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How to Prepare for a Portrait, Part 1: Women


You’re getting your portrait done and maybe you dread the moment. You don’t like cameras and the whole concept sort of freaks you out. Does this describe you?

Or maybe it doesn’t freak you out but you’re a bit nervous and can use some guidance. How can you look and be your best? What can you do to ensure the best possible photos result from your session?

We’ll get to aesthetics in a moment but first I want to talk about your energy. Whatever you bring to the session in terms of your state of mind will show up in your photos. If you want to come across as self-assured and approachable, you have to embody that. Use whatever Jedi mind tricks you have to to tell yourself it’s going to be okay. Breathe. Photographers aren’t dentists. They won’t hurt you. Engage them in conversation. Get to know your photographer. Develop a rapport.

Regarding wardrobe, the single most important piece of advice I can give you is wear something you love yourself in. Whatever makes you feel great. Solid colors come off better than patterns. Don’t wear anything busy. Go for a classic, timeless look. You should never be able to tell what year it is from your clothes.

Regarding make-up, wear what you’d normally wear to a meeting or for going out. Don’t overdo it. Your make-up should be practically invisible.

Regarding hair, for some people their photo session is an excuse to hit the salon. That’s fine but this is not the time for experimentation. Do your hair the way you like it but don’t overdo it. Bring whatever you need to keep it looking the way you want it to the shoot. That includes a mirror.

Regarding jewelry, wear what you love. Wear the pieces that make you feel great. If you’re an earring person break out those pairs that make your heart sing. If you wear necklaces now’s the time to use those heirlooms. I can’t tell you how often the choice of jewelry makes the photos. It’s the cherry on top. Don’t be bashful here, but again, make sure whatever you wear represents you and is something you’d actually wear.

Get plenty of sleep the night before. Drink water. Eat breakfast. Be gentle with yourself. If there is music you love or a poem that inspires you, avail yourself of that beforehand.

I’ll close with energy. This is another way of saying state of mind or attitude. You’ve got to psych yourself out of any fear or trepidation. Tell yourself you’re going to be fine, because you will. And chose your photographer like you’d choose your gynecologist. This is personal, it’s intimate, and you want the best bedside manner you can find.

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