photography blog by celia ragonese / philadelphia

How To Prepare for your Portrait Session - Headshot Tips

This summer is FLYING by, which means it's time to update your portrait / headshots or, heck, time to replace your cellphone selfie (#celfie) on LinkedIn with a more "profesh" portrait. Intimidated by the idea of having a headshot session? Want to make sure you think of all the details before going? I GOT YOU. This blog post to help you prep for photoshoots like a pro, so I get real and I get into the nitty gritty.

First things first...

How do I go from "Meh." to "YAY!" about my photos?

  • It's a photographer's job to make you feel comfortable and calm during the session. No two photo shoots are the same, so I take into consideration how much guidance each person needs, what the light is doing, what your goals are for the session, your most flattering angles, and how you will use the photos. Your comfort is super important to me. If you need a break, want water, or just need a moment, feel free to speak up and let me know.
  • Listen to your favorite podcast or playlist before the session -- it’ll help boost your mood and confidence! Make sure to take three deep breaths and stretch your neck and shoulders before the session and during the session. Feeling centered is so helpful and really shows in your expression. Bring water or your favorite drink to stay hydrated (even during the winter) and definitely let me know if you need anything else at all -- I’m here to help!

So what should I wear?
  • Solids and neutrals work best for photography. Prints are great to add visual interest but stay away from extremely small prints. Consider a solid as a back-up if you are not sure how well a print will photograph. 
Fabric choice matters... a lot. Fabric that has stains, pills, holes, wrinkles, animal hair, shows undergarments, etc. will not photograph well and cannot be Photoshopped to look like new. 
  • Consider a thicker, high-quality fabric that is not thin or see-through in bright light/flash and consider fabrics that won't wrinkle en route to your photo-session. PRO-TIP: Bring a couple of options or send me your outfit choices via email before the session. 

How do I look my best for photos (while still looking like me)? 

GREAT question. No, you don't have to contour like a Kardashian (unless that is your thing), but I do ask people to consider taking time to add a little extra oomph to their routine.
  • Whenever I do a headshot session for myself, I'm wearing more make-up than normal, but I'm choosing neutral make-up that accentuates features I like while also making sure it's not overwhelming. I also use more hair product than normal but keep my hair curly as straight hair -- for me -- only happens once every other month! I want to be recognizable when people meet me.
  • For ladies and gentlemen: Please take the time to get rid of fly-aways (try putting hairspray on a small brush and then comb the flyaways down). Consider bringing a product with you for last minute touch-ups. 
  • Lots of self-tanner or deep bronzer where your face doesn't match your neck is not recommended at all. (Self-tanner has an orange undertone in photos.) Please take care of bumps before the photoshoot with a little extra coverage.
  • And for men, shaving bumps can be reduced with witch-hazel -- please take extra care while shaving the days before and the day of the photoshoot. Consider trimming and combing eyebrows so you don't look like Sam Eagle from the Muppets (unless that is your thing -- again, no judgement). Bring lip balm, too.

You still have more tips? GIRL.

Yes, I'm extra...
  • Because it's summer: Have a sunburn and skin is flaking? Try a light exfoliation (for both skin and lips). If the skin is badly burned or uneven, please let me know in advance. 
  • As I mentioned above, wearing certain make-up is a personal choice but if you are not sure where to start, consider these basics: eyebrow filler with a brow comb, light eyeliner, mascara, foundation coverage and spot coverage, and lipstick or lip gloss that is not excessively lighter (or "frosty") than the natural lip color. PRO-TIP: Bring a travel kit with a little make-up for touch-ups.
  • Don't forget your teeth. Coffee-stained teeth dull a bright smile, so please consider using Crest white strips -- if your dentist allows -- or teeth whitening toothpaste for sensitive teeth, or making sure to rinse out after drinking red wine, coffee, etc. 
  • If you are doing a BRANDING session, consider a manicure as many photos will include your hands in the photos.
  • Last tip. Alcohol dehydrates the skin and it really shows (trust me, I see it). Because skin loves to be hydrated from the inside out, consider abstaining the day before and the day of the photoshoot to maximize that inner GLOW.

Do I see the photos during the photoshoot?

  • This is a personal preference for each person. The image on the back of the camera will show me a red dot where my focus is, show grid lines, a histogram, my settings, and blinking highlight alerts. It's a bit much, but it's all info I need to make sure the RAW image is going to be an amazing JPEG for you. Some people are used to looking at info-heavy RAW image and understand photo editing, so while I prefer to keep people "in the zone" of having their photo taken, I absolutely understand that you'd like to check them out after we've done a few warm-up photos.  
  • TRUST is important though. If you had an experience with another photographer where you were really surprised at the end result, let me know and I'll walk you through what I do to images. You can also view my portrait work here. And more work in a branding gallery here. PRO-TIP: Show your photographer your favorite photo of you and an "aspiration" photo that you like of another portrait or headshot session. Describe what it is that you like about the photos.

What else should I know?

Please let me know if you have any special concerns before the photoshoot. I can help you best with anything before the session as I may not have time on the day of the session to provide extensive guidance or fix issues that would need time. 

You deserve the best photos in the world, and I want to help you get them. If you need anything at all, just let me know as I always welcome questions and feedback! You got this, boo. 


  1. Thanks for shearing very nice and exceptional idea about this photography tips .

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