Preparing for Your Photo Shoot | What a Photographer Wants You to Know | Sweet Light Studios | So. San Francisco Portrait Photography

Hello Beautiful…
How exciting, you’ve booked a Portrait Photo Session!  Now… How to Prepare? So many questions!

Fabulous Photo Shoots

Many of these tips will be great for any kind of photo shoot you may have coming up – engagement or wedding photo sessions or family portraits.

To help you get ready to put your best face forward we’ve pulled together a list of things we’d like every person stepping in front of the camera to consider and check first!


Obviously, the first thing to think of is putting your Best Face Forward…
we’ll want to see those pearly whites and bright eyes and we’ll also want to focus on the frame of the face: your hair and your clothes… hands frequently pop into the frame, so  consider them as well.

When we pay attention to the details, we will eliminate potential disappointment in the session due to distracting elements in our portraits like stained teeth, wrinkles in clothing or obvious root growth in hair lines.  When we eliminate distractions and things we don’t like, we are left to enjoy only what we love.

Since you’ve booked your session in advance (good girl) you’ll want to schedule a few visits to your favorite professionals for the week before your session date — it’s a good idea to put appointments on the calendar right away to ensure it doesn’t get lost in the busyness of life & shopping for new outfits!

A Week Before:
Hair Salon
Dental Whitening
Spa (Facial, Brows, Wax)

Few Days Before:

Pick and choose what is right for you — these guidelines here will work for most photo sessions.
In general, what’s in the frame is most important: Hair, Face, Hands and Wardrobe.

Classic and Clean makes for Timeless Elegance and Treasured Heirloom Portraits, take my word for it.



The Basics… or, something for every shoot.

Closet Capers.  What to Wear?
This is usually the first question clients have go through their mind….
and the answer is often a fabulous excuse to go shopping!

When going to your closet consider the purpose of your photo shoot — is it Head Shots for LinkedIn, Professional Portraits for your new business web site, Promotional Images for banners or cards?   Respectable family portraits, or are you looking for a glamorous fantasy photo shoot to preserve this time in your life?  Perhaps you’ve booked a Boudoir Style Intimate Session or a combination of sessions…

Session Styles
Your photo needs will determine your wardrobe choices, consider careful, bring extras, we can edit together!

I can say from experience that solid colours and form fitting clothes are most flattering to my style of portraiture.  Leave at home the clothes you wear to hide-in.  You know, the patterns and the over-sized, billowy fabrics as they will leave you looking larger through the camera than in real life.

If you are concerned about this “weighty issue”, know that I can do a whole lot more “trimming” in Photo Shop with you wearing form fitting clothing than with bulky sweaters, large patterns and ill fitting frocks.

After selection, your wardrobe brought should be cleaned and pressed or steamed and hung up.  Bring your dressy items in a garment bag for protection and watch for pet hairs when your packing.  Include any accessories that you like to wear with the outfits you’ve chosen for a perfectly polished presentation.

Neutral Colours are better than bright or trendy colours in your wardrobe, the idea is to focus attention on you face in your portraits, not distract with a fuchsia designer dress that will be dated by trends.
Good Choices: Navy, Gray, Black, White, Tan, Kakhi, Cream, Pastels, etc.

As mentioned before, patterns and prints can be distracting. Ideally people will look at you when they see your portrait: we want them to see your face, and not get distracted by giant watermelon slices, flowers or coloured dots.  Intimate Beauty Portraiture

Check out this image for an example. >>>>


While this pattern is fantastically outrageous, full of flirty fun just like the our fabulous client — we know your eye does not go to her face first, which is exactly why she loves this image so!

When checking your wardrobe, think about what you want to be most noticeable on picture day.

Ladies, gather together as many Necklines as you can!  I love to feature a woman’s décolletage in portraits, and nothing accents this area more than varying necklines — oh, my there are so many to choose from!  Scoops and Squares, deep V’s that plunge, Sweethearts and Strapless, High Collared and Grecian, Off the Shoulder or Cowl, and many more — every one accentuates a woman differently…
even if you only wear black t-shirts like me, you can add variety to your wardrobe by seeking out alternate necklines.

Texture is another favorite variant in photo shoots — bring along something dark and something light with loads of texture and you’ll get bonus points from me!  I love to create Monochromatic Portraits, that is black dress on a black background or white top & jeans on a white sofa, delicious. These are some of my favorite beauty images, because the focus is entirely on the subject’s inherent beauty.


With Family Sessions, it’s nice to follow these rules and also coordinate your colours so that no one person in the group draws more attention with a colour than the others (unless of course that’s what you’re going for).   I’ll add on that it’s great to make sure that you have one or two set’s of clothes that “match”, ie: denim & white t-shirts or all black dresses.

Transformational Beauty Portraiture - the family

Madalina & Family made even more gorgeous by Makeup and Hair Artist Teresa Reynolds | Beauty Photographer: Shelah Osbrink, digitalShe | at Sweet Light Studios

When the family matches wardrobe, once again, our focus will be on the faces and all the beautiful emotion we can capture there.


Personal Care.  Grooming.
The Mane Attraction.
A week before your session book an appointment with your Hair Dresser.
I can not stress this enough, this is the single most reason women don’t care for a portrait in our studio, the dreaded “root line” showing or gray hairs exposed.  Honestly, hair is the most difficult thing to correct in retouching.  So, schedule that maintenance!
The week before is the best time to go in for that colour touch-up, and a trim can give your hair new life and bounce.  In general we don’t recommend doing anything radical to close to your session date — unless feel you absolutely must.

