Believe me, I was born late, I get it. I promise even photographers are human, we understand that life happens and things come up randomly at the worst times; especially with kids. As much as you want the photos to be perfect, so do we and sometimes continuing a session is not the best idea if the good light conditions or your time slot is gone. The best thing you can do for yourself and your photographer if you are running late is to communicate, communicate, & communicate some more.
Know what happens after your session.
Communicate with your photographer to learn their process and make sure you know what to expect, so you are not surprised or upset later. For example, here is my post portrait session process (each photographer's will be different):
Within a few days the client will receive previews of their images posted on my Facebook Photography Page.
Images are available within 1 - 2 weeks from the time of the session.
Images are delivered via online gallery link with log in instructions in the body of the email. (your email & pin). Easy Peasy.
I send over a feedback request to make sure the client is satisfied photos and the session - If so, make sure that you leave a review for your photographer! It helps A LOT!
That is how to be prepared for your photo session to have the best experience and images possible. If this helped you prepare for your session or I missed something please let me know if the comments below!