How to prepare for a professional portrait session

Over my many years of providing dream portrait sessions to my clients, I’ve been witness to some amazingly successful portrait sessions and some, well, less than amazing sessions. What is the key difference between a successful and unsuccessful shoot? The successful clients spent time PREPARING for their sessions, and the unsuccessful ones, showed up unprepared.

Here are some of my time tested tips for getting the best out of your portrait session.


Scheduling a portrait session right after a long weekend, or in the middle of a testing week at school or on a lunch break from a stressful job is not ideal. This is where preparing ahead of time, is crucial. Look ahead to your calendar and find a time where you know you’ll have had some down time to chill. I always suggest that my clients block off some time for themselves the day before a shoot so that they don’t arrive stressed out, or feeling like they have to rush. There is nothing worse than a rushed session where everyone is on edge and there is a high level of tension to “perform”. Rushed sessions often lead to people not at their best (particularly children). This is the main reason why I stopped doing “mini” portrait sessions, I like to take my TIME with my clients, so they can feel at ease. If your small child is being photographed, for the love of all things good, do not schedule their session during nap time. This will not be pleasant for anyone 😉


In alignment with picking a good time on your schedule that doesn’t feel rushed, I also suggest that all of my clients get adequate sleep the night before a session. A solid 8 hrs, or even more, if you’re someone who tends to wear themselves thin from overworking yourself! Your portrait session in and of itself is an opportunity to celebrate self love.. I mean how often does one get to work with a professional photographer who is solely focused on highlighting YOU and your strengths!?

One majorly important aspect of self love is REST! DEEP REST! When we allow ourselves the extra rest, we wake up feeling more radiant, refreshed and ready for our portrait session. The side benefits are that our skin is not as puffy, and our eyes don’t look worn and tired or bloodshot. As a photographer, I consciously do not over book my calendar. I schedule myself in such a way where I can be fully present and grounded with each of my clients. Reciprocity is always appreciated in that arena, and leads to a much more successful portrait session.

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In the self care department, I also suggest avoiding salty, spicy, greasy foods and alcohol or drugs for 24 hours before a portrait session. Alcohol and spicy foods can redden the skin and leave us looking a bit more fired up. Whereas drinking LOTS of water and alkaline foods like avocados and cucumbers can cool the skin and keep us hydrated. Even if this is something that you don’t normally do, treat yourself to an cucumber and some avocado and indulge in the best quality water you can find and soak it up the day before a shoot. Your body will thank you!

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Your skin can make or break a photo shoot. If you’ve gotten plenty of rest, and are staying hydrated you’re well on your way to a successful portrait session! For those with acne prone skin, I recommend taking a break from make-up for a good week prior to your session and drink extra water! (more water than you think you need) As someone who suffered from acne most of my teenage and adult life, I fully understand that when your skin is broken out, the instinct is to want to pick at it or cover up the acne with concealer. This can lead to several problems, one of which is MORE acne. The second issue being blotchy red patches from picking. As a professional skin retoucher, I can attest to the fact that its is much easier to edit out a huge white head pimple vs a huge popped white head pimple that is red and irritated from picking. So please, I encourage you to not pick at any existing acne before a portrait session.

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One week before a session is a great time to invest in or create a “do it at home” facial. Exfoliating off dead skin cells can leave the skin more receptive to receiving makeup from your makeup artist on the day of the shoot. (I will be writing up another post soon on product recommendations)

The night before your shoot, wash with your regular cleanser, use a good toner like witch hazel or rosewater, and then apply a good quality moisturizer. This will leave you with supple dewy skin the next morning and have you looking your best.

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Making sure that your nails are clipped, dirt free, tidy and free of any peeling nail polish is something that many people can overlook. Its always fun to get a manicure if you’re able or at the very least, remove old nail polish. Opt for neutral colors that will coordinate with any of your clothing choices. (nude or French manicure)


Please eat lightly before your session, but not so lightly that you’re going to be hungry!  Many people, (especially those who are nervous) will over eat before a session, and then  end up feeling bloated and not so comfy in their clothes afterwards. That my friends is never fun! A session can last anywhere from 1-3hrs. Please plan to bring a snack if you are the type to get hungry.


48 hours before a photoshoot, its a good idea to check in with your photographer and make sure they have a list of all of the outfits you’ll be wearing during the session so that they can plan their location and backdrop accordingly. Its also good to confirm the locations and ensure that the weather is cooperating. Portrait sessions flow much more smoothly when everyone knows what will be happening and all questions are answered prior to the arrival time.


~ Avoid white deodorant which can leave stains on your clothing, as you change from outfit to outfit. In many cases, its best to simply wear no deodorant or opt for a clear antiperspirant which will absorb the extra moisture and help avoid any pit stains.

~Avoid wearing hair ties on your wrists, as they can leave imprints. Rest assured, I have a session “emergency” bag with things like bobby and straight pins, hair ties, and lip balm etc… in case you need it.

~DONT FORGET TO ACCESSORIZE! Bring whatever earrings, necklaces, scarves or hats you’ve got that you think will accentuate your wardrobe.

~ Iron or press your clothing and arrive with it on hanger, vs stuffed in a bag or suitcase. Retouching out wrinkles can ensue extra editing fees, so its best to simply prepare ahead of time with everything wrinkle free.

~ Most importantly BREATHE!!! If the idea of having your portrait taken makes you feel nervous, then first off, I FEEL YOU! and secondly, taking a good 20 minutes prior to your session to set your intentions and do some deep breathing with an empowering mantra like. “I AM AMAZING” as you breathe in and out, can be incredibly helpful to reset the energy. Don’t believe me? Try it!!

Your portrait session is a celebration of YOU, and one great way to celebrate yourself is with an extra dose of self care. <3

I hope these tips are helpful, feel free to reach out if you have any specific questions or concerns.  While we’re all totally amazing AS IS, please also remember that an epic portrait session is not a happy accident, it requires planning and good communication with your photographer to create the kind of magic that you’re dreaming of.

~Jamie Love


  1. Britt on June 6, 2018 at 2:06 pm

    Great tips, thank you!

    • jamie Love on June 6, 2018 at 2:16 pm

      You’re welcome, Thank you for stopping by and reading it! <3

  2. Brenda on June 6, 2018 at 5:01 pm

    So Nicely thought out Preparation Guide! So Helpful and Such a Great Tool to follow “)

    • jamie Love on June 7, 2018 at 9:21 pm

      Thank you Brenda! 🙂 I appreciate the feedback <3

  3. Aniiyah Klocj on June 7, 2018 at 8:36 pm

    So important! I’m saving for a session!

    • jamie Love on June 7, 2018 at 9:21 pm

      <3 I'm excited to work with you Aniiyah!! :)

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