There are many ways to ensure a successful photo session and I'd like to share some that I have found to be particularly important. Some of these may seem like common sense but I have found that many people are nervous about a photo session and sometimes overlook these seemingly obvious points.
Make sure the subject is rested, comfortable and has a full tummy
Sure this sounds a bit funny, but you'd be surprised to learn that it's not uncommon for an owner to not feed their horse before a sunrise shoot just because they are stressed about the shoot. Believe me, horses are NOT happy and never look great when they are hungry plus it can be impossible to get them to do much of anything other than stomp their foot or shake their head in irritation at the hunger.
This simple rule also applies to human subjects. Although it's natural to want all elements of a photo to look their very very best - and I DO recommend sprucing up the tack, doing a major grooming, bringing special clothing rather than wearing & exposing it to possible soil before the shoot - some folks wait until the morning of the photo session to polish the silver, oil the leather, and even do a major bath & grooming! Now of course since we usually begin shooting just after sunrise, these folks are pretty worn out and cranky about that time and, you guessed it, the pictures of them are not very pretty. I recommend all this "major" work preparation be done the day or even a couple of days before the shoot. That way, all the subjects, especially the humans are relaxed and rested and those great relaxed looks show through in the finished product.
Spend some time thinking about what you want to achieve
Make sure you clearly have in mind what kind of look you'd like to achieve from the session. And most importatnly, make sure to discuss this with the photographer to ensure it can be done (sometimes technical considerations might make cost increase or just be unavailable) and that all the pre-session preparations are made by both you and the photographer to meet your goal. It's also a good idea to pull some example photos from magazines to further illustrate what you'd like.
Think about location & how it affects the image
Probably one of the most overlooked elements of creating an image is that of the background. My feeling is that the more natural the background (i.e. - no man-made things such as buildings, fences, etc.) the more likely it is that the image will be more impactful. You can see this for yourself by looking through any glossy type magazine - notice how the most eye-catching photos usually have non-descriptive or naturally subtle beautiful backgrounds. Although there are exceptions to this idea, I find this is usually a very good concept to embrace when planning a photo session.
Don't wait to try new makeup or clothing at the photo session
Of course you'll want to save you coolest outfit for your photo shoot and look your very best and I certainly agree with that. But I have seen clients come to a shoot with clothing that is too tight and won't even button up properly. They hadn't tried it on in months or since buying it never wore it and realized that it gaped, pulled, or wrinkled unattractively when they actually wore it. This ends up looking very sloppy in the photos and it's difficult and sometimes impossible to shoot around a problem like this.
I've also seen clients come with much too much blush or eye makeup, making them look garish and not at all like themselves. The reverse is also true - some wear absolutely no makeup when just a bit would go a long way to enhancing their natural beauty. It's best to apply a light makeup overall. I recommend for makeup:
1. Apply a natural lipcolor a few shades darker than your lips
2. Use some translucent powder to smooth the look of your skin
3. Use light eye makeup in natural shades
4. Include mascara to enhance the eye (waterproof if perspiration risk)
5. Bring makeup for touchups as needed
Bring at least one enthusiastic helper to the session
Most photographers do not provide an assistant or can offer one only for an addional charge to you. Sessions are always easier when you bring a good friend or family member who is happy and excited to be helping you get these fabuolous photos made. Obviously, this tip is geared mostly towards any type of shoot involving animals or kids, when more hands are almost always better than fewer hands.
I also encourage my clients to plan a fun time after the shoot: coffee at their favorite coffee shop, a casual picnic near the shoot location, a hike or ride or whatever pleases. Having your photographs taken should be a fun, enjoyable and memorable experience and how you spend the time before and after the session can impact the overall tone of the day just as much as who you spend that time with. Hopefully you'll have at least a few candidates in your life that would be thrilled to be there with you to help you get the very best out of your photo session.
Send me your best tips on having a successful Photo Shoot
and maybe they can be added to mine to help all who read this get the best possible results from their photo shoot.