First Things First
I borrowed that phrase from Steven Covey's great book '7 Habits of Highly Effective People'. Let's get the big picture of self image first. What is self-image?
Self-image is the personal view, or mental picture, that we have of ourselves. Self-image is an “internal dictionary” that describes the characteristics of the self, including such things as intelligent, beautiful, ugly, talented, selfish, and kind.
Specific to portrait photoshoots, self image is an agglomeration of all the secret set of adjectives (good or bad, positive or negative) we use for ourselves, all the nasty self talk about ourselves, that critical inner child who says bad things about our nose/ eyes/ face/ skin/ hair/ what not...there's no end to all the negative things we tell ourselves about how we look. Or may be not, if you are comfortable with yourself, good for you!
Why am I even getting there? Is this not about preparing for a photoshoot? Yes, it is! However your comfort with who you are and the way you look (whatever may be that adjective you use for yourself secretly) is the secret sauce of great portraits and headshots. Here are a couple of short videos for you - please watch them before you scroll down for specifics tips on preparation.
Preparing for a Shoot
Good photos are a result of thoughtful preparation both by you and me, the photographer. My part is assured, what about yours?
Your preparation or lack of it can make or break the photo shoot. The difference is either we finish the shoot with a set of best photos of you or with photos you don't like, photos in which poor fitting clothes are sticking out like a sore thumb.
If you are well prepared, you will feel confident and comfortable and that shows in your body language. Otherwise you'd be feeling insecure and struggling to hide things you don't like, your inner voice nagging, pulling and tugging at you...it's miserable, trust me...I had been there, all of us had. Do you want to go there again? I don't think you do. In that case, here are some common issues that I observed in photoshoots that you should take care of:
Ill fitting clothes (men & women): I can't stress this enough. Some folks borrow a jacket/coat from a colleague or dig up clothes from the college days (a century ago) or worse they pickup something on sale without checking the fit. That's a disaster in making. How often have I seen this? This is the most common issue in photo shoots. Mind you, I do this for a living, photo shoots I mean.
Old, worn out clothes (men & women): You love that top or that jacket, you have good memories associated with it, I get it, but you haven't perhaps noticed that the edges are fraying, the stitching is coming off, the color has faded already and that 'thrill' is gone! It is time to donate it and move on and get a new one to fall in love with. Please don't wear old clothes, even if they look good enough to you.
Bad makeup (women): Foundation shade that doesn't match the skin color, poorly applied, going overboard with eye shade (which was actually the lipstick smeared over the eye lids). This is a commonly seen issue in photoshoots.
Poorly applied hair dye (men & women): Botched attempts at dyeing one's hair with forehead and ears stained or un-dyed roots and the result? Don't get me started on this...less said, the better! Please don't try this at home, get professional help.
The choice of colors of the attire you are going to wear will have bearing on the look of the photos. It is complicated and can't be made into easy notes here. Please consult with me about your plans. What colors do you prefer and why. Lets discuss and work it out.
Preparation Tips for Men
If you have time, head over to Suits Expert (click here), if you don't continue reading.
Whatever you choose to wear, fit is the most important aspect of how you will look. Ill fitting clothes will spell disaster, so kindly pay attention to this - if necessary buy a new pair.
Shirts: Well fitting Pantaloons clothes are better than ill fitting Gucci. Shirts with tight collar (if you can't close the collar button, it is too tight) and shorter sleeves don't look good. Please avoid tight shirts - if you can see the bulge of your paunch in the mirror, it is tight, no good! Solid colors do good, pin stripes too. Shirts with double cuffs, are great!
Half sleeves shirts? Oh, no! NEVER!!!!
Avoid Giza cotton shirts, you can afford them, I get it but they crumple easily and are a nightmare for photo shoots.
Mandarin collars are a NO, NO, NO!
Blazers/Coats/Jackets: Please get a well fitting jacket, please! I can't stress this enough. Don't borrow someone else's jacket, most likely it won't fit you. If you can't close the buttons standing up, it is too tight. Tight jackets look bad, period. If you already have one or many, get it/them dry cleaned and pressed before the shoot. Here's a big NO to tuxedos.
Trousers & Belts: Tight trousers accentuate your paunch. Please get a pair of well fitting trousers you are comfortable in. Don't forget the belt - of color that matches your shoes. The belt needs to fit well too.
Ties, Tie Pins, Cuff links, Pocket Squares: Decide the shirt, trousers, tie, pocket square combination beforehand. Tie pins don't show in the portraits unless you are going to get a shot without your jacket/coat.
Shoes: Same color as the belt of your choice. In full length portraits and in seating portraits, they show. Get them buffed to mirror finish...kidding!
Haircut and Dye: if it is more than 3 weeks since your last hair cut, get one done. and the dye as well, if you are into dyeing your hair.
Moustache, Beard and Eyebrows: Trim a day before the shoot. Don't put it off till the day of the shoot, you may not find time for that. If you are into trimming eyebrows, check. Otherwise we are good!
Hair on Ears, on and in the Nose: a reality for some men. Those pesky fellows peek out of nowhere. Ask your mirror if this needs attention as well.
Preparation Tips for Women
Here's a beauty check list compiled by a friend of mine, a London based portrait photographer.
Everyday Work & Business Makeup Tutorial