How To Prepare For Your Family Portrait Session

When it comes to getting the most out of your professional photography session, there are some very simple steps you can take to ensure you really get the best results possible. I have provided a list of do’s and don’ts with an explanation as to why it’s important to incorporate the suggestion into your session.

Avoid White

Wearing solid white leads to a couple of complications in photography, including overexposure. But, what’s worse is that even if the exposure is perfect, large areas of white overpower the photograph. This means that when people look at it, they are automatically drawn to the large areas of white, rather than to the true subject matter: you. Avoid wearing solid white in your photograph to get the best results.

Avoid Salty and Fatty Foods 

Eating foods high in sodium or fat causes the body to retain water, which results in bloating. To avoid looking bloated on camera, avoid salty or fatty foods for several days prior to your shoot and drink plenty of water. Staying hydrates actually slims the face.


If you are uncomfortable, your face will show it and it will come through in your photographs. Don’t dress overly formally if it is uncomfortable. Dress comfortably in clothing that fits well. Overly tight clothing will result in discomfort while overly baggy clothing adds the illusion of weight.

Dry skin

Moisturize well for several days before your shoot to minimize the appearance of dry skin. Drink plenty of water and remain hydrated as well to improve skin tone and the appearance of your skin. Focus on your face, arms, shoulders, neck and hands…basically any area of skin that will be visible in the photograph. Be generous with the lotion and spend time exfoliating the skin 24 hours or so before your shoot in order to get the best results.

Wearing Matching Outfits

The biggest misconception people have about photographs is that if there are multiple subjects, everyone has to match. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Everyone has a distinct personality and this should shown in the photograph. Subjects should coordinate, however. This means that everyone should agree on a color family in order to prevent clashing, but at the end of the day, everyone should get to wear what makes them comfortable.

Facial Hair

Having facial hair is a personal choice. For those who wish to have a clean shaven look, shave with a new razor and use shaving cream and a moisturizing aftershave lotion in order to prevent razor burn and unsightly bumps and nicks. For those who wish to have facial hair, make sure it is well groomed and properly trimmed to prevent it from becoming unruly and ultimately the center of attention in your photograph.

For women, hair removal is a must, even if the hair is light. Wax your facial hair well in advance of your shoot to avoid having red, irritated skin. Eyebrow waxing should be done several days prior to the photo shoot as well.


For people who wear their glasses regularly, you should wear your glasses during the shoot. However, you can remove the lenses for the shoot in order to prevent glare. If you don’t want to risk damaging your glasses, ask your eye care professional to loan you a pair of similar frames for this purpose. For those who only wear glasses for reading or working on computers, skip the glasses altogether.


If you plan on getting a haircut prior to your photo shoot, have it cut several weeks before you plan on having your portrait taken. This will give you time to deal with any catastrophes if they were to occur. Men can have a trim done up to several days prior to the shoot. For ladies, bring plenty of hair accessories including pins, hairbands and other clips in order to allow yourself the opportunity to get a couple of different looks in your shoot as well as providing you an out in the event your style is mussed by inclement weather.


Take care to iron your clothing prior to the shoot and don’t wear anything to your appointment that wrinkles easily. You can change clothes once you reach the studio. Bring a steam iron to put the finishing touches on your ironing job at the studio.


Always bring denim jeans to your photo shoot. They are the perfect go-to piece for casual photographs and look great on everyone. If you don’t know what to wear, simply bring your favorite pair of jeans.

Dress for Your Skin Tone

People with fair complexions should avoid light colored clothing. Conversely, people with darker complexions should avoid darker clothing. Wearing clothing that matches your skin tone will not provide adequate contrast and result in you fading into your clothing. Dress in opposite colors in order to provide good contrast.


If you have an item that you think will add meaning to your portrait, bring it with you. Many props can be easily incorporated into a photo session and can add interest and meaning to your photographs. Bringing personal items can help make your session more meaningful.

Red Eyes

If you are suffering from dry or irritated eyes, bring Visine with you to your shoot. You should use it well before you apply your makeup to prevent runs, but you should also bring it just in case your red eyes make a repeat appearance.


Your shoes are as unique as you are. Choose shoes that compliment your outfit and make you look great. Heels, wedges, and boots always look great for women and men can wear dress shoes and boots. Steer clear of running shoes or sandals unless you are shooting a completely casual look. And even then, bare feet might be preferable to athletic shoes.

Keep Clothing Simple

You can wear either solids or patterns, but busy small patterns can be distracting and cause you to fade into the background in favor of your outfit. Try to keep your outfit choice to a dull roar. Bright colors are ok, but avoid neons.   See our page on What to Wear for Your Family Portrait Session.

Makeup and Lips

Having your makeup done professionally is a great way to ensure that your makeup is spot on. Professionals understand that makeup techniques differ for photo shoots than daily looks. However, it can be expensive and make it tough to touchup in the event that something happens to it. Bring touchup makeup wherever possible to ensure that smudges and normal fade can be addressed in between shoots.

