• Sarah Tulej

Getting ready for a photoshoot? What to do ahead of time to get the best results

Updated: Nov 14, 2021

Most people aren't used to being in front of the camera. If you're like me, and you've watched many episodes of America's Next Top Model (or Britain's, Australia, Canada, you get the picture) you will have an insight into how tricky it can be to get an amazing portrait. Even the most high cheek boned and luscious-locked model can fail to captivate the camera. But don't let that put you off!

Photoshoot woman holding long lens camera
Photo by Winston Chen on Unsplash

More and more of us are investing in professional photography so we can come across our absolute best when it comes to promoting our business or landing our next role. Yet very few people feel confident in front of the camera, especially one-on-one with a photographer we may not know (and without a cheeky tipple to loosen us up).


However, there are plenty of things that you can do to before and during a photoshoot to ensure that you get photos that you're happy with. If you haven't done it before it may not be clear however what sort of things will help to get you feeling relaxed and confident as you step onto the shoot. So, I wrote this article to share tips that I've picked up from working with people over the years. After all, you want to get the most 'bang for your buck' and ensure that every frame the photographer takes will get you a decent photo.


This article focuses on things to do well before the photo session itself. For absolutely everything else you might be wondering, check out my article The Ultimate Guide to Personal Branding Photography.



1. Choose a great photographer

I'm going to rewind right to the VERY start, which is when you decide which photographer to work with. Key to getting good photos is finding someone that a) whose style you like, b) you think you might click with and c) you can afford.

Curly haired camera in orange jacket taking a photo with large camera lens
Photo by Portuguese Gravity on Unsplash

Let me break those points down.


a) Style

Finding someone whose style you like is very important because that style is going to be infused in your photos. So, if someone is quite light and airy and ethereal, that vibe is going to be in the photos of you. Other people edge towards a vintage, almost sepia look which can look great but may not work at all with your brand. Or they may go for something quite traditional–like an arms folded, looking to camera in front of a plain backdrop. That may be what's needed if you're looking for a corporate job but terrible if you're hoping to come across as an edgy designer.


So, spend time looking at different photographers websites and Instagram profiles to get a feel for the style which feels most 'you.'


b) Finding a photographer you click with

Sometimes you can get a good sense of what someone is like from their online presence. Plenty of photographers post a lot on Instagram, about themselves as well as their photos. They may have a section on their website breaking down what they're like to work with, or have a load of Google reviews. Generally finding someone who seems friendly and approachable is a good start as you want to be able to break the ice quickly on the photshoot.


Once you contact someone you're interested in working with, ideally they should offer a phone call to get to know each other a bit and find out exactly what you need. If, after that, you are not sure whether they're right for you, definitely follow up with more questions or try someone else and see if they seem more well-suited.


After speaking to them, before you decide to go ahead you should definitely feel confident that your photographer is interested in working with you, that you'll get on well, and that you're in good hands.


c) Finding a photographer you can afford

The price of professional photography varies, which may be related to the level of experience they have, the type of client they normally work wtih and the industry they work in. You should easily be able to find someone in your budget (within reason!) I do not think you should scrimp on the cost–after all, you are paying for a very useful but luxury service. But I also think that you should choose something that is in your budget so that you don't have the stress of a big invoice layered onto the process! So shop around.


You may even find you want to pay a bit more for someone that really seems to get great results and be a pleasure to work with. As long as it feels good value to you (and that means different things to different people), then you will be going into the experience with a positive mindset.

Looking down the lens of a camera held by a woman
Photo by Ailbhe Flynn on Unsplash

2. Decide on the location

Where you have your photographs taken and what sort of setting you'll be in will really affect the look and feel of the photos. So it is worth having a think about this well in advance, and discussing with the photographer. First of all where you shoot will affect what the photos look like, so much so that I've written another article all about choosing good locations. But as well as that there are practical considerations that may affect how relaxed you are on the day.


For example, is the location easy to reach? Will it involve you trekking across town or will it be a 10 minute stroll from your door? The last thing you want is to be battling unreliable public transport on the day of your photo session.


Will there be many people walking around, or will it be quiet? If you are someone that gets very self conscious then choosing a quiet spot will help take that factor out of the equation. Something you may not realise is that not everywhere permits photography (because the space is privately owned) and so double check that isn't going to trip you.


3. What to wear?

Such a bit question! You want to wear something that you feel super confident in. I'd steer away from picking something you would never normally wear, after all, you want to look like you in the photos. But, you do want to look good, so have a good try on before the shoot. Some important things to think about are colour, pattern and shape. A block colour generally works better than a pattern, which can be distracting. But go for one that suits your colouring–if you're not sure, ask a good (and stylish) friend.


Also pay attention to the shape. Some garments, such as wide leg trousers, can be very fashionable but not very flattering if, for example, you want your legs to look longer. A ruffly colour can also look cool but end up cutting your neck short. Take some selfies in front of a full length mirror so you can compare options, and if you're not sure, send them to a mate whose taste you like.


If you are really not happy with your clothing options than borrow something for a friend or buy something you really like, as long as you would wear it regularly again (because most of us have a wardrobe full of stuff we never wear already).


Woman in black on white staircase against stark white walls
Photo by Anna Sullivan on Unsplash


4. Hair and makeup

But it's not a wedding! I hear you say. True, and by this I just mean that you may want to schedule that hair appointment a week or two before the photo session so you're looking sharp. And when it comes to makeup, experiment beforehand so you're not stressing out on the day reapplying lipstick 15 times. Whether to go for a bold lip or not is something to consider. If you never really do, now is probably not the time to experiment! If you're not a makeup wearer then treat yourself to a blob of moisturiser on the day, can't hurt.


5. Strike a pose

One of the trickier things is knowing how to stand, how to smile (or not), what to do with your hands on the day. Most of us don't have a natural sense of what we are going to look like in the camera. So have a practice in the comfort of your own home in front of a mirror. Pro-photographer Linsday Adler has loads of tips for this.


Some things to try and nail are:

- Your smile. You probably have a sense of photos where you like the way you're smiling / looking. Try and replicate that with a phone camera, and then memorise how it feels holding that expression. It may feel a bit fake, but it shouldn't look fake. If you're not sure what looks best (i.e. natural), then ask a good friend.


- The way you stand. As a rule, particularly for women, it looks most flattering to have your weight in one leg, with your body angled towards the camera, rather than straight on. But you'll want to play around with this in front of a mirror.

Long blonde haired woman with hands on hips against yellow wall
Photo by Joanna Nix-Walkup on Unsplash

- Your hands. In front of the camera you may find yourself suddenly very self-conscious about your hands. Find something for them to do! Having the hand resting on one hip is a good one, or having arms gently folded are two go-to options. Study photos of people to see what they do with their arms and hands and what you think looks most natural. You can also ask your photographer on the day for some tips if you're feeling awkward.


Hopefully this article has given you plenty of ideas on how you can set yourself up for success on the day of your shoot. Have you got any other tips I should include?


As ever, please get in touch if you have any questions about a potential shoot with me - I promise there will be no sleazy sales chat.


If you liked this article, you might also like my article with 5 tips for getting a great headshot.

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