Portrait Session Tips


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 (avoid logos and busy patterns) 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). Also keep in mind the weather – it is generally more windy at the beach so clothes should not be too loose.

Let me know if you have any props you want included (i.e. signs, bubbles, change of clothes, etc.) so I can think ahead of time of some ideas for them. I do have a few props (blankets, red wagon, wooden blocks) so please ask if you want me to bring anything along.



Prepare a bag of snacks, small makeup kit for touch ups, brush or hairspray, headache medicine, baby wipes, and tissues. And be sure to keep the snacks as mess free as possible! Leave the red suckers & cheese puffs at home.

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.

……. One final general portrait session tip……..


If you are taking professional photos to use for years to come, be aware of trendy clothing and go for a timeless, classy look so you don’t find yourself needing an updated photo one year later.


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.

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 or play time instead of a portrait session). I use the first 15 min. for your children to feel comfortable around me so feel free to give them a snack or toy and if we are meeting at the park it is always a good idea to arrive a little early to give them time to play first.

Please, please, PLEASE try to refrain from promising treats before 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 – so when talking about it be sure to sound excited to help them look forward to it as something fun they are getting to do. (I am everyone’s Aunt Heather 😉


Please tell me ahead of time any jokes, words, or gestures you know will make your kids to smile, games they like to play or TV shows 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, chased, etc.).

TIP 10
Schedule your session at the best time for most of your family. Some children are slow to wake up in the morning and many get cranky before nap or bedtime. 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!


Voted the Knot’s “Best of Wedding Photographers” | WeddingWire’s “Couples Choice” Award 2008 - 2019 | Virginia Living Magazine's "Top Wedding Vendor" 2016- 2019 | VA Small Newspaper Photographer of the Year | Wedding Photojournalist Assoc. Blue Medallion Award