Five Ways to Plan for The Best Photo Shoot Ever

June 02, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

I often get asked for suggestions on what to wear for photo sessions as well as ideas on location and theme so I will dedicate this blog post to providing some inspiration in that regard. My hope is to portray you looking your best and also make sure you are as comfortable as possible in front of the camera to get candid, natural shots. I want to show what is unique about who you are so below I suggest five points to consider when preparing and planning for your portrait session.

1) Mix and Match: For coordinating group photos, I think it works well to pick a color scheme and add an accent color(s) if you desire. Its fine if some folks wear solids and some wear patterns. Also, think about the season and the colors around you. If its summer and the trees are full of green leaves, you might not want to wear shades of green, for example. I am not a fan of everyone in white shirts and jeans. I love color and texture so I recommend avoiding having everyone dress the same. Below is a good example of the Casler family using a red and navy color scheme that mixes and matches solids with patterns. You can try basing your outfits around your kids or vice versa. You can check out my boards on Pinterest for more ideas.

2) Mood: Location can also say something about who you are or the mood you want to portray in your photos. For example, I think the image below of singer/songwriter Mindy Nolt playing guitar in a field of golden grasses evokes a feeling of fall and folk music. 

The photos below from Laurie and Mike's casual engagement session have an urban feel. They both live in Lancaster City and wanted their photos to reflect the place where they live and spend time together. While I often default to a local park for portrait sessions, I love to shoot in different locations and I'm always happy to help you come up with ideas.

3) Accessorize: I suggest bringing a favorite hat, piece of jewelry, scarf, pair of shoes, etc. that you can wear for some of the photos and take off for others. Accessories can add a pop of color or texture to your outfit and add visual interest and personality. I love the floppy hat that my sister is wearing below in her maternity session at the beach. 

Flower crowns are also a great addition to any photo session and they are all the rage these days! I like how the feminine lace of Vanessa's black gown contrasts with the burst of color in the flowers.

Another example of how a scarf can make a photo more interesting. And p.s. you can almost never go wrong with a shade of red or coral.

4. Props: You are more than welcome to bring props along to your session. I have some you can borrow as well. Suggestions might be a wagon for the kiddos, an interesting chair, a guitar, a suitcase, books to read, a blanket, a basket to gather apples or stick a baby in, bubbles, fresh flowers, balloons, your dog, an awesome car, etc. Check out some great prop examples below.

I own the red chair below so if you'd like to use it for your session, let me know!

5. Theme: While your photo shoot doesn't necessarily need a theme per say, it can make your photo shoot more unique, natural and fun. Some examples of location themed photo shoots I would suggest are a local fair, a garden, an orchard, a greenhouse, a market, a pumpkin patch or a farm. My style is a mix of posed and candid and having activities for people to do is one of the best ways to get real smiles vs. fake grins. Here's a great example below of the Coleman family at the Ephrata Fair.

Leah and Jansen did a winter campfire engagement session at their historic home on the Hans Herr House property. They chopped wood, built a fire and had a picnic while snuggling in a warm blanket together. Making an activity into a photo shoot creates the opportunity for images that are more authentic and genuine and the results are less posey and forced. Think of an activity you like to do and we can probably make it a photo shoot! Ideas might be go on a hike, take a canoe ride, visit a coffee shop, go to a baseball game, have a tea party, etc. 

Engagement portrait photography session of Leah and Jansen at the Hans Herr House in the fall by Melissa Engle Photography And here are some more favorites from a session with the Shirk Family at Cherry Hill Orchard during apple picking season. I love the blue, yellow and purple color combo with cowgirl boots.

Carmen and Daniel decided on a picnic themed engagement session since Daniel loves to play guitar.

Engagement photography of Carmen and Daniel at Middle Creek Wildlife Refuge by Melissa Engle Photography

And if there happens to be a pitchfork on hand, may as well incorporate it! Megan and John got some great American Gothic shots in front of the garage in their backyard garden. 

I'd love to hear your ideas! Feel free to add your thoughts to the comments!


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