Zenfolio | Christina Terrano | The Photographers Guide to Session Prep

The Photographers Guide to Session Prep

April 14, 2014  •  1 Comment

As a wedding and engagement photographer I'm in the business of ensuring people look their best.  I get asked regularly about wardrobe choices, colors to avoid, make-up to think about, all the good stuff.  When I walk into a session with a beautiful couple I want them to look incredible, and feel even better, because ultimately it will show in their images.  I also happen to know some pretty incredible like-minded vendors who secretly wish that all couples were privy to the information I'm about to share here.  So let's get started, shall we?


"Christina, what should I wear?"

 In an effort to not be a Debbie Downer I'm instead going to discuss what you should shoot to avoid.  Not so much a how-to on everything that would be awesome in your session, but the best things to avoid so that you're comfortable and your photographer doesn't have some serious photoshop work on their hands.  Ready?  Let's do this :)


  1. If you can't breathe in it, it will show.  I'm not trying to be funny here.  If you put on a pair of pants that are so tight you can barely zip them, then please, opt for that second pair even if they make you cringe.  I don't care what size the better fitting pants are, you want them.  Why?  Because what you perceive as a "great fit" in the waist, will actually cause all sorts of issues in places you might not think of.  If I want to get that great shot of you leaning into your man and your tush is facing my camera, all you'll have to do is lean and the unthinkable happens:  rolls around your midsection will appear.  Wear the better fitting pants/skirts/etc... because it keeps you looking long, and sleek.
  2. If you're insecure about a certain part of your body, then dress it for a funeral.  Don't like your legs, wear black pants or a black skirt.  This is the ultimate slimming color.  Are you a Mom and you don't like having that bit of baby bulge left over, make sure you wear a tunic length top that will cover that area, preferably in a nice dark color, but just not black.  This way you're slimmed down, and the lines in the images all flow nicely.
  3. Patterns are your friend, as long as they keep their friendship friendly.  You can wear a nice pattern in any color scheme, be it warms, cools, earth tones, you name it ... as long as it's not trying to overtake your life.  If you look in the mirror and that pattern is screaming, "Me, me, it's all about me!" Then it's time to cut that thing lose.  You want the pattern you wear to flatter your physique and bring color to your face, not push you out of the way and make it all about them.  Think a nice flowy sky blue top, with a lovely flower pattern on it.  Nice and romantic.
  4. Lines are friendly as long as they don't cross you.  Then it's war.  Never ever buy a dress, top, or pair of pants in a line pattern that cross your body.  I don't care if you're a size 0 or 22, it's not flattering and it's unfriendly.  It basically mocks you to your friends.  Any line pattern is made to drape down your body like a fine set of silk sheets.  It's meant to be soft and make you look incredible.  A cross line pattern is exactly what it sounds like; crossing a line that doesn't have your best interests at heart.  Always have your lines heading up ↑ and down ↓ and never across ↔.
  5. Rainbows might be pretty to look at, but less is more when it comes to color.  Colors to avoid when choosing a top are anything fluorescent {YES ANYTHING}, white {you will glow}, black {you will blend into your surroundings}, yellow {it's not friendly to ANY skin tones}, and green {the casting from this color can make you look sick.}  Colors to avoid when choosing pants are white, and any brightly colored pant that would make you look bigger than you are.  It's best to shoot for a dark jean, dress pant, or skirt.  Let the color play happen on top where most of your images will be based.  The only catch here is dresses, obviously.
  6. Material girls go for big drama.  When you're choosing a full set ensemble, like a dress, be mindful of the material you've selected.  While I love to let people really play up their personalities in my sessions, I think it's only safe to remind you that velvet is only suitable for Prince.  He can rock purple velvet like a boss.  Us, on the other hand?  Not so much.  So avoid the obvious No-No materials of velvet, corduroy, and if you have a leisure suit you can wear, save it for Halloween.  I promise you'll thank me when you see your images.


"Christina, how should I do my make-up?"

This is my public service announcement for all my make-up artists.  I don't know how many MUA's I talk to who wished every person they came into contact knew these tips.  I'm sure there's some I'm missing here too, but I think these are the big ones that both myself and MUA's want you to know.

