Portrait Session Style Guide
What Every Client Needs to Know
I'm so excited for your portrait session! Photographing people is my speciality. Whether I'm capturing your sweet family, or celebrating a special moment in your life, such as graduation, new baby, or anniversary, I'm so honored to help you create memories you’ll cherish for a lifetime. I've created this guide to help you get the most out of your photos, and by the time you’ve read through this guide, you'll have all your questions answered and feel more than ready and prepared for your session. Then I’ll take care of the rest! Your only job is to be yourself, laugh a lot and let me create photos you’ll love forever. I can’t wait to get you in front of my camera!
Choosing Time & Date
I’m a natural light specialist because I believe that natural light, from the sun and its reflections, creates photographs that feel fresh, timeless and truest to you. I begin all portrait sessions two hours before the scheduled sunset during “the golden hour,” when the light is the dreamiest. Use a sunset calculator online to determine the scheduled sunset for the date and location you’d like to do your session. Then, just subtract two hours to figure out your start time. Remember, the sun sets much earlier during the colder months of the year and much later during the warmer months, so make sure to factor that in when choosing your portrait session date, especially if you’re taking off work or have evening plans afterward. To get the most out of your session, please plan a buffer when getting ready so you can arrive a few minutes early to your session and be ready to start on time. I’m only able to shoot when natural light is still in the sky, so we’ll want to take advantage of every minute we have together before the sun goes down. If you’re wearing two outfits, save your favorite one for the second half, and if you’re wearing one, arrive in that.
Selecting the Right Location
The location of your portrait session is up to you! Like you see throughout this guide, most of my clients choose to showcase the natural beauty of Arizona. For most of my sessions, outdoor, open-air environments are always my first choice. I love shooting in wide-open natural spaces because the light is divine, especially during golden hour. There are great options all around town, so even if you've never seen me photograph in a specific spot before, I'm always up for exploring a new spot together! Just let me know which type of session you’d love and we’ll go from there!
Style Tips: For Her
Because you always want to remember this.
Don’t Be Afraid to Dress It Up
This is your chance to dress it up! Remember: There is no such thing as “too dressed up” when it comes to your portrait session, so don’t be afraid to have some fun! Dresses with heels are a great option. Heels help elongate the legs and dresses are fun to twirl in! Light flowy dresses add lots of movement to images. As for my indigenous clients, I absolutely adore traditional outfits and moccasins!!!
Quick Tip: There’s no such thing as too dressed up.
Say Yes to the Dress
Dresses and skirts look most stunning because they really flatter every female body, especially on camera — which is probably why the red carpet is always full of so many dresses and not very many pantsuits! I recommend avoiding pants and shorts for your session, and saying yes to a dress or two instead.
Long, full-length, flowy dresses and skirts look amazing on camera because they bring extra movement to the photos. Especially when juxtaposed with nature, like the desert, forest, plains or beach. Consider softer fabrics like chiffon or tulle which allow for beautiful movement in the images.
When considering the length of your dresses or skirts, it’s also a good idea to factor in whether or not there will be little ones in your photos. If you have smaller children, I’ll likely have you sitting or crouching on the ground to interact up-close with them. Cute, shorter cocktail-length dresses photograph beautifully, but if you have little ones in your photos, a floor-length dress or skirt, or perhaps a cute midi-skirt, will make moving around with your kids much easier, and look perfect on camera, too.
If you’re an expecting mother, I recommend floor-length gowns or maxi dresses. These dresses create the best silhouettes to flatter your figure and really highlight your bump. A lot of expecting mothers love to incorporate floral headpieces as well.
One or Two? It’s Up to You!
You can bring one outfit set or two! Most of my clients who choose two outfits will bring one “wow” dress, and then another slightly more casual dress that has a “date night” feel. But if you want to bring two “wow” dresses and forgo the more casual dress altogether, give yourself permission to do it! The camera loves runway-esque apparel and so do I!
Remember, though, you don’t have to bring two looks if it’s too stressful to coordinate or if you’d rather just stick to one fabulous look. One outfit that you love will be so much better than one outfit you love and another you’re not very excited about. And if you stick with one outfit set, you won’t have to spend any of your time changing half way through, so we’ll be able to sneak in a few more photos! So, one or two? It’s really up to you!
When choosing colors for your outfits, I recommend selecting either lighter tones or more colorful shades. Lighter tones will bring more attention to your facecolors, it will help bring all the attention to your faces and lets the eye focus on the way you feel about each other. Brighter colors pop off the desert landscape. Jewel tones photograph beautifully, such as sapphire, emerald, or smoky quartz. The camera also loves shades of pink and blues, mixed with sophisticated neutrals like heather gray, cream, leather brown and white. Pops of color can be added in your jewelry, scarves or in flowers. Try to keep solid blacks and reds to a minimum. It photographs very heavy and fights my more light and airy photography style. Instead opt for a lighter color like heather gray, charcoal gray or navy. If you’re not sure please text me an image of your outfits and I can help you decide.
Flattering Your Features
In my experience, every woman, regardless of her shape has an area of her body that she’s self-conscious about, so recognizing what area that is in advance is key. Choosing flattering silhouettes and colors that complement your natural features is the best way to ensure you’ll love the way you look in your photos.
Three-quarter length sleeves create an awesome slimming effect on all arms, so be on the lookout for an option with a longer length sleeve. You could also bring a cute jacket, blazer or cardigan along, too. Skinny straps or strapless dresses have the opposite effect on arms on camera, so I recommend avoiding those whenever possible if your goal is a set of slimmer-looking arms.
Heels elongate women’s legs, making them look fabulous. Closed-toed heels in particular look great on camera because they carry out the line of your leg all the way down to your toe. If your toes are showing in a peep-toe heel, you might want to schedule a pedicure before your session so you don’t regret letting your feet show. These little tricks make all the difference!
