Portrait Session Tips


The Noland Trail in Newport News is one of my favorite portrait session spots for engagement portraits, bridal portraits and family portraits.

I always aim for a fun & casual portrait session with all my clients and at HHP, and most of my sessions take place outdoors (which I LOVE). After a few hundred sessions, I have found that for engagement portraits and family portraits there are a few things that can help the photo session go even better so I get the photos that my clients want. So here are a few facts & tips that I have found to be helpful when preparing for an outdoor photo shoot.

We will be walking, sitting, maybe even climbing trees throughout the portrait session, so everyone should be sure to wear comfortable clothes & shoes or bring a second pair to change.

Matching clothes are not necessary but it does help to wear solid colors and avoid green, yellow, and red (since green grass or trees are often in the background and red & yellow can add a red cast to your skin tone).

Please let me know if you have any props you want included (i.e. signs, pictures, toys, etc.) so I can think ahead of time of some ideas for them. I do have a few props (blankets, bubbles, wooden sign) so please ask if you want me to bring anything along.


This sign is mine, which I bring to portrait sessions when requested, but other prop ideas are wooden signs, chalkboards, a big “&” or simply your wedding bands or engagement ring.

Please email me a link to any photos you want to “copy” or share your Pinterest board with me – I prefer to be creative so your photos are unique but I will do my best to honor any requests.

If involving pets please do your best to tire them out before the portrait session, bring treats or toys to help me get their attention, and bring along a friend that can watch your pet when they are not in the photos with you.

And one final tip for engagement portrait sessions.

Be sure to have clean fingernails!! (guys too 😉 This way we can get a nice hand shot with your engagement ring.


This coffee shop portrait I did with a remote light in Newport News is one of my favorites and despite being set up still looks like a natural moment on a date.

For family portrait sessions I use the first 15 min. for your children to feel comfortable around me so feel free to give them a snack or toy.

Here are a couple more tips for family portrait sessions.

Bring everything you would for a fun picnic or outing including snacks, toys, even a blanket if you don’t want to sit in the grass to help it feel fun & relaxed for the kids (and PLEASE free to call this a picnic – not a portrait session – or that you are going to play a new game).

Please, please, PLEASE try to refrain from promising treats or threats to get good behavior during the portrait session. This is especially important if your kids tend to not like having their picture taken or have had trouble at past portrait sessions. It really helps to try to make it sound fun & exciting when talking about it to help them look forward to it as something fun, not a chore.)


Portraits don’t have to involve a backdrop. They can also be done at a park, in your backyard, or at the beach.

Please tell me ahead of time any tricks you use to get your kids to smile or activities they enjoy so I can suggest them at the right times. It is also helpful to know any activities that they don’t enjoy (like being tossed up, tickled, etc.).

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Schedule your session at the best time for most of your family. Some children are slow to wake up in the morning, most get cranky before nap or bedtime, and some have WAY too much energy after their nap to sit still for a photo. While early morning or late evening light looks best, happy children look better. So let me know the time of day that usually works best for your family and we will make it work, regardless of the light at that time of day.

Above all else, I want everyone to relax and have fun so we can get great natural photos that capture your personalities and don’t look overly staged. My sessions go beyond looking at the camera and smiling, in fact, I often prefer the photos where everyone is NOT looking at me because they automatically look more natural that way. So come ready for fun photos, not just standing in front of the camera, and if you need a glass of wine (or a nap) beforehand – do it!


This Virginia Beach family portrait with a newborn was done indoors on my fake wooden floor and I added a vintage filter to make the photo feel a little more like a timeless Polaroid family moment.