If you choose to do your makeup yourself, go heavier with your application and make sure that you highlight your features.


Pamper yourself and get a manicure prior to your shoot. If you can’t accommodate a full manicure, do one yourself at home. Take the time to moisturize your hands and add a fresh coat of polish to your nails. Choose a neutral color that will go with the outfits you choose.

Tan Lines & Sunburns

It is important to make sure that you don’t spend a lot of time outdoors or at a tanning bed right before your photo shoot. If you get burned, there is no way to hide it in the photograph. And tan lines are as unsightly as sunburns. If you get burned, make sure to use plenty of aloe vera to prevent peeling prior to your session.


As with your clothing options, you should bring additional undergarment options to ensure that it fits appropriately underneath the clothing options you choose. This will ensure that your undergarments stay where they belong, under your clothes.


For those wishing to whiten their smiles, start treatments several weeks prior to your shoot in order to get the best results and give you the time to correct any issues that might arise after your treatment.

Extra Clothing Options

Bring plenty of clothing options to choose from. Limiting yourself to only having one or two outfits not only limits your choices during the photo shoot, it also limits the choices you have for backgrounds and poses. Bring plenty of choices and give yourself plenty of options.


Preventing breakouts is much easier than trying to cover them up. A few days prior to your shoot, start using African Black Bar Soap religiously to wash your face, neck, shoulders and any other area that is prone to pimples. If you find that you do have a few pimples on the day of your shoot, don’t try to cover them up with makeup. This only makes them more noticeable. There are plenty of retouching applications that can remove them.

These tips aren’t a hard and fast list of things to do and not do for your photo shoot. They are designed as a guide to help you achieve the best results. If you are unsure about something, calling and asking for advice is always better than guessing. Regardless, your photo session should be enjoyable and stress-free. As a professional photographer, I will do everything I can to make you look your best and create the best portraits possible.


  • February 18, 2016 - 3:46 pm

    laura - oh my goodness, i love how thorough this list on “how to prepare for your portrait session”. the information on glasses and visiting your eye doctor to grab a spare pair of empty frames for the photo session is great. i have never thought of that and i wear my glasses all the time. this is worth repeating, i love this list!ReplyCancel

  • February 18, 2016 - 5:04 pm

    Jamie - Great article on how to prepare for a family portrait session. Lots of tips here I never would have even thought of. Just another reason to book with someone that knows their stuff! 🙂ReplyCancel

  • February 18, 2016 - 5:49 pm

    Corey - Great tips on how to prepare for a portrait session! Not everyone thinks of all these when scheduling their photography experience!ReplyCancel

  • February 18, 2016 - 8:40 pm

    Melanie - You have done a fantastic job to help prepare your clients for their family portrait session. This will help their session flow so much better!ReplyCancel

  • February 18, 2016 - 10:48 pm

    Sara - This is full of great information on preparing for a family session. So many client’s simply have no idea how to prepare, and what to wear/avoid wearing. Great info!ReplyCancel

  • February 19, 2016 - 4:11 am

    ashley eiban - thanks for sharing! you’re clients are going to LOVE these tips as they are planning for their sessions with you! there are so many tips and tricks here that most people wouldn’t think about!ReplyCancel

  • February 19, 2016 - 3:37 pm

    Ashley - SO much great information for portrait sessions! I totally agree about white shirts, you want people looking at you, not your shirt! Complementing colors are fantastic for sessions instead of everyone looking exactly the same. My favorite bit of advice is to have your make up professionally done!! It’s amazing the difference it makes in your photos.ReplyCancel

  • February 20, 2016 - 5:37 am

    Christine D - These are great tips to give for a photo session! Each one is important, but the shoes one may be one of the best. I have seen so many portraits that would have been perfect except for a neon pair of shoes.ReplyCancel

  • February 20, 2016 - 7:58 am

    Brenden - Wow, lots of tips on how prepare for a family photo session. I think this is a great list for those wanting a lot of detail and like to prepare! You explained everything so well.ReplyCancel

  • February 21, 2016 - 2:14 am

    Kathy - Awesome tips for how to prepare for your family photo session! Prepping for photos with your family can be so stressful, you hit on so many people that would make the process run more smoothly!ReplyCancel

  • February 21, 2016 - 11:18 pm

    Alyssa - Wow, this is great! Knowing what to or how to prep for a family session can be so confusing…especially for moms. But you have made it so simple, I am certain families will appreciate this! Love the details to, its hard to think of things like painted or chipped nail polish!ReplyCancel

  • February 22, 2016 - 3:38 am

    Samantha - Such valuable tips for families as they plan their session! All of these tips don’t not only make people look great in photos but a lot of the tips will help people just “feel” better in general. When you pamper yourself and take care of yourself you feel better about yourself and when you’re confident your photos will show it!ReplyCancel

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