Rock Your Photo Sessions | Here's How to Look Your Best!

Okay, so we’ve covered several questions from real brides over in our St. Louis Brides Resource Group regarding how to choose your photographer, questions to ask, things to avoid, and some details regarding the services that you should consider when planning the preservation of your big day. If you missed it, check it out here!

Today, I’d like to take a look at some other topics that I’ve heard countless people reference when discussing getting their photos taken, how to look your best! I am going to focus on how to plan to look your best for your photos whether you are getting photos for your engagement, family, children’s portraits, or your wedding day!

We’re going to cover quite a bit and there’s not really a rhyme or reason to the order of these questions so I’d definitely recommend reading all the way through. I promise there are going to be little nuggets of awesomeness scattered all throughout the rest of this post!

Before diving in, if you are engaged and planning an engagement photo session, I’d recommend you check out my e-guide on how to pick the PERFECT spot for your photos! Check it out here.

Now, onto the awesomeness!

What to Wear

The first question I have to ask is, “How many people in the photo?” This makes an obvious difference. Let’s take a quick look at “universal truths” and then move into considerations for solo portraits.

General Guidelines

Fit

Take from someone needing to lose weight, I get it! You are nervous about getting photos done already, you might not like your body, and feel like you don’t look good in anything. The tendency is then to choose clothing that you feel comfortable in. While there is typically a boost in confidence (or at least some decreased anxiety) regarding the whole photo session when you’re rocking your favorite pair of broken in jeans and that shirt you know feels “just right,” it might not look the best.

To avoid this, you need to ensure that your clothing fits properly. Not too tight, not too loose...we’re looking for “just right” here. If you are nervous about your wardrobe selections, you might schedule some time with the most style conscious friend you have to get some tips, schedule a shopping trip with a professional wardrobe stylist, or even invite your photographer over for a styling session (provided they are comfortable with the idea and have the time in their schedule).

It’s worth extra effort to ensure your clothing choices look and fit great. The greatest photo in the world will end up less than stellar if the wardrobe isn’t up to snuff, so put in some additional thought so you get results you’ll be happy with.

Body Type

Oh, happy day! Body types aren’t always fun and can be incredibly frustrating, but there are steps that can be taken to ensure you look your best. I won’t go into too much depth here, but check out this article for dressing for your body type and keep the tips in mind when planning out your wardrobe. 

Complexion

Another of those frustrating, “I’m just stuck with it” aspects of our physicality is our complexion. While there are steps that some take in order to modify their complexion, it’s something that we all have to embrace.

Again, I’m not going to delve too deeply into this topic, but I’ve found some great resources that provide some valuable tips for ensuring you are dressing appropriately for your complexion.

Check them out and feel free to shoot questions my way!

The Most Flattering Color to Wear for Your Skin Tone

Best Colors to Flatter Your Skin

Layers

While layering isn’t in the same category as the previous topics, it is definitely something to discuss. Adding layers to your wardrobe adds a lot of visual interest, adds or breaks up patterns, introduces different textures, and helps “polish” a wardrobe. Depending on the time of year, this can come in the form of an undershirt, cardigan, jacket, or scarf, basically anything that adds a different texture or complementary color to your primary wardrobe pieces.

Accessories

Once you’ve taken the above considerations into account, consider adding carefully selected accessories to finish off your look. Adding a necklace, bracelet, or watch can add a final layer of polish to an image without having to do anything crazy or different than what you would normally do.

Alrighty! Let’s move on to some session specific tips...

Solo Portrait (lifestyle images, senior sessions, quinceñeras, etc)

When you are the only subject in the photo, your wardrobe is pretty straightforward. Pick items that you love and feel supremely confident in. Select items that feel “authentic” and definitely consider adding layers to make things a bit more interesting.

Group Portraits (more than one person - engagements, family portraits, etc.)

A lot of what I discussed in the solo portrait section is still applicable with groups. The primary additional consideration is the color palette of all the wardrobes involved.

When planning a group photo, you want to be on the same page with the others that are going to be in the photo with you. That’s not to say that you necessarily want everyone to have the exact same shade of midnight taupe, half baked salmon, or whatever the trending shade is on Pinterest.

Instead, you want to pick colors that are complementary. Varying shades of the same color family and the incorporation of interesting layers and textures are what will help your group portraits look amazing. After that, it’s simply a matter of getting some solid posing advice and you are good to go!

Posing Tips

Ladies, I’m going to go ahead and apologize because the vast majority of posing advice is directed straight at you. A few simple tips are all it takes to rock some awesome poses!

For the most part, the principles are pretty straightforward and if you can keep them in mind, you’ll be much closer to how you look 99% of the time. Those principles are:

  • Pop your hip!

    • How? Just push your hip the way you do when you want someone to know that you aren’t playing around. Give it some attitude! It might feel a little unnatural because you’ll be focusing on it, but it helps your posing by creating curves and helping you avoid the square block, Minecraft character look. Despite feeling like you might be overdoing it, I promise that it comes across as a subtle shift in the camera that makes a huge difference!

  • Shift Your Weight

    • You accomplish this by popping your hip to one side (toward your significant other if your are getting engagement photos done), and then moving the foot on the “unpopped hip side” so you either gently drag a toe behind you or rest on its tiptoe while crossing that knee over the other one.

