How to Prepare for a Portrait Photo Shoot

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I used to have a conversation with each client before a portrait shoot to advise them on how to prepare. This became tedious, so I decided to add a Frequently Asked Questions page to my website and direct my clients there beforehand. The information has been well received, and I share it here.

How should I prepare for my portrait photo shoot?

Get plenty of sleep the night before and drink plenty of water. It really makes a difference in how you’ll look. If you’re under stress, it will show in your expressions and postures, so breathe deeply and think calm thoughts.

What should I wear?

Most important is that you’re comfortable, so wear clothes you feel good in. Be sure the clothes are appropriate for the purpose of your photo, whether it’s for an actor’s headshot, a LinkedIn business profile, a dating or social networking profile, etc. Solid colors in a medium shade work best. Textures are fine, but avoid patterns, stripes, logos, etc., as they call attention to themselves and detract from the important part, your face. White should be avoided if possible, because white shows up as the brightest part of the photo, and that draws attention away from your face. So a good suggestion for men posing in dark suits is to wear a light blue shirt.

V-neck shirts and open-collar button-down shirts are always flattering, and crew necks are fine. Avoid boat necks, turtle necks, and cowl necks, though mock turtle necks are okay if you’d like to show less neck flesh. Feel free to express your personality and add a spark of color with tasteful accessories that coordinate with your outfit, such as ties, scarves, and jewelry. Bring several, and I can help you choose which to wear, if any.

If you’re not sure what wardrobe will work best, bring multiple choices and I’ll help you decide what to wear, and as time allows, we can try multiple options. It’s always better to have too many choices than not enough. If we’re making a headshot/upper body portrait, you need to bring only tops, as we won’t be including anything below the waist. Otherwise, bring multiple pants/skirts and shoes that coordinate with your tops for a full-body photo. Please don’t bring brand new shirts in the package, as they’ll be heavily creased. Instead, be sure your clothes are neatly ironed.

How do I handle my hair and makeup?

Avoid cutting your hair within a week of the shoot. If you’re doing your hair yourself, style it as you like and bring your personal grooming items with you (comb, brush, hair spray, gel, etc.) for touching up on the set if necessary. Men, if you wish to appear clean-shaven, shave within three hours of the shoot. Or you’re welcome to bring shaving equipment with you and shave at the studio. If you’re doing your own makeup, apply it as you normally would, but be careful not to go overboard. Bring whatever makeup items you’ll need for touch-up.

Some people choose to meet with a makeup artist in their home before leaving for the shoot, and some visit their favorite makeup counter at a department store. (If we’re shooting in my studio, I’m not far from Macy’s at Herald Square.) In this case, be sure to discuss with the makeup artist that you’re headed for a photo shoot.

A third option is to bring your hair/makeup artist with you to the shoot, or I can recommend and schedule one. Depending on the agreement, the artist can work before we start shooting or stay through the entire shoot to change your look as you change your wardrobe. Normally, you’ll pay the artist directly in cash at the time service is rendered.

What else should I bring to the shoot?

If you have any examples of headshots you like, bring them and we can discuss what you like about them and use them to inform your portrait. Some people like to hear their favorite music during a shoot, so bring your MP3 player or favorite CDs. Otherwise, we can play a Pandora station based on your choice of music.

What rights do I have to the images?

Alan Barnett Photography retains the copyright on the images. I’ll ask you to sign a model release which gives me your permission to post selected photos to my website, blog, and otherwise advertise my photography business. You are granted the right to reproduce the image for any non-commercial purpose, such as uploading to Internet sites, distributing as an actor’s headshot, etc. Commercial use, which is prohibited, includes any use of a photo for which you will generate income, for example, printing it on t-shirts and selling them, or selling it to a company to use in advertising.

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