How to Prepare for your Portrait Session.

Well done! You've taken the leap and booked your session, now let's eliminate some of the anxiety you may have.

Hello! William here, and confess that I, too, get nervous before having my photo taken. It's only natural to feel performance anxiety before engaging in something we do so rarely. You aren't alone! Also, feeling a little anxiety can be beneficial. I prefer when people have a touch of nerves; it can add energy to the room, and it's my job to harness that. In fact, I've worked with industry models who aren't nervous, and man do I have to work hard to get something other than the "apathetic youth" look out of them! If you’ve ever said “I’ve never done this before,” or “what do I do with my hands?” This is for you.

So without any more preamble, here are the things you should do before and during our time together: (video coming soon!)

Before the Session

Skin: everyone has it, we all ignore each other's imperfections in person, but a photograph freezes those minor blemishes for all time. Of course, I'll eliminate temporary visitors, but you might be surprised by how you can help the situation out. Here are my top tips for preparing your skin:

  1. Don't pop your zits! We all get them, so don't worry about turning up with some. I'd rather spend 1/10th of a second spot-healing a tiny zit away in post-production, than 2 minutes trying to hide that swollen, angry-red volcano that is left after you squeeze a pimple.

  2. That being said, do exfoliate the day or night before your session (not on the day!). Yes, guys too - get a good stiff brush and scrub away. If you've sensitive skin like me, maybe even doing it 24 hours beforehand to give your face and neck time to recover.

  3. Don't do any skin peels or whitening masks. These generally make your skin look blotchy in photographs. I'll blend and adjust your skin tone according to our discussion.

  4. Do clear your blackheads. If you've one or two, they're fine just leave them. If you smoke or just naturally have larger pores like me, use one of those blackhead strips or something similar 24-16 hours before your session.

  5. Pluck stray hair. Nose, ear, and eyebrow hair really stands out in portraits, and contributes to my RSI - please think of my wrists! Your significant other will thank you, too.

Makeup: please discuss this with me before you hire a makeup artist or decide what you will do on the day. There are powder-finish makeup products that might look great in person, but will simply ruin your photos due to the way they eliminate contrast and highlights. Mascara, eyeliner, and natural eyebrows will all help for women. Men typically don’t need to bother with makeup, but once again, please discuss with me.

Hair: Keep it simple. I suggest washing it the day before, but don’t go all out on the day of your session; if we need to change the look and you’ve used an entire packet of pins in it, it just wastes everyone’s time. Bring a hair tie or two if its long, clips and pins if you need to, but generally wearing your hair the way you do every day is going to give you the best look. Plus it helps you be less self-conscious if its what you’re used to. If you want to hire a hair and makeup artist, definitely consult with me first, and put us in touch - I’m still looking for a good HMA to collaborate with.

Beards: I prefer a bit of scruff on a man. If you have a beard, give it a trim with some hair clippers. If you want a clean-shaven look too, come in wearing what you have, and once we get rolling I’ll send you off to shave. I’ll provide you with a brand new razor, shaving oil, and hot water.

Underwear: let's be frank, I'm going to spend a few hours zoomed-in on your face, I think we can talk about this for a second. Plus this kind of thing is more awkward in person, so forewarned is forearmed. Why are we talking about this? If you're getting headshots, your shoulders are in the frame, and if we're doing full-length shots, you want to ensure the lines of your clothes and body aren't suddenly dipping in or sticking out in an obvious, unflattering way. Here are some quick tips:

  1. Nothing bulky or too fancy. Lace or jewel accents can show a raised pattern through sheer tops and dresses which ends up looking unflattering. T-shirt bras are great, so long as they have a thin, broad strap.

  2. Black, grey, or white colours are best. Choose whichever compliments your skin tone or the colour of the clothes you're wearing.

  3. If you bring a dress or sheer top that makes your bra look obvious and distracting, either bring a bandeau or be prepared to drop the straps off of your shoulders.

  4. Some strapless bras have translucent silicone straps - these are bad news under lights. They reflect the light from the flash and look terrible, so please don't bring it.

Jewellery: the rule of thumb is not to bring it. Unless it's your grandmother's wedding band, just don't bring it. If you're wearing earrings or a glittering necklace, I'll most likely ask you to remove it. I won't be responsible if things go missing (and my cats love shiny things), so please just don't bring anything to the studio.

One last thing; I have some homework for you.

I will need you to pick out 9 different shirts, jackets, tops and/or dresses. No patterns, no logos, no jewels, no designs, no visible brand names. Lay them on your bed and take a snapshot. Send it to me on WeChat or by email.

Once that's done, we will choose 6 of the looks. You will put them on and take at least 6 selfies with them. No, not a duckface selfie. I need two profile shots - left and right - and a third looking straight at your camera. I should see your head and shoulders. If we're doing a full-length shoot, I will need 3 full-length pictures of you in the outfit. Once again, send these through WeChat or via email.

And that is it! If you make it To the end of this article, you will be well prepared for what comes next. To find out what will happen at the studio, and what you should do with your hands (I’m not gonna lie, you’ll feel weird but look great) please read the next article:

What should I do with my hands?