  1. Tanning beds are not good for you.  Or your images.  If you know for a fact you're going to be doing a photography session of ANY kind {including your wedding day}, it's my suggestion to STOP tanning at least a week before.  Why?  Because it's a little thing called extreme redness under the skin.  We work to avoid that issue in our close-ups so regularly there are professional editing software dedicated to it.  Not to mention the dryness that can be caused from tanning and tanning lotions, which is also something we work very hard to avoid.  What's the point of going tanning and telling me I can "fix it in photoshop" when my main objective will be to UN-DO everything the tanning bed does?  See, it seems silly doesn't it?
  2. Black eye liner is not your friend.  For photographs, at least.  Black eye liner, while a staple in most women's beauty routine, will do nothing but add a dark cast around your eyes and give you a squinty look.  If it's a warm day for your session it will also run and make halo's under your eyes making dark circles worse.  Unless you're going for the vintage pin-up look, also avoid black liquid liner.  The super fine line, if not perfect, can make your eyes look misaligned.  No one wants that.
  3. While we're on the subject of eyes let me just say, I love false lashes as much as anyone else, but do try to avoid the tarantula look.  Keep it simple with one set, or just a half of a set at the corners of your eyes to make them open up more.  Putting on multiple, full, jet black, sets results in you looking like you belong in Vegas at one of their floor shows.  We want your eyes to be seen, because it's our focus point more times than not.  We want wide, bright, beautiful eyes.  So, do yourself a favor and keep it simpler, rather than complicated.
  4. Build a good foundation.  By that I mean keep it light, and as close to your actual skin tone as possible.  Snooki from Jersey Shore rarely ever looks good in pictures due to her overzealous use of tanning and bronzers, as well as a very thick base of foundation.  This will not only look plastic and fake in your images, but it will lay a dirty trail of make-up on your face that will give you premature wrinkles.  When you smile, we want to see that beautiful smile, not the tell-tale signs that your foundation has shifted around like the tectonic plates.  Be you, embrace your skin tone, it's what looks best on you.
  5. Baby blue eye shadow is not cool now, and in the 80's it was bordering on the fence of lunch table status and banned to the bleachers.  When you're trying to figure out what shades you'd like to use for your session I'd like you to keep a few things in mind.  If you're a full on Irish girl, like me, which equals pale and freckly then you are banned from using black, blacks or charcoals, and nothing so dark it looks like you were punched in the eye.  You need to play up the creamy, dreamy, pale skin you have and stick to a more ethereal palette.  Pretty pinks, corals, light green perhaps, and always keep your eye liner to a dark brown or grey.  Anything darker will contrast with your skin and cause casting on your face.  If you're a darker hue then you can experiment with bolder colors but when it comes to your eyes avoid purples, blues, and reds {I shouldn't have to say that, but here I am.}  Natural is always better.  Natural is good and clean and will give you a look we can work with and make you look incredible.
  6. Don't get lippy with me, unless I ask you too, which is now.  When it comes to lipstick the point I was trying to make above really speaks here.  Pale skin tones should avoid overly bold, or mismatched color schemes.  Pinks are good, light mauves, or tan.  Obviously if you're looking to make a statement with your make-up then you'd avoid every tip I give here, but this is for those people wanting to look natural and relaxed.  If you're going to use lip liner please youtube how to apply it properly.  There really is a trick, I promise!  As far as lip stains go, you can't go wrong with any sort of lip stain or gloss from Bath & Body Works.  They're glittery and juicy which makes your lips look much fuller and if you get the color close, but not perfect, it's light enough it won't be life altering.  Plus, they taste yummy, and I'm sorry but that's a make it/break it option for me.


"Christina, how should I do my hair?"

Most of the girls I know who are about to have a session will scour Pinterest for something really cute, and trendy.  My advice here is go with what works for you.  Don't try some new fangled hair style that you aren't 100% sure about.  That's a sure-fire recipe for disaster.  This is why Brides are ALWAYS encouraged to have their bridal do's done at least ONCE before the big day.  You could be set on a certain style, spend all the time to do it, then absolutely HATE it.  That's a lot of wasted time, and I don't know about you, but no one has time for that.  My only advice here is don't dye your hair the day before, or of, your session.  It's going to be it's most bold and in your images it could come across as much deeper than you intend.  Same thing goes for highlights!


"Is there anything else you can give me a pointer about?"

My best suggestion for approaching the preparation for your session is to keep in mind that the photographer you hire is going to want to share these images.  Also, keep in mind, that you will have these for a long time and will ultimately use them for separate situations.  So, when you're picking out your wardrobe make sure you are properly representing yourself.  If you want to look fashionable and pulled together in your session, and give the impression you made effort, then by all means go for it.  It's probably not the best idea to approach your session with an overly laid back view and brush off planning ahead.  You're paying good money for your session, and we want to be able to share it as much as you.  If you come dressed in some ripped up jeans, a hoodie, and your hair in a ponytail, we're more than likely going to be disappointed.  We want your images to best represent you, and include your personality, but at the same time this is a session you've spent money on and showing appreciation for the fact it's happening is a good way to feel incredible, look even better, and give us photographers the chance to really make you shine.  That's always what we want ♥



Mallory Ruggiero(non-registered)
Love this post! SO many great tips!!!
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