Preparing for a session

General portrait session

The Basic 6 outfits. They should be brought to every photo shoot along with shoot-specific outfits. Best to have something and not need it as opposed to needing it and it’s not there. Other outfits/props can be added depending on the intent of the shoot.
They are:
Good fitting jeans/white tank/shirt
Sunday casual
Dress up/night out outfit
Business
Seasonal
Out of the box – prom dresses, bridal, something that shows your unique style, etc.

Plus the outfits you plan on wearing during the session. If we were doing a beach session you’d bring the Basic 6 plus all outfits we would need for the beach.

Beach shoot preparation

The beach is a special environment that requires some special preparations and planning on top of a normal glamour/fashion shoot. Here are some tips to better prepare for your sandy modeling adventure and to better the odds of getting successful images.

The biggest thing is to try and control your tan lines when you are out in the sun during the summer. Wearing several different swimsuits during the season will create various tan lines. Try to keep them as small and unobtrusive as possible. Try evening out tan lines with a couple of visits to a tanning salon prior to your session but not just before the session in case you burn. If you are sensitive to the sun then staying pale is perfectly fine.

Please, I beg of you, no tan-in-a-bottle, spray tans, or other tanning products applied to the skin. Fake tans ruin sessions. It turns people orange and it streaks.

Obviously swimsuits are top of the list. One piece, bikini, bandeau, halter, thong, G-string, high waist, tie side – bring them all. All solid colors work very well. Big, loud patterns don’t work well as it takes their viewer’s eyes off the subject’s face so you can leave them home.

Make sure that, if you are bringing 2 piece suits, that you actually bring both pieces. You’d be surprised how many people don’t.

As for colors bring lots of bright, bold colors like yellows, reds, oranges, purples, blues, greens, etc. White is also very nice. Small doses of black are ok but avoid large doses of it like a black one piece. Avoid black cloth at all costs. Tans, light browns, etc., don’t do well on the beach. We want you to stand out – not blend in. This is true for all outfits – not just swimsuits

A fitted white tank top, a white gauzy blouse, a white bikini, and cut off denim shorts can do a lot. If there’s one basic beach outfit package that everyone can bring all time with everything else – this would be it.

Plan on bringing much more than swimsuits, though. Bring sundresses, shorts (denim, boy shorts, etc.), oversized beach shirts, tank tops, wraps and outfits/dresses you don’t mind getting wet. I am especially fond of models wearing dresses/gowns/et cetera, in the water for something unexpected and special. Bring outfits that accent your features.

The beach tends to have a boho feel to it so bring anything that fits that style. Gauzy, semi transparent materials are wonderful. Peasant blouses and skirts/dresses add a nice sense of earthy freedom and sensuality.

It also has a fitness vibe to it so you can bring active wear, too.

Think outside the box, too. Prom dresses, evening gowns, little black dresses, long, flowing dresses, dresses and outfits that cling when wet have been very successfully used in a beach session. Splashing around in the water in an old prom dress or bridesmaid’s dress can be really fun.

If you happen to have a wedding dress you don’t like anymore I’d be forever in your debt if we could use it.

Long and flowy things are magical at the beach. things that you can twirl in, drape or flutter in the breeze.

Accessories matter so bring scarves, big, floppy hats, sunglasses, parasols, beach hats, necklaces, beach bags, a book, etc., to finish the look.

Pack an extra sweatshirt or robe to wear in-between shots.

Along with clothes bring a couple of bath towels, bug spray, and sunscreen/suntan lotion. I’d also include eye drops, headache and allergy meds – just in case.

General Prep

Bring a couple bottles of water or non-alcoholic beverages to keep yourself hydrated.

Please don’t skip meals on the day of your shoot. Groggy, hungry models are not good models. Bringing a snack like a piece of fruit or granola bars to the shoot would be good, too, in case your energy dips. No chocolate until after the shoot is done.

I have a smock available for outfit changes on-location.

Pre-pack the night before the shoot. It has been my repeated experience that trying to gather these things as you are heading out the door to the session usually results in a lot of added, unneeded stress and things being left behind.

Do not wear anything constrictive or tight an hour before the start of the shoot. Tight things cause redness, marks and indentations that take a good 30-45 minutes to disappear which could be time used shooting. Bras and tight pants are a given but even socks can leave behind a pattern that will take time to disappear.

Fingernails and toenails should be one length, well-manicured, and the polish should be colorless or French, unless this shoot calls for color.

Avoid dry lips by putting Vaseline on your lips before bed and the morning of your shoot.

Make–up. Please don’t take this the wrong way but unless you are a professional make-up artist then you/your friends don’t know how to do make-up for a shoot. There are several issues to overcome like blending skin tones, contouring/sculpting, picking the right colors for your look, concealing blemishes, etc. Setting up a session with an MUA before the shoot is a must to make this work.

Set aside at least an hour before the shoot to get it done. If a shoot is set to go at 5 then I would be in the MUA’s chair no later than 330.

While we are on the topic of time management – Don’t forget to factor in drive time to the location of the shoot after the MUA is done. We all know how bad traffic can get around here. If Google Maps says 20 minutes to get there I plan on 40 as you never know what is going on between here and there.

Eyebrows need to be plucked, shaped and filled in. I have nightmares involving large, busy, unmanaged eyebrows.

Excess facial hair should be removed. I know it sounds blunt, and I apologize, but there’s no other way to say it.

A note on shaving: If you want the “smooth look” in your photos, be sure to shave as close to your shoot start time as possible. This is especially important if you have dark-colored hair. Shave right before your shoot using a fresh, brand new, razor. Be sure to immediately treat all areas with a soothing, after-shave skin care product that’s designed to prevent irritation, redness, razor bumps, etc. There’s an excellent product called “Bikini Zone Medicated” which is touted as highly effective for this purpose.

You shouldn’t wash your hair the day of the shoot as it leads to intense frizz. Wash it the day before. Hairstylists won’t work on hair for celebrities unless it has had time to sit for almost 24 hours. The hair accepts styles better because there is enough oil in the hair to do it (girls who wonder why their curls won’t stay in but fall flat, that’s the reason).

Don’t weigh your hair down with conditioners, stiff hair sprays, or hot oil treatments. We want it to look fresh and light – not stiff or oily. For beach-look, windswept styles, try “Surf Spray” by Bumble and Bumble.

Dark roots will look even worse in photos. Refresh your hair color a few days before your shoot. If you do not color your hair, try “shades” or a toner just a shade lighter than your hair to make it shine. If you need a trim, do it before the shoot.

Use a clear deodorant so you don’t stain the outfits and allows for more posing options.

Please, please, please DO NOT experiment with things like drugstore hair dyes the night before a session. Trying a new hair color/style just before the shoot is never a good idea. Murphy’s Law applies here.

Please, no alcoholic beverages before/during the shoot. They dehydrate you, which is bad enough, but it also hinders your thinking skills. In a very legal sense you are not of sound mind to make judgments on how much you want to reveal, how much risk you want to take, signing any releases, etc.

3 thoughts on “Preparing for a session

  1. Pingback: New “How to Prepare for a Session” section added. | Photos by Mark K

  2. Pingback: Amber’s beach portrait session | Photos by Mark K

  3. Pingback: Hannah Stewarts’s portrait session at Virginia Beach’s First Landing State Park | Photography by Mark K

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