Style Tips for Your Portrait Session

Spring is getting closer and closer each day! That means my busy wedding and portrait season is just around the corner. For me, preparing for this means cleaning my gear, formatting my cards, sending emails, location scouting, and lots of other little things.

Buuuttt for all you this means planning your outfits, preparing your families, and stressing out about how to make everyone look good for the session you’ve been excited for! If you’re one of my clients, I send you a full, 50+ page style guide to help you do all of these things and more. I want to make sure that everyone has a positive, relaxing experience when they are in front of my camera, and a big part of that is feeling confident in your clothes and knowing you look GOOOOODDD.

I reached out on Instagram to you all and asked you what stresses you out about getting your photo taken. You all gave me lots of feedback and told me all kinds of things that give you anxiety as you prep for the big day! I’ve broken them down into general categories and will give you some of my biggest tips!


“Where should I have my photos taken?”

“Is it normal to have an additional travel fee?”

“How do I go about picking a location?”

“Who picks the location: me or my photographer?”

Allllll good questions! The answers to these depend on where you live/where you’re having your session. When you’re picking a location, some good things to keep in mind are the time of year, how many people will be there, and if you want a destination or local session. As a rule, the light is always better outside at either sunrise or sunset. I don’t think I’ve ever done an indoor session that wasn’t a lifestyle newborn because it’s just so much prettier outside!

Generally, most portrait sessions happen in the Spring, Summer, and Fall because that’s when it’s nice out and everything is in bloom! If you want more colorful photos, you should look into parks and public gardens. These will most likely have more flowers and trees, which will create bold, colorful scenes. I also recommend these locations for couple photos because us photographers can use the landscape to create more intimate portraits! The other category of location that I recommend is some kind of gorgeous architecture. Living near DC, lots of people like having photos by the monuments and around the city. If you like bright, cleaner photos finding a location with white or neutral colored buildings will naturally result in those kinds of photos. A downtown/urban environment is especially good in the winter because buildings don’t bloom 😛

As far as travel fees go, that very much depends on the photographer. I would say almost all photographers charge for a destination session. For example, if you wanted an anniversary session in Paris, I would charge for the travel expenses. On a less extreme note, it’s not uncommon for there to be extra charges if the photographer has to drive more than 1-2 hours. Again, this depends on where you live! Ask your photographer about their travel charges.


“What should I wear?”

“Why do you always suggest maxi dresses?”

“What should my husband wear?”

“I have so many kids…how do I make them look good?”

“How many outfits can I bring?”

I definitely think deciding on your outfit is probably the hardest part of preparing for your photos. You want to look good, but don’t know what will translate well on camera! I. FEEL. YOU. Here are my biggest suggestions for you…

For Ladies: Say Yes to the Dress! I cannot tell you how infinitely better dresses look on the female body in photos. They seriously take your photos to the next level. I always say, the dressier the better, but I know that’s not everyone’s jam. You can wear a casual sundress, or even a skirt, but I promise you it will look better than pants.  And maxi/floor-length ones create such gorgeous movement and elegance in your images. When a client shows up in flowy, full-length gown, I KNOW their gallery is going to be jawdropping regardless of everything else. I recommend shopping at Rent the Runway, LuLus, and Neesee’s Dresses!

(Maxi dresses also make posing easier because I am not worried about you flashing anyone during our session!)

For Fellas: Suits + layers are the way to go. Same as with the ladies, the more formal the better for guys. Every guy looks great in a well-tailored suit. It also helps you create two different “outfits” with just one set of clothes if you don’t want to carry a second outfit around. You can take off the jacket, change your tie, and bam! New outfit! Layers also help create interest in your images and will immediately give them a more luxury feel.

For Kiddos: Follow the same rules as mom and dad. Little boys in a bowtie? Adorable. Little girls in summer dresses? Adorable. I just recommend always making sure that you tell your kids how great they look so they are comfortable in their clothes!


“What are good colors to wear?!”

“What color(s) should I wear for pics at the Cherry Blossoms?”

“How do I make my whole family look coordinated?”

The biggest piece of advice I have for these questions is to think about your location. Will you be in a garden or somewhere with lots and lots of natural color? Then maybe wear more neutrals so there isn’t too much going on at one time. Believe it or not, you will actually stand out more in that scenario than if you tried to ‘out color’ the natural landscapes. Will you be in an urban/downtown location? Go bold! A bright color will help you pop compared to the most likely neutral background.

Commandment #2 for color planning is to try to coordinate, not match. If you have 4 people all in white shirts with all khaki pants, you will all blend together and not look like distinct people in your photos. I recommend choosing a dominant color for each person (or 2-3 for the family), and having hints of those colors in other people’s outfits. For example, if mom is wearing a maxi blush dress, dad could have a blush pocket square, your daughter could have a blush headband, and your son a blush bowtie. If dad is wearing a navy suit, mom can have a navy belt, you daughter can have navy shoes, and your son navy pants. If you have more than 3-4 people in your photos, I recommend picking 2-3 dominant colors for the whole family and working them into everyone’s outfits. In my example, you could have blush, navy, white, and grey as your color scheme.

Quick note on Cherry Blossoms because these are a big deal in our area – I recommend having one outfit that will help you be an accessory to the blossoms, and one where they will be an accessory to you. Meaning, one outfit that’s more neutral (like whites and greys, and light blues) that will help the light pink of the blossoms really pop. Then a second one that will make you stand out like a navy or orange.

Wow, this post got a lot longer than I intended. You have been let in a lot more than just my general secrets for planning for your session! Hopefully, I’ve calmed some of your anxieties and you are feeling totally equipped to do your part of making your photos look gorgeous. I always love it when my clients send me pictures of their outfits and get my feedback. I’m always here to help!


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