One of the best pieces of advice I read when launching my business was that photographers should themselves get in front of the camera regularly. Showing people who you are is good marketing, of course, but it goes beyond that. Being photographed is a vulnerable moment for people, and it’s important that I as a photographer really empathize so I can create the most comfortable situation possible for my clients.

Alexandria, Virginia photographer-4

Three things stand out as really making the difference between photographs that I immediately deleted and photographs that made me go “yes, this is going on Instagram” or even “WHO IS THAT SKINNY PERSON???

While in France for a wedding photography workshop that included a branding session (that basically just means a professional photographer took photographs of us that we could use on our websites), I also scheduled a meetup to swap photos with a classmate from an online photography course and hired a Parisian photographer so I got the full paying client experience, complete with questions, nerves, and expectations.

I learned a LOT from each of these experiences that I’ll apply moving forward in business and in running photo sessions. But three things stand out as really making the difference between photographs that I immediately deleted and photographs that made me go “yes, this is going on Instagram” or even “WHO IS THAT SKINNY PERSON???”.

1) Photograph yourself in any potential outfits well before your photoshoot

I actually went to my mother’s house for a weekend (Dad was out of town; this was just for girls) and tried on probably a dozen outfits. She helped narrow down the list of options and then took some pictures of me in them. This helped immensely since we can’t see all the angles when looking in a mirror. I knew I had gained some weight in recent months but was surprised by other changes I hadn’t noticed. Bizarrely, my dedication to PureBarre seems to have paid off with some better-built shoulders, which really did affect how some clothing fit!

Getting a second opinion is also important. I had put together one outfit (a gray tulle skirt and white sweater) that I knew would photograph well but almost didn’t show Mom because it seemed “too young” for me. I tried it on just to be thorough and she LOVED it. And guess what? Some of my favorite photos from the trip are from when I wore that. I wouldn’t even have packed it if she hadn’t loved it so much.

2)    Get your makeup matched by an expert before a photoshoot

I’m not a makeup artist but I’d say I am better than average with cosmetics. I worked at a Macys cosmetics counter years ago and picked up plenty of tricks. But just like with clothes, we often have some weird preconceptions about our own skin/faces/coloring and benefit from an outside perspective. I went to an Ulta and asked to be matched with a foundation, concealer and finishing powder. I didn’t give her any guidance other than I like natural-type brands and needed this makeup for a photoshoot so “please advise me however you would someone who came in to buy makeup for her wedding.”

I walked out with a foundation I never would have tried, a concealer that is AMAZING and a blush that looks perfectly natural but wakes up my whole face. I’ve seen some photos from France that I really don’t like but still think “MY SKIN LOOKS AMAZING THOUGH.”

3)    Buy good shoes for a photoshoot

Shoes are as important as any other piece of your outfit. The right shoes will elongate your legs, improve your posture and absolutely make an outfit. Don’t leave shoes as an afterthought; you should be thinking about what shoes you’ll wear as soon as you start planning an outfit. In the style guide I send to clients, I recommend wearing nude shoes because they elongate your legs and I am so, so glad I took my own advice. I lucked into a pair of heels that go well with my skintone, and that’s really what you need to find.

“Good shoes” does not need to mean “expensive shoes,” it just means shoes that go well with your outfit and make you feel awesome.

One thing I wish I had done:

1)    Tried different hair styles

My hair is my best thing (physically, anyway; I’m being shallow in this post). It’s naturally blonde, and curly or straight depending on what I want it to do. And yet, in several photographs I actually hate how my hair looks. It’s my own fault because I was so confident in my great hair that I didn’t bother to try any new styles or take time to have different styles photographed. So in pictures where it’s curly I sort of just have hair everywhere, and in pictures where it’s straight it just looks blah. It would have been so easy to take an extra ten minutes before work one morning to try a braid or updo or some curls and then snap a selfie and I really regret that I didn’t.