How to Prepare for your Portrait Session



filed in


If you’re reading this, it’s because of one of these two reason. Reason #1: you’re planning on booking a portrait session or Reason #2: you’ve already booked one are in desperate need of some tips. Well, you’ve come to the right place! Prep work for your portrait session can seem like such a hustle but is absolutely CRUCIAL when it comes to making sure you are 100% comfortable in front of the camera. Over the years I’ve developed a TON of tips and tricks to show you the best practices on how to prepare for your portrait session!

Communicate with your Photographer

Communication is key with anything but especially when you’re working with a photographer. Unfortunately, us photographers haven’t developed the skill to read minds yet so it’s up to you to make sure you tell us what you’re looking for! We will always give you suggestions based on the information that you’ve given us, but if you are uncomfortable about something or really have a certain vision make sure to voice it. This can go a long way especially when you’re wanting something specific.

Key points:

  • Does your photographer understand your vision?
  • Is your photographer willing to help bring this vision to life?
  • Do you enjoy their editing style?
  • How hands-on are they in the process?

Pre-Plan Locations & Times


The location and time of your portrait session are incredibly important. The time of day, where you’re shooting can all factor in on your images’ final results. If you’re planning on shooting in a studio or in a home, things like lighting have to be taken into account. Are there enough windows or natural light coming in? Does your photographer need to bring their own lighting equipment? These are just some of the many questions that should be answered prior to actually being at your session! If you are shooting at an outside location, what is the weather going to be like? Unfortunately thanks to Mother Nature, we do not have the ability to control the weather. In turn, this leaves any shoots that we schedule outdoors to become unpredictable which could lead to you & your photographer rescheduling. Make sure that you keep in mind what location you’re shooting at and does it fit the vision that you’re looking for.


While location plays a big role in your portrait session, so does the time! A common favorite is golden hour, especially if you’re looking for that sun kissed look. However that might not be your cup of tea and that’s totally fine too! If you didn’t know, most photographers refrain from shooting mid-day due to direct sunlight which can cause harsh lighting & shadows. However, this may be the look that you’re going for! If you’re looking for more moody type portraits, having your session around blue hour may be another option for you. Whichever you choose, just remember that the time of day matters and can influence how your photos turn out!

Fun fact: Did you know that there are 2 golden hours in a day? Early morning & Sunset!

Don’t Try Anything New TOO Soon

Maybe you just got that new face wash or want to try a new self tanner before your shoot. Before you go testing all of the fun new things that you just got, be wear of how close you are to your portrait session. The last thing that anybody wants is to have an allergic reaction to a new product just days before your portraits (and yes… this does happen). Always give yourself an ample amount of time to test out any new products so that we don’t have to run into any mishaps!

Pick out your Outfits Early

Choosing your outfits ahead of time is a LIFE SAVER. I know that most people do this step, but you’d be surprised the amount of people who wait last minute to plan their outfits. Hello – procrastinator right here!! If you suffer from procrastinator syndrome then you may be known for leaving things until last minute. This is me telling you right now DON’T DO IT! Most of the time if you’re ever needing help choosing outfits, your photographer will give you some inspiration of the do’s & dont’s. Some quick tips for you to follow:

  • When in doubt, go neutral
  • Avoid neons & heavy patterns as this can distract from the main subject (aka YOU)
  • Less is ALWAYS more
  • Wear clothes that you feel comfortable in, don’t step TOO outside of the box unless you’re ready for it

Tip: Gather inspiration from sessions that you’re photographer has previously shot or put together a Pinterest inspo board and share it with your photographer! This can help us tremendously especially in gauging what type of vision you’re looking for. Speaking of Pinterest boards, if you’re ever in need of some inspo feel free to check out my Pinterest here!

Always have a Backup Plan

Remember that thing I said about Mother Nature and weather? Yeah, well at times this can lead to your session have to be moved to a different location or rescheduled all together. While of course we don’t want any of this to happen, it’s always good to keep in a mind a backup plan! I am big planner at heart, but I always recommend anyone who schedules a session to always keep a backup plan/backup location in mind just in case the weather calls for your location to be inaccessible. Not only that, but if there are road closures/park closures or something else happens and we don’t have access to your specific portrait location, having a backup plan is always the right way to go.

Get Permits if Needed

This is something that tends to get overlooked but can be incredibly important, especially the day of your session. For many locations like National Parks, museums or restricted locations they make require you to buy a permit in order to photograph there. Permits can vary in pricing, so keep that in mind if you’re looking to shoot at a specific location! Us photographers, while many of us are risk takers at heart, we don’t want to get in any trouble. So make sure you communicate with your photographer if there are permits required & if there are any photo/video restrictions. Again… COMMUNICATION IS KEY!

Tip: Visit the website of the location that you’re wanting to shoot and see if they require a permit to photograph there!

Bring Props if Necessary

Props can be a big help especially if you suffer from “I don’t know what to do with my hands” syndrome! One of the biggest obstacles that many people face when they come to their portrait session is not knowing what to do with their hands. I mean they just sort of dangle there… Props help you feel more comfortable and relaxed and can create so much dimension and depth in your images! If you want to read some more about props, I have a blog post all about it – just click here!

Some examples are:

  • Umbrella
  • Hat
  • Scarf
  • Flowers/Bouquet
  • Wine Glasses/Mugs
  • Food or Snack
  • Books

Especially if you’re bringing along little ones to a session, you want to make sure that they are fully occupied. Small little toys and items that keep the little ones still can help a TON when you’re trying to get portraits taken. You would rather have photos with toys than with sad/angry little faces!

Remember to Have Fun!

Out of everything that I’ve listed here today, just remember to have fun! Easier said than done though, right? WRONG. Your portrait session should be with a photographer who you trust and you feel comfortable expressing your questions & concerns. It’s our jobs as the photographer to make sure that you are feeling in top top shape for your session, so providing you with these tips and tips on how to prepare for your portrait session is the least I could do.

Now I don’t want you to look back at this long post and get overwhelmed, because it should be the exact opposite! Take these tips with you when you’re deciding to book portrait session. Moral of the story: focus on the kind of photos you’re wanting to capture, communicate with your photographer and remember to just have fun!

If you’re in the mood to check out and more of my helpful tips, check out my blog on How to Choose the Perfect Location for your Engagement Session.


  1. […] how to prepare for your engagement session, then guess what! I’ve got you on that too! Just click here to read the blog I wrote all about preparing for your portrait […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

(it's free!)


Your wedding day should be full of joy, celebration, and love - not stress! I've created this Perfect Wedding Timeline just for you so you can truly enjoy every moment of your special day (and that amazing cake you picked out)!



six tips for a

Your wedding day should be full of joy, celebration, and love - not stress! I've created this Perfect Wedding Timeline just for you so you can truly enjoy every moment of your special day (and that amazing cake you picked out)!

Grab Your Guide