On a budget?  If you hair is natural, a good conditioner a few days before is a great way to de-stress while preparing for your session.  Work a deep conditioning treatment in your hair, pop on a towl & curl up with a good book or some Netflix for some quality self-care time.

Those Pearly Whites.
If it’s been a while, now’s a great time to schedule a cleaning… those pearly whites are vital to the scene & will ensure you are looking your best.  You can add a whitening or brightening strips to your shopping list to save time and money.

The Mug.
Brow & Body Time.  If you want a facial, be sure to do this at least a week prior to your session…
we want lots of time for any swelling or redness to diminish before your photos session.

If you thread or Wax your Brows, calendar this at least 5 days advance of your session to ensure no redness.
If you’re thinking of a more intense procedure such as a chemical peel or botox injections, you’ll want to schedule more time between your procedure and your photo shoot to allow everything to settle — at least two weeks, but three is better.

The Facade.
Model: Charlene, Ford SFNo matter if you have a photo shoot planed or not, putting your best face forward always involves quality maintenance and daily grooming.  Now’s the time if you haven’t already begun a beauty regimen!
Exfoliation and Moisturizer are the keys to youthful looking skin, along with sun protection.

Our favorite “The Microdelivery Daily Exfoliating Wash” from Philosophy is a fantastic home-exfoliation product, find it at Sephora or Ulta Beauty!  We recommend you exfoliate your face a week before and again a couple of days before your session, and follow up with a good moisturizer.

We don’t recommend those scrubby face sponges or loofah’s though, too harsh on delicate facial skin.


Rings, Blings, Fingers & Toes.
A few days before your session have a manicure, if you are on a budget, this is what to save for…nail-polish

To me, this is pretty essential. I shoot a lot of hands – even if you aren’t normally the type to indulge, this is where I recommend you splurge.  Guys too!  Even just a basic mani with a buff will show, your nails will be smooth, cuticles pushed back and any hangnails removed.

Girls, choose a neutral finger nail polish, something that will go along with your wardrobe, a clear, nude, burgundy or classic red, what ever your style.  Just please not florescent!  If you’ve booked a Glamour or Intimate Session include a pedicure, because, as they say, you’re worth it.

Along with fingers, comes The Ring — you want that rock to sparkle, so clean her up!  We recommend those sonic cleaners, sometimes lifetime cleaning is included with your purchase, time to make use of that.  If it’s been a while since a professional cleaning, take it in right away, just in case any settings need to be repaired and to ensure you’ll have it back in time.  Bonus points for taking your man’s ring in too, if you’ve chosen a family or couples portraiture session.

Considering The Bod.
Spa DaySpa Day

If you are coming in for an Glamour Session or an Intimate Session & plan to show some skin, a good long soak in the bath and quality time with a washcloth or Buff Puff will help remove flakes and impurities…  now’s the time to pull out that scrubby sponge or loofa!

Once again follow up with a good moisturizer.  Our favorite, Burt’s Bees Radiance Body Lotion, can be had at your nearest drug-store, mmm yummy!


Wax On, Shave Off.
If you wax, give yourself a few days to heal before your session, and if you’re planning an Intimate Session this timeline is very important!

Shaving can be done closer to your session date, the night before or the morning of if you like.
To Tan or Not to Tan…
Some do and some don’t — if you’ve always sported the glow and it’s a part of “your brand” to be a sun kissed Cali Girl then go for the spray or touch up.

We strongly recommend against doing it yourself or if it’s not part of your normal routine.

If you’re looking for a little something extra we can add or hide almost anything in Photo Shop, we got the power to add a touch of “Cinnamon Toast” to your gams, or hide any stray tan lines that may have come along.  Our polish and print will give you skin of the Gods, smooth like the magazines, you’ll be amazed — if only we could make this in a spray for every day!

Concerned about marks or scars or anything else?  We’re here to help…  everyone’s unique and we all see ourselves differently.  As far as birthmarks or beauty marks goes, if you love ’em we’ll leave ’em; if you hate them we’ll make them disappear or fade partially away, tell Mum that goes for lines and wrinkles too!

I’ll leave you with a check list that you can use to review when getting ready for your session…
feel free to save as a reminder for your session!


Photo Shoot Check List:Hair Cut

A week or so before:
Hair Trim, Colour or Touch Up
Dental Cleaning / Teeth Whitening
Facial / Brow Waxing / Exfoliate

A day or so before:
Exfoliate Again
Deep Condition Hair
Arrange / Clean / Press Wardrobe



Day of:
Arrive with a Clean bare face (just your usual moisturizer)
Arrive with Clean, dry hair (wash the night before)
Wear a Cozy Comfy Outfit (you’ll be sitting for a bit)
Bring Along your Fabulous fitted outfits to wear in photos (cleaned, pressed and hung up)



Hope this session guide helped not just you, but anyone planning or preparing for a photo session!
I am here to create, not to compete, if you found this useful, please let me know by saying “Thanks” below!

Looking forward to seeing you in the studio soon!



Schedule a transformational beauty portrait session of your own at Sweet Light Studios and See Yourself in a New Light!
Phone: 1+415/409.9389  | eMail: