Preparing for a photo shoot can be tricky business, especially if you’re really into fashion and expressing your own style. I remember the first photo shoot I did – with my cousin, Nicole, when I was 13. I had no idea how to dress for a photo shoot, how to do my hair or makeup, or how to pose and look natural and still well put together. I’ve had a lot of practice since then, but I also don’t follow a lot of the “usual rules.”
In this post, I’ll mainly be talking about my two most recent shoots where I was not the photographer (since I also do DSLR photography myself) : the one on Jan. 16 for my 6 years with my girlfriend, and the one she and I did in the summer just for fun.
Rule #1: Have a lot of fun with it.
It’s a photo shoot. Most likely, unless you’re a model – in which case, the expectations are very different – you’re paying to have this done, or a friend/family member is willing to do it for free to be nice. These will be your photos. They should reflect who you are, and you should enjoy capturing them. It’s not a high stress situation, and if it is, you’re taking it way too seriously.
I start with my outfit planning. For shoots, I’ll often plan fun outfit ideas months in advance prior to a shoot, especially for a special occasion like an anniversary. In the summer, I bought a custom-made top hat for a photo shoot because I’d always wanted an excuse to wear one. For my anniversary shoot, I got a new tulle skirt and wore a cat ears headband. My outfits, and my props/accessories, really represented who I am. They were classy and attractive on camera, but still showed a lot of personality.
Rule #2: Plan ahead of time, but be open to new ideas.
Many photographers have their own ideas about how to make you shine – that’s their job, as photographers. But they’re still very much there for what you want, so you have to have some clue. When my girlfriend and I did our first shoot together, we didn’t really know what we wanted, and it turned out we didn’t know what we didn’t want, either. We ended up with a gray background that was so not us, and a bunch of photos with cheesy props like bouquets and blocks. It had a very Valentine’s Day feel to it. Ick, very much not us. Our more recent photos have props like novels, umbrellas and chalkboards – they’re more representative of our silly, unique relationship than a bunch of flowers.
See what I mean:
(We look cute, but blocks that spell love? Just not our style.)
Rule #3: Know what looks good on you.
As much as you want your photos to be realistic and candid depictions of who you are, and who the other participants are, in order to not end up with 30-50 terrible shots, you need to have some idea of what looks good on you. If certain colors flatter your skin tone, and you need to wear natural makeup so it doesn’t overshadow your eyes, you should consider that. If you know that bending your head a certain way gives you a weird expression that’ll make you want to hide that photo, try not to do it. In a session, you’ll probably get to take a lot more photos than you’ll actually want, so it’s okay to have some silly, imperfect ones, but it can still be helpful to keep these things in mind.
Rule #4: Think about unity and representation.
If you’re doing a shoot with others, consider some type of unity–maybe you’ll all wear dresses, or you’ll all wear some blue in your outfit, or you’ll take a photo where you’ll all doing the same pose. Also consider representation. No matter who is in the shoot, make sure the poses and the props have some meaning or representation of the person/people. When I’m alone, I’ll often use jewelry and top hats or cat ears headbands as props, and I pose with a wide, toothy smile. With my girlfriend, we’ll often use ways to represent that we’re silly, book loving people. With my friends, our poses are often crazy and show how often we’re laughing.
The most important thing is practice and having fun.
Every time I do a shoot, I feel like it’s the best one I’ve ever done. That’s because of practice. The more poses I try, the more I know which ones work. The more I do outdoor shoots, the more I learn about which light is best for my skin and hair. The more I take photos with a certain person, the more we develop a certainly comfortableness and chemistry about our photo taking. It’s really all about practice – and having a blast while you’re at it. I really think you can’t have too many photos.