  • Bend Your Elbows

    • Simply put, you don’t want your arms hanging straight down at your sides. That looks unnatural, makes your body look “Minecraft-y,” and can push the shape of your arms into less than flattering positions. So, put your hand on your hip, partially behind your back, or somewhere so it will have a bend at the elbow.

  • Smile for real!

    • All too frequently, people plaster a really fake, painful looking smile on their face and keep it there for the bulk of their photos. Stop! Relax your face if you need to, and when the time comes for the photo think of something funny, tell a stupid joke, or do something to make yourself laugh or smile involuntarily. It’s those authentic smiles that really shine through and, take it from someone that sees a TON of photos, it’s a HUGE improvement over the frozen smile.

This may seem simple (or overwhelming), but taking the time to ensure these quick tips are implemented will help you look your best. People tend to “lock-up” in front of the camera and start doing all sorts of uncomfortable looking posing. These tips help you bring some of that relaxed, natural look back into your images.

Within about 5-10 minutes of a photo session, most of my clients are doing these things naturally with only the occasional reminder or correction from me. As a result, we’re able to focus on having a blast, laughing, getting to know each other a bit better, and creating the fun mood that shines through in the photos.

Grooming Tips

Tips for the Fellas

Okay guys, we got off a bit easy with the posing advice, but we have to make up for it with a bit of conscientious thought when it comes to grooming. I’ll keep things as simple and painless as possible.

Hair

Your hair needs to be presentable. Don’t go get a haircut the week before your shoot, go get your haircut a couple of weeks before your session. This will give your hair time to grow back out a bit and reach the “happy medium of awesomeness” (Yes, that’s the technical term.) that we all strive for.

Face

Don’t neglect it! If you normally rock a beard, goatee, handlebars, or other type of facial hair, ensure that it has been cleaned, trimmed, and cleaned up around the edges, etc. If you are going to be clean shaven, consider getting a quality shave at a salon or somewhere like The Art of Shave. You’ll be less likely to end up with razor burn and/or nicks this way.

If that’s not in the budget, take your time shaving to keep from doing something that might irritate your skin. (Photoshop and editing can help if the worst were to happen, but if the work necessary is extensive, you can most likely look forward to an additional retouching fee and a longer turnaround time between the session and delivery of your images.)

Hands

I know you might not like it, but your safest bet here is to go get a manicure. If this idea is appalling or uncomfortable, I would suggest you take some headphones and listen to sports, watch some MMA on your phone, watch Ron Swanson video clips, or just blast some RAWK to get you through.

If you prefer to avoid that scenario, I would recommend you invest some time in the weeks before the session to get some lotion on those mitts and get your fingernails and cuticles cleaned up. Your hands might not even make their way into a photo, but if they do it’s worth the effort you put into cleaning them up.

Ladies, your turn!

The tips from above (ahem, go ahead and disregard the facial hair part...) are still applicable. Use your photo session as an excuse to go get your hands and feet pampered with a mani/pedi so they’re looking nice! Chances are that your hands will more than likely be in the photo, especially if you’re going to be showing off an engagement ring or accessory.

If you're looking for ideas on what type of manicure to get, go the French tip route. It’s a classic, clean look that won’t look out of place or clash with other aspects of your wardrobe.

Professional Makeup

If at all possible, I recommend getting professional makeup and hair styling done. Not only does it take the stress off of you, but your stylist should be able to give you a natural look that will look great on camera. It’s easy to overdo makeup where it doesn’t give you the look you desire. So getting it done professionally is one of the best ways that you can ensure it will look flawless.

If professional makeup is out of the question and you still want some makeup, keep it natural without much additional color, especially around the eyes, etc. Also, avoid products that contain a metallic component or glitter as these tend to catch the light and create sparks of light in photos that are time consuming to edit if it becomes necessary.

Props or No?

This is one of those concepts that could go either way on the awesome scale. From what I’ve seen, using props can either be an incredible addition to a photo session or they can be cheesy. If you have ideas for props that you would like to try, put plenty of thought into all of the details.

It’s the details that bring together a styled session with props. Pull out all the stops on Pinterest, collaborate with your photographer and have a ball with it! I would even recommend contacting a rental company or event planner to discuss your ideas as they tend to have a lot of resources and ideas on how to bring the details of your vision to life in a classy, polished way.

These guidelines are the homework you should complete prior to your photo session. Once you’ve put in the effort and thought to go through each category above and implement the advice given into your wardrobe and grooming prep, relax! You should now be able to show up at the photo session with confidence that you have done your part to create the images you want. The photo session is the fun, creative part of this process.

At the session, it’s the role of your photographer to remind you of posing tips, come up with new & different poses for everyone, and to look for creative ways to capture whatever story or season you are wanting to capture.

Are there any other topics, ideas, or questions that I haven’t covered here? I’d love to hear from you and get any feedback you’d like to share. Feel free to drop a comment down below or shoot me an email!

If you’d like to ensure you pick the perfect location for your photo session, take a look at my guide to locations here. Just enter your email address and I’ll get that e-guide sent over to you!

Thanks for taking the time to stop by, I hope to hear from you soon!