If you’re anything like me, you feel incredibly awkward in front of a camera. Even when my Instagram husband is taking my picture casually at home, I feel so stupid. What do I do with my arms? Should I look at you or down? Does my face look mean? Should I smile with teeth? Why is it suddenly so hard to remember to breathe when I’m smiling? Does this sound familiar at all?
When it came time to taking my maternity photos with Laurel + Prairie Storytelling Photography, I did some research, sought out advice, and relied on my photographer to help me, which is how I came up with some simple tips to follow as you prepare yourself or your family for a photo shoot.
All photo credits: Laurel + Prairie Storytelling
Dress: Sew Trendy Accessories
How to Prepare for a Photo Shoot
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Choose a photographer
Ask friends, family, or local Facebook groups for recommendations. Personal recommendations will speak volumes for a photographer that a website won’t be able to tell. Additionally, check out the work of your prospective photographers to see if her or his aesthetic is what you’re going for.
Set date and location
You may have a specific date in mind, but keep in mind that you may need to be flexible based on your photographer’s availability. Choose a location with lots of natural light, so ideally you’d pick an outdoor space. Local parks and arboretums make for beautiful locations, and you’ll want to consider the timing of your photo shoot if you’re working around any little ones’ schedules.
In my case, I chose my outfit before I had any photo shoot plans; I knew I had to have this maternity gown and it just so happened perfectly that I would be in my pregnancy prime for a winter shoot.
If you’re not dictating a whole photo shoot around a particular outfit, here are some tips on choosing your outfit(s):
Solid or pattern: If you’re taking individual photos, this choice doesn’t matter as much because you’re not coordinating with other people. However, you don’t want your pattern to detract from the most important part of the photo – YOU. A busy pattern can conflict with the scenery and from you, the subject, but a carefully chosen print can add visual interest and dimension to your photo.
Timeless clothing: Opt for clothing that isn’t too trendy or modern so that your photos won’t date themselves. Softer or neutral colors work well (with pops of color here and there), or you can let your background guide your color choice – I chose a dark navy to pop against the winter scenery. Tip: add some photo props or accessories, but not too much to make your photo too contrived or tacky.
Movement and comfort: You want to feel at ease and natural in your photos, and a great way to do that is by physically making yourself comfortable. Choose clothes that have movement, aren’t constricting, and allow you to move, walk, jump, dance, twirl or whirl! Putting yourself or your kids in comfortable clothes will make for happy, relaxed subjects.
Compliment the location: Consider your location when choosing your clothes. Are you taking pictures in a field of red poppies? Then a pink and purple floral dress would certainly clash. Allow your clothes to compliment your location or choose to purposefully contrast for an interesting juxtaposition (think chic, elegant gown in a rustic location).
Coordinate outfits, don’t match: If multiple people are in the photo, you’ll achieve the best look if you’re not too matchy matchy – gone are the days of family jean shirts with khakis (thank goodness) and in are the days of using a color palate and style to guide outfits. Try choosing one outfit that has a pattern, for instance, and drawing inspiration from that for the other looks in terms of coordinating colors in that palate. See how my husband’s checked shirt is pulled together by my daughter and me? This is much more pleasing and natural than us all wearing navy blue.
If you want to get your hair cut or colored before a photo shoot, be sure to give yourself or your kids at least a few days for it to settle in. Freshly cut and colored hair may look too manufactured in photos if they’re taken the day of or day after, so give it some time for a more natural look.
I opted to add in my Irresistible Me Remy hair extensions (mine are 14” in honey blonde, weight 140). While I love the ease of us with these clip in hair pieces and that I can simply style my hair myself, I spoiled myself at Hair to Stay Salon the morning of my photos so I had one less thing to worry about. Plus, at 35 weeks pregnant at the time of the shoot, my stylist made my otherwise blah self feel like a super model.
These extensions not only make my hair look and feel amazing, but they’re completely natural looking and above all, made me feel confident, something I often lack in front of the camera. For me, adding in these hair pieces for a photo shoot is a no-brainer.
Whether you’re doing your own hair or having it done, here are some pointers for you:
- Natural: don’t go crazy with a new ‘do, intricate updo, or something totally not your normal style. You won’t look and feel yourself and a hair style that is too contrived isn’t as flattering.
- Volume: add a little volume to your crown by teasing the under layers of hair and smoothing out the top. Think sublte va-va-voom, not pageant queen.
My best advice for doing your makeup is to not overthink it! Whenever I have a special night out or event, I spend so much time on my makeup, trying to do interesting eyes or contouring, things I never normally do, and I always end up not liking my look. Tip: get in your beauty rest whenever, wherever : ) Apparently I got a little sleepy, but that’s okay, because I can show off my eye shadow!
My makeup routine:
- Foundation: Start with a fresh face with a good medium coverage matte foundation (stay away from any shiny and sparkling products – they won’t photograph well). My holy-grail go-to’s are Estee Lauder Double Wear, Senegence MakeSense, or Fit Me. Make sure to blend well all over, including into your hair line and neck.
- Set it with a matte powder with a fluffy powder brush.
- Apply bronzer to your cheekbones, outer border of your forehead, a bit down the sides of your nose, and a touch by your jaw line for dimension. Don’t crazy contour but you can go a little more heavy-handed than your everyday look because photos can wash you out. For this look, I used Bare Minerals Warmth but others I use are Emani Minerals Pressed Bronzer and Physicians Formula Organic Wear.
- Apply blush to the apples of your cheek blending upwards. Make sure everything is blended well.
- I use long-lasting eyeshadow from Senegence (Shadowsense in colors pearl and mocha java) – it REFUSES to crease and lasts all day and night. I follow with Maybelline Lasting Drama Gel Eyeliner eyeliner close to my lash line and several layers of black mascara.
- I finish by doing my lips (always Lipsense – budge proof, smudge proof, long-lasting, kiss proof lippies – contact me or comment below to try it for yourself!) and then finish with a matte setting spray.
- This whole routine takes me no more than 7 minutes, and it lasted me all day and night (applied at 7 a.m. and lasted through an 8:30 p.m. return home from dinner).
Ever since I was a little girl, people have always commented on my posture. In a sea of hundreds of kids in the orchestra or choir, my family could pick me out easily for my erect posture; it’s something that comes naturally to me and that I also pride myself on.
Being mindful of your posture will add SO much to your photos; you will appear more confident, poised, and it will give you a beautiful neck line.
Whenever I’m not feeling it when my husband is taking my pictures, he can tell – my face tenses up into a forced, awkward smile and he just tells me to be natural. Actually laugh. Don’t try. Just be yourself.
Your photographer should be able to direct you if, like me, you’re not a natural. If you don’t know what to do, just ask!
Overall, if you have a good photographer, she will be able to put your nerves at ease and provide you with tips and tricks of her own. Remember, don’t force it – from clothing and your poses to hair and makeup, just keep it simple, don’t overthink it, and don’t overdo it.
What are your best tips and tricks for preparing for photos?