The Burden Of Beauty

Over the years I have found some great tips I’d like to share about putting the cherry on top of a perfect session. Although I call this “the cherry on top”, it is something which needs to take place before the session begins — the coordination of your ensemble. To find the perfect outfit many feel burdened and never choose to book a session because of this, they give up, or they overwhelm themselves horribly.

Although you must ask yourself a series of questions to get the perfect fit, it can be fun and easy if you don’t over think it. I mention that there are a series of questions only because there are many factors which go into choosing an outfit. I want it to compliment the person, but also work with the overall tone of the session.

If you’d rather stop reading NOW and call or email me (, I am more than happy to assist you (virtually OR in person)! YES, I said in person! Let’s shop!

Now that you chose to continue reading, let’s get personal. To start, you need to erase all thoughts in your mind of other people’s portraits, engagement shots, senior photos, etc… This session is about YOU, so make sure it speaks your style and your personality. As the saying goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Make sure those one thousand words are fitting for who YOU are.

Now you are ready.


The big “NO-NO’s”

At the VERY least. Please stray away from: large, over-sized logos, lettering of any kind (no matter how witty you believe it might be) and neon colors.

Think about YOUR style…

Are you trendy? Are you casual? Do you often wear outfits inspired by another decade? Are you rarely found outside of your workout gear? The answer to this question will gear you toward the styling of your session. Take your style and enhance it. Enhance, meaning alter it slightly; refine it.

Do you normally wear jeans and a tank top? Consider some navy slim-leg “jeans”/pants and a shirt with a pop of color to it.

Would you NEVER want to wear a dress in public? Think about a well-fitting romper (whether that be a long-pant or shorts romper). Want to get a little bold? Pair with a cute nude wedge!

 Are you often caught in business professional outfits? Maybe going with a seasonally appropriate dress is the way to go! (Ex. sweater dress with leggings or a high-low dress)


Think about what compliments your figure…

Have you ever received a compliment on something that is currently in your closet? If the garment is still new-looking and something that would photograph well, maybe you should consider wearing that and not purchasing something new. Otherwise, was it the color they were complimenting you on? Was it the structure or the length? Another option is when you go to the store to buy that new dress, keep the structure, color or even the brand in your mind so that you can recreate the look that complimented garment gave you.

Everyone should know that their figure is complimented, or hindered, by a variety of things. Structure of a garment is only part of what makes the outfit come together on a body. It is important that you keep in mind: colors that work with your skin tone, length at which you look taller or where it hits you “wrong”, texture in places which could enhance your look or make you look larger than you are and what the shoot is for (which decides your positioning). When a realtor has a session for head shots, the stance is much different than an interactive family session on a hiking trail. If there is a good chance you will be sitting, be sure your garment lays nicely in that position or tell your photographer upon arrival which positioning doesn’t work.


Think about what you are comfortable in…

Never wear something that “rides up” or you feel reveals too much of you. Not only will the revealing area show in pictures, it will show in your facial expressions and body language. As humans, we rarely can conceal what we are thinking. If you are in pain because the Jimmy Choo’s you purchased are pinching your toes, your smile won’t be as bright and your posture won’t look natural. Not to mention, when you are in pain, frustrated or embarrassed, it is normal to feel warmer or even sweat. This other side-effect of discomfort will change how your hair lays and of course your enjoyment of the shoot. If your session will be a lifestyle session, consider ease of interaction as well.


Think about what works with the “feel”

and the location of the session or photo shoot…

I am excited to be “along for the ride” with my clients. In addition to my more structured and traditional sessions, I am inspired by the interactive sessions like family hikes, walks around the pond, beach days, strolls through downtown and proposals. Each one of these sessions bring a unique look to them and my clients need to keep this in mind when they are choosing their outfits. If you are hoping to be captured making sandcastles with your grandchildren, your “Sunday Best” probably isn’t the best outfit to choose for the session. On the other hand, maybe you aren’t thinking being photographed in your bathing suit is what you’d like to do…in that case, as with all shoots, there is a happy medium.


Think about the cohesiveness with the other people also being photographed…

The idea behind a session for a couple or a family is that the people being photographed are united.

A good place to start are with the women or just the mama. Then, build the rest based on that feeling and look. If mama has a flowy, floral, high-low dress with strappy sandals, keep that feeling going. For example, keep baby boy in some sort of sandals and consider a little floral pop to his shirt while your teen girl and dad have a more subdued, but color-rich statement.

