How to prepare for your portrait photo shoot

You’ve chosen a portrait photographer but now you want to know how to prepare for your portrait photo shoot.  You’re investing your time and hard earned money on this so I’m sure you’ll want to leave with images you love and can proudly display for years to come.  So I’ve put together this handy guide for how to prepare for your portrait photo shoot to help make sure that happens.


There’s two main choices here.  ‘On location’ or in a studio.  If you’re looking for images that say something about who you are and what you do, like a musician in a recording studio or on stage (for example), a location style photo shoot is likely to work best for you.

If you simply need some headshots, go for a studio.

On Location

Location portrait shoot

If you have a particular place in mind, let your portrait photographer know.  If not, let them choose a place for you.  But ask them to give you around three options to choose from.  It’ll increase the chances of the photographer giving you an option you like.

If you can, give the photographer some pointers of what might be important to you.  But also allow them creative licence if you’re leaving the choice to them.  It’s what you’re paying them for.


Your choices are dramatically reduced here so leave it up to your portrait photographer to plan the studio.  You’ll likely to have a selection of backdrops to choose from which will help you get a few different types of shot.

The eyes are very powerful


Next, think about how you want the people you expect to be exposed to your images to see you.


Headshots work very well for creating an instant connection with the viewer.  The eyes are very powerful and are responsible for that connection due to being much closer and larger in the image.  I love head shots because they can be so powerful.  But they’re not always the right option.

Full length

Full length portrait

Sometimes, you need to tell the viewer more.  A full length body shot is one way to do that.  These types of shot work particularly well on location as it’s a natural side effect to include more of the background when shooting a full length portrait.


Perhaps you want a collection of images to tell more of a story.  This is my favourite thing to do.  You can include a mixture of headshots and full length images.  We can really start to have some fun building this narrative all about YOU!

When I shoot a series of images, I like to really get in to the who, what, when, where & why of the person in front of my camera.  For example, if you’re an athlete, I want to know about the commitment to your sport and what you put yourself through in training.  I want to know how you prepare for a competition, and how you reflect when it’s all over.


Clothing to complement the environment

Try to keep your wardrobe choices simple but stay true to who you are.  Again, you need to think about the purpose of your images.  If you’re getting corporate headshots, wear a plain shirt or blouse.  Going back to my athlete example from earlier, wear what you’d train in.

Avoid bright and saturated colours, like heavy reds or greens.  Blue/navy, burgundy, grey etc tends to look good on just about anyone.


Arrange to have your hair cut a week or two prior to your shoot.  It’ll clean up any split ends for the ladies and give the guys enough chance for it to grow back if your barber cuts it too short.

If you colour your hair, ensure this is also done within a week or two of your shoot.  Mismatching colours in your roots can be corrected in Photoshop, but will always look better when done naturally.

If you’d like your photographer to arrange a stylist on the day of your shoot, be sure to mention this to them.  They’ll usually be very happy to help out.

A good night’s sleep should not be underestimated


Similarly to what I mentioned in the section about clothes, try to avoid colours that are too bright when applying makeup.  Keep it light if doing it yourself.  Remember that what you apply is going to magnified on shots that are close-up. Blemishes can easily be removed by the portrait photographer in Photoshop so don’t worry about that.

Again, your portrait photographer can usually arrange a makeup artist for you if it’s something you’d like.  Personally, I’d recommend it as a professional makeup artist will know how makeup may respond differently under artificial lighting conditions that are used during flash photography.

Take a long hard look at yourself

Spend a few minutes the night before looking in the mirror.  Try to figure out if you have a favourite side.  Is there anything else you don’t like that you haven’t mentioned to your portrait photographer yet?  Maybe something has shown up that wasn’t there a week ago?

If there is, write it down and tell them when you arrive.  Your portrait photographer can either try to avoid capturing it, or should make a note to remove it in Photoshop.


A good night’s sleep should not be underestimated and doesn’t only apply to the night before your photo shoot.  Studies have shown that it takes 3-4 nights of decent sleep to recover from sleep deprivation.

Do what you can to ensure you arrive for your portrait photo shoot looking fresh as a daisy and no bags under the eyes.  Again your portrait photographer can correct tired looking eyes, they can’t correct your mouth if you’re not in the mood for smiling!

I hope this article about how to prepare for your portrait photo shoot has given you a few useful tips.  If you have any concerns or questions you’d like to ask me, even if you’re not booked for a shoot with me, I’ll be happy to answer them in the comments.  Alternatively, drop me an email, I’d love to hear from you.


There is no comment on this post. Be the first one.

Leave a comment