Tips and Tricks For Quality Portraits: Getting Prepared for the Shoot

By:  Brett Werner

Here's some simple tips and tricks to get yourself prepared for a quality portrait session.  These tips can help if you are taking professional-quality photos or just do-it-yourself shots with your family.  Some of this is pretty basic but it's a good guideline to get you started.  I would be happy to hear your comments and recommendations on how we can make this a more useful tool.  


If you have a planned shoot, it's a great time to get your hair styled and color updated.  Here's just a few things to consider...

  • For men, cut about 5-7 days prior to shoot is best.

  • For women make sure color is done just prior to shoot (within days if possible).

  • Get rid of, manage fly-away, use product to keep hair in style and smoothly coifed.

  • Here’s a good article from Vince Smith that goes into more details on hair and makeup as well: Click Here To See Vince Smith's Article

Skin Prep for Men & Women

  • Always make sure you start with a good clean face.

  • These days we don’t want clients to risk skin cancer but it helps to have a little color on a pale face, especially for males. Try to get just a little color if it’s an acceptable option. But please avoid trying use a lot of tanning lotion because you can easily look unnatural and orange.

  • Don't worry much about blemishes. Those are easy to remove so don't waste time trying to cover up something small that can be removed with the click of a mouse.


  • Makeup is very specific to the individual. Unless we are doing a colorful fashion shoot, I recommend the makeup be appropriately even but not too strong.

  • Any eye shadow should match your attire.

  • I have had many clients use the opportunity to get makeup at a store like Nordstrom. You can often times get a makeup artist to do your makeup in exchange for even a small purchase.

  • The best advice on makeup comes from the experts. Here’s what Dana Tate, a makeup expert and photographer from Missouri has to say. Dana’s overview is an excellent guide for anyone looking to get the most of their portraits through well-applied makeup: Click Here to See Dana Tate's Article on Makeup


  • It’s always best to shave as near to a shoot as possible. Especially those guys with the 5pm shadow at 11am.

  • Be careful not to nick or scratch, irritate the skin.

  • Use lotion and skin moisturizers to minimize redness.

Eyes / Glasses

  • Red eyes will show. Use a good-quality eye drop product to get the redness out if necessary.

  • Glasses will glare, it’s natural. If you tilt your chin slightly downward and keep the light source above eye level you can minimize and even eliminate glare entirely.



  • I always recommend brushing and making sure your smile feels as good as possible.

  • Whitening teeth does help but if you can’t it is fairly easy to fix in post-production these days with most off-the-shelf software/apps.



  • Yes hands I said. They are not in portraits typically but if they are going to be in the photo, make sure they are presentable and manicured.

  • Bold and wild nail colors can really stand out and lessen an otherwise gorgeous photo.


  • Solid & neutral colors are best generally. You don’t want to dress in loud colors unless it’s a requirement.

  • Suits for classy looks.

  • Jacket and no-tie (guys) for slightly more casual

  • Nice long-sleeve for guys on casual shoots are fine.

  • Casual can be OK but If the clothes are wrinkled and worn, it’s going to show and not easy to fix in post.


  • Most photographers will tell you, attitude does more to make a great picture than anything else. If you feel good and project those feelings, you will get a nice photo.

  • Take your time and get yourself in a place where you can project confidence.

  • Sports experts will tell you visualizing success is the key for star athletes. It’s the same for photos. Visualize yourself as beautiful (of course you are already) and even consider pretending to be your favorite actor or role model if it helps you get that comfort level inside.

  • Have fun!!!!! I love when my clients get into the process and enjoy themselves.

  • You don't have to look like a model. Beauty is 99% what you feel inside. Even if you are having a bad day, get yourself into that mode. You can do it and you will notice the results.


Practicing your smile sounds silly but it absolutely works.  We are not always conscious of our own expressions and muscle memory has to be created.  You will find, with practice, that you can become consistent as you get comfortable controlling expressions more subconsciously.  

  • Keep a large vanity mirror at your desk and pay attention to your facial expressions.

  • Practice taking a lot of photos of yourself. Find the smile, angle, perspective you like most and practice until it’s easy to re-create the same smile.

That's it for now.  We hope you were able to benefit from the info.  Keep in touch with us, please follow us on social media to get our updates.  We would also like to hear from you @