It was 6:00 p.m. the night before our Saturday morning engagement session, and I realized I didn’t have anything to wear.
We had planned the locations with our photographer, Mark. We had set the meeting time. We knew the overall feel we wanted our photos to have. But I didn’t have a shirt.
By 6:00 p.m. the night before our Saturday morning engagement session, I should have had a shirt.
If you’re planning engagement photos or a portrait session sometime soon, there are questions you’ll inevitably discuss with your photographer — what should you wear (yeah, I skipped that step . . .), where you should go, when you should expect to see your pictures. But what about the things you shouldn’t do? (Like run to White House Black Market 45 minutes before closing time to ransack their racks for the perfect white top.)
There are a lot more “shoulds” than “shouldn’ts” when it comes to photography. There are some things you’ll be better off without, though. So here’s a quick list that will hopefully help make your photo shoot easier on you, and easier on the eyes, too.
1.) Skip the sun.
A tan looks great. A bright red sunburn does not. Leading up to your photo shoot, if you have to be out in the sun, make sure you’re slathering on the sunscreen! Even if you’re not lobster-hued at the shoot, you might want to work to avoid tan lines, too; many photographers won’t be willing or even able to remove tan lines after the fact, while the majority of photographers who can edit away tan lines will charge you an extra editing fee. We live in Florida, so we’ve definitely photographed brides with tan lines, and edited some out as well, though we generally don’t offer that level of retouching. If you’re happy with that look, it’s fine. If it’s something you don’t want in the pictures hanging on your walls, take steps to make sure you’ll have the skin tone you do want.
2.) Cut back on sodium.
At our rehearsal dinner, we had Thai food catered from one of our favorite restaurants in town. Which would have been just fine, but Danny was in a celebratory mood, so he ate a second helping. Which meant lots of sodium. Which meant he retained water. Which meant his face looked rounder and fuller on our wedding day — and in all our wedding pictures — than it does on every other day. It’s become a bit of a joke for the two of us, but it’s true: What you eat can and will influence how you look for your photo shoot, so if sodium makes you retain water, lay off for a few days. If alcohol makes your eyes appear bloodshot, don’t drink the night before. The same goes for any other food that makes you look or feel bloated.
3.) Avoid “dangerous” work and chores.
Like tan lines, cuts and scrapes aren’t high on most people’s wish list for what they’d like to see in their portraits, so activities that involve hand tools or anything else that potentially dings up your hands, arms, legs, and especially face, are probably better off saved for after the photo shoot. An example from my own life: I spent a week cutting roof shingles one summer on a mission trip. My hands were filled with metal splinters, because I couldn’t measure and cut accurately if I wore gloves. And my cuticles got all ripped up — definitely not how I would want my hands to look in a closeup of my engagement ring! Most minor scratches we can edit away, but not as cleanly as if they weren’t there in the first place.
4.) Wait for a brave new haircut . . . or any other first-time grooming procedures.
A facial might seem like a great idea to make sure your skin is flawless, or right before a photo shoot might seem like the perfect time to spring for that leg wax or dramatic haircut. But my advice is to give everything a test run well in advance of the photo shoot. You never know how your skin will react to a procedure or new product, and you never know how much you’ll actually like (or loathe) a new hairstyle or color. So leave yourself plenty of time for the effects to wear off, or grow out. If you were happy with the procedure/hairstyle, have it done again 3-7 days before your photo shoot.
5.) Forget doing anything that makes you feel less confident.
So far we’ve been talking about things that are purely physical — but how you look in your pictures will largely be determined by how you feel. As a photographer, it’s my job to help you relax and have a fun time, but my job is going to be a lot harder, and you’re going to be a lot less likely to respond well, if you are coming off the low of doing something that makes you feel like less than a success. Instead, do the opposite: Do something that makes you feel wonderful and proud of yourself before your photo shoot, whether that’s tidying your house or exercising or, yes, quite possibly, shopping.
BONUS — because this one is important, but has more to do with what happens during the photo shoot itself than anything you do or don’t do beforehand. . . .
6.) Don’t bring along an entourage.
Some people get a kick out of watching their friends or family have portraits taken, but this only works in rare instances. I’ve seen it work wonderfully, such as the time a bride’s relatives tagged along to handle the train of her gown during a bridal shoot, and when the mother of a groom came to an engagement session and helped the bride remember things like fixing her hair a certain way and a couple of specific poses she’d thought up earlier in the day. But I’ve also seen it become a problem. Having an audience can make you feel extremely self-conscious, which leads to unnatural and stilted pictures; the added people can also become a distraction, or an annoyance. So in almost all instances, it’s better to leave friends and family behind. (And if friends and family do come along, I am the kind of photographer who will politely ask them to leave if they become a problem.)
So, I hope these quick tips help as you prep for your photo shoot, whether it’s a family portrait session or your wedding day! Is there anything I’m missing or anything that you think missed the mark?
Besides my own photo session wardrobe fiasco — believe me, I didn’t wait until the last minute when it came to my wedding gown!