There are some colors and a few styles which do not work together, therefore not looking as united as they could be.

Don’t mistake the term “united” for “matchy-matchy”. I HIGHLY advise against everyone wearing the same clothing or even variations of it. Long gone are the days where everyone in the family wears a white t-shirt and khakis or jeans.

Below are some colors which, in my opinion and in most cases, do not work well together:

  • Red doesn’t seem to work well with: most shades of pink, orange or green (unless this is a holiday or Christmas shoot).
  • Neon colors are very harsh colors to photograph, but there are exceptions to this rule. (Senior sessions and children’s portrait sessions can be enhanced with an appropriate pop of neon.)
  • Black is a color which CAN be slimming, but it also can make you look like a blob. Black absorbs light and any beautiful textures or patterns within the black may go unnoticed. Also, too much of a dark color in a photograph will also change the tone of it. Finally, it is rare that everyone’s black will look the same due to fabric and age of the garment. Another option is to go with a navy blue or a very deep red.

Keep in mind there are exceptions to every rule. DO NOT stress, I pride myself in making almost anything work. These are merely suggestions for you to get the most out of your session.


Accessorize & STYLIZE!

Accessories can make or break a photo shoot. Building on that earlier example: maybe mama has a hat, then adding suspenders to baby boy would be a great look! For the Fall and Spring, a patterned scarf, when coupled with a cute boot can set that senior session into a trendy look. On the other hand, over-accessorizing may change the focus of the session. This is especially the case when you are going to be doing a maternity session. Your focus is the belly. Once you think about the focus of the session, appropriate accessories will fall into place.

Accessorizing and styling your shoot could also mean adding some tasteful (or tasty) details which work with the feel of the shoot. Feel free to grab that coffee and those donuts, let’s relax and unwind together!


Refine your eyes…

Now keep in mind that what you wear on your body doesn’t stop with clothing. You need to be mindful that your hair and makeup go well with the clothes, location and time of day you have chosen. Of course, it also needs to be true to who you are. If the only time you have been caught with your hair curled is at your wedding, then in most cases, it wouldn’t be suggested to wear it curled for your session.

The only place where I would suggest to add in where you normally wouldn’t is make up. I, for one, am a huge fan of natural beauty. However, I would not suggest to roll out of bed and walk in front of a camera. The camera has the rough reputation for adding 10 pounds, but one thing rarely mentioned is it’s knack for enhancing the oils on our forehead, the blemishes on our chin and the bags under our eyes. Photoshop is a wonderful tool, but the time it takes to put on a bit of makeup versus the time it takes to edit each image is exponentially different (especially for the longer sessions or events). Make up can be applied to eliminate those problem areas while still maintaining a VERY natural look.

irwinfamily_web-3259I love to focus on the eyes of my clients. If you are wondering what I suggest as a bare minimum for makeup, it is as follows. Cover Girl is a great brand to go with. I find that it stays looking fresh and it is easy to apply. There are also some additional product companies which are highly advised by reputable make-up artists. IF you are interested in adding hair and/or makeup to your session package, I have a few wonderful ladies who are certified in professional application.

Concealer — One shade lighter than your skin tone, applied under the eyes and dabbed on any problem areas.

Foundation — Powder foundation, applied in a circular motion over your entire face, under your chin and faded down your neck.

Mascara —  Black lash lengthening mascara, applied twice with a few minutes in between applications for the coats to dry.

Blush — Depending on the shade of your skin and the shape of your face, you should add a touch of color to your cheeks.

*optional* Lips — A tinted chapstick to a slight gloss, applied lightly. Try to find either something which goes with your outfit or makes a statement, depending on what the session is for.

*optional* Brow Liner — A shade lighter than your natural brow, applied lightly to your current brow shape. YouTube has some GREAT tutorials. Do not apply this if you are unsure.


If you find yourself worried , there is no need to fret. I am more than happy to offer advice or assist you when you are thinking of a color pallet for your family’s clothes or your makeup.

For a small fee I am also more than willing to add hair and makeup assistance to your package. Inquire by emailing me and we will get everything set up stress-free. After all, this is YOUR Lifesong we are capturing.

Thanks for stopping by my blog! Email me at with questions or to book your next session!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s