Quick Tip: Bring a pair of easy-to-kick-off flats to wear when moving from place to place in between photos. Your feet will thank you later!
Make a Statement
Pairing an accessory or two with your outfit can really help bring some extra dimension to your images, and be a nice tie-in when you’re coordinating with a group. Big statement necklaces bring a lot of pop to the photos, like squash blossoms (my personal favorite!) while the smaller, delicate ones are not as noticeable on camera.
Belts, bracelets and earrings bring great visual interest, so choose one or two that don’t compete for attention. Fresh florals in your hair can be a really romantic touch for you or your girls as well.
Go Pro: Hair & Makeup
Professional hair and makeup is on the top of most of my clients’ checklists because it looks amazing on camera and removes the stress of getting ready on your own. This is the time to treat yourself! Whether it’s lash extensions or blown-out hair, professional hair and makeup will give you an extra boost of confidence in front of the camera, and it always photographs like a dream. If you’re working with a makeup artist, have her apply your makeup in natural light, if possible, so that it looks fresh and not too heavy. Plus, that’s the type of light I’ll be shooting in, so it’ll give you the best expectation of how it will translate on camera. Most of my clients feel like their professional makeup is “too much” at first, since it’s more than you would wear on a normal day, or that they're false lashes look too big, so if you feel that way at the beginning, don’t worry! Good makeup artists know how to get it all just right for the camera — and my clients always love the final result. If you need a recommendation for hair and makeup, I work with the best in the business and have a go-to team! They’re sweet as pie, talented as heck, unbelievable professionals and wonderful people. You’ll LOVE them! Just let me know and I’ll send you their information. I know they’ll take good care of you!
Quick Tip: Confidence. It’s always the best accessory.
Skip the Spray Tan
Although it might seem counter-intuitive, I recommend that you do not get a spray tan before your session, even a few days prior, because it tends to photograph orange even when it’s applied subtly and by a professional. Your actual skin tone will photograph the most beautifully and naturally.
Fashion Tips: For Him
Because dapper and debonair never go out of style.
The Best Fit
Long, fitted pants and closed-toed shoes are the most sophisticated and masculine looks for men. They draw attention away from his legs and feet and place it where you want it: on his handsome face. So, for your session, it’s best to leave the shorts, sandals and ripped jeans at home, as well as any pants that are loose or baggy. Fitted dress pants or fitted colored pants work best on camera. Solid shades of gray or navy are a strong complement to most women’s outfits, whereas pinstripes or plaid patterns tend to distract the eye. I also recommend staying away from graphics and logos.
Next time you walk by a store like J. Crew, you’ll notice the male mannequins and models are always wearing several layers at once. Layers on men look great on camera, so even when it’s hot outside, trust us when we say that it’s worth an hour or two of discomfort for photos that will last you both a lifetime. Adding another layer will bring extra dimension and visual interest to your photos. Blazers, vests and coats up the level of any look. If the temperature permits, he could even consider adding a v-neck sweater with a pop of color from a long-sleeved collared shirt and tie underneath. Don’t be afraid to get a little creative with layers!
Mix It Up
Many of my guys love to mix a suit coat, blazer or sport coat with a different pant color. It adds some extra visual interest, and breaks up the color tones. I'm a big fan of this fresh take on a timeless classic.
It’s All in the Details
Brown leather dress shoes complement almost every look, whether he’s wearing a full suit or a blazer and colored pants. Ties, bowties, pocket squares, colored socks, belts, tie clips, suspenders, vests and watches are sharp complements to any outfit for men and boys alike. If you bring two outfits to the session, you can start with a traditional necktie and belt, then switch to suspenders and a bow tie for your second look. If two looks are too stressful, no problem! One will do the trick! You can still mix and match accessories to complement both of her dresses without doing a full change during the session. So, either way, it's a win.
How to Prep Your Man
Most men aren’t overly excited to take photos for two hours, because they don’t have an expectation of what’s to come and why it’s so important to you. Take fifteen minutes to educate and empower your guy. Trust me, once he knows it’s important, he’ll light up the camera for you! The most common thing I hear from guys before photo sessions is this: because of a bad experience in the past, they don’t like taking photos or don’t think they’ll be good at it. By the time we’re done, though, they can’t believe how fast it went and just how much fun they had!
Photo Delivery Timeline
I will tag you on Instagram for a sneak peek with one of my favorite photos. These are quick edit proofs. I will need the full 14 days to complete your gallery. I take pride in my editing style. I make sure my images are consistent and are color corrected. I only deliver the best of the best!
Your online gallery with all of your final, enhanced photos will be ready. I will email you the link to your gallery along with instructions for downloading. This is a great time to place your print order with me!
One Final Note
I know I just gave you a lot to think about. I created this guide to help make your portrait session experience something you’ll look back fondly on for years and years to come. At the end of the day, though, the location you choose and the outfits you select won’t matter nearly as much as the memories you make together. I want your portrait session to be a time for you to just be yourselves and enjoy it. Have fun together. Laugh a lot. And I’ll take care of the rest!
Portrait Session Checklist
1. Set date, time and location with Jen
2. Review guide for style tips
3. Schedule hair, makeup and nail appointments
4. Choose your outfits
5. Pack a bag with:
- Flats or flip-flops for walking between photo spots
- Second outfit (if you’re doing two)
- Touch-up makeup
- Water bottle (for warmer sessions)
- Coat or cover-up (for colder sessions)
- Snacks for the little ones
- If you have a toddler or younger, small eye-catching toys (or lollipops) to hold their attention
I can’t wait to see you soon!