Have you ever gone on a little road trip or a hike with a friend and they didn’t tell you where you were going or how long it would take to get there? Not knowing these kinds of details makes it difficult to know what to pack or how to schedule your day and it would probably make you a little frustrated.

Similarly, most folks don’t know how a photo shoot is supposed to go, and maybe the last shoot they were in was done differently than the way you do things. If you provide a road map for the shoot, your clients will be more comfortable and much more cooperative.

Before the Shoot

Whether you’re a pro or making pictures for your neighbor, your subjects expect that you know more about what’s going on than they do. You should provide some tips to help them get ready for the shoot. Models will ask if they should be camera-ready or if there is an MUA (makeup artist) and stylist. Take that as a cue to tell your client some suggestions for clothing and styling.

Send an email a few days ahead of time and suggest they wear makeup (if they wear makeup), and wear their favorite clothes–the clothes they always get lots of compliments wearing. If guys wear ties, make sure they bring a few. Jackets and sweaters are always good to bring and suggest solid colors and mild patterns. Tell them that we don’t want to distract from the eyes. Even so, simple jewelry can help provide a polished look.

During the Shoot

This is the most critical discussion so your client understands what will happen next which will help them stick with you for the whole shoot. Earlier this week I photographed 80 people at a convention. I was tasked with making terrific headshots for each person, and I had less than ten minutes each to do it. The only way I was able to pull it off was to start each session with an introduction and discussion. I asked them what characteristics they wanted to be apparent in their photographs, and then explained some ways we can show those things. I also demonstrated the basic posing tips I’d be asking them for time and again. This short discussion helped them see that I valued their needs and showed them what to expect and when we’d be done, and helped them to be comfortable in front of my camera in a hallway full of people.

Because I work this way and have explained what kind of pictures we are after, once we have those pictures we are finished, and we are often finished very quickly. So I don’t begin by saying this shoot will take a certain amount of time.

After the Shoot

Once you’re finished making pictures, talk about delivery and when pictures will be ready. Makes sure you understand their needs and expectations and address them all. Set a date to get together to view the pictures and order prints.


Tell people what to expect during their shoot, and you’ll have a much better time, especially if kids are involved. Your subjects will trust you more and be more relaxed. Just make sure you keep up with your side of the bargain (like delivering pictures on time, and things will go really well.

Portrait Tips come out each week, and you can see them all right here.