Portrait Planning

When we meet to plan your portrait session, we first discuss in detail what it is that you are wanting to capture in your portrait(s) and for what purpose(s), including the subject(s) and setting(s) for the images you want, and also how you envision displaying your finished portraits. This can be a lot of fun! Below is some information to help you choose the clothes to wear and style of portraiture you prefer, as well as some general tips on how to prepare for your portraits and where you might want to display them.


Images that tell a story or that portray a person’s special interests can be especially powerful. A great deal can be conveyed by shooting on location with a natural background and possibly props, or even in the studio with props. Alternatively, if what matters most to you is capturing your own or your family’s natural expressions, simple settings or studio backdrops can allow people to feel comfortable and relaxed, bringing out their personalities in easy, spontaneous ways. I can’t know what matters most to you unless you tell me, so please don’t hesitate to speak up and help me find the inner you, the special and unique spark that you would like expressed in your individual or group portrait.
The size of the portrait you intend to display is also important in determining the best style of photograph. For example, a general rule is that no face or hand should appear larger in the photograph than it does in real life, so a wall mural of your family should show more than just your faces; otherwise, your heads will appear larger than life (which is disconcerting to some).
To determine the best color palette for your portrait, it’s important to consider where you plan on displaying the portrait and what colors are already in that space. Essentially you want to make sure the tones in the image go with the rest of your decorations. If you have any concerns about this, please bring in a snapshot of the room where you’d like to display your portrait so we can determine the best palette together. If on the other hand you would like the final image to be in black and white, then choose a background, props and clothing with high contrast. For example, red and blue may provide a sharp contrast in color but both may appear the same shade of grey in a black and white portrait.


The clothing you choose can be very important for the success of your portrait. Since the goal of a fine portrait is to direct the viewer’s eye to the face(s) in the portrait, this consideration guides all of the other choices that are made.
Darker clothing is slimming and is often a good choice for close up, full length, or three-quarter length portraits in which a medium to dark background is utilized. Bold stripes, plaids, checks and prints can be visually confusing and often do not photograph well. Colors that are too bright (e.g., orange or bright pink) will distract from the face. Colors that approximate flesh tones can make the subject seem pale. As a general rule, whether your complexion is light or dark, medium to dark clothing works best when a medium to dark background is used, so that the face is highlighted as the focal point of the portrait.
Turtlenecks or V-necks can be flattering, provided that neither is exaggerated in style. Avoid very wide turtleneck or particularly deep V-neck garments or bulky sweaters. For an individual portrait, simple long-sleeved garments work best, because bare arms call attention to themselves and away from the face. In general, avoid highly stylized clothing as this will often look dated in a few years.
For full length portraits, women should generally wear long skirts, pants, or dark stockings to keep the eye from being directed toward the legs and away from the face. If feet are to show in the portrait, assure that shoes and stockings are in keeping with the visual intent of the portrait.
Infants and toddlers photograph best in simple clothing that doesn’t distract from their delicate features. Whites and pastels are classic choices for babies, but casual play clothing works well for children as they grow older. A child’s personality can shine in understated clothing, with props that express his or her personality and favorite playtime activities.
Pre-teens and teens photograph best when it is possible to incorporate clothing, location(s) and props that help to show their mood, activities, and achievements.
Portraits of families or other groups are best when everyone wears clothing in the same tonal range, so that no single individual stands out just because of the relative lightness or brightness of their clothing.


Men should be freshly shaved, with any facial hair carefully groomed. Women might consider wearing makeup that emphasizes their features, as though they were going out for the evening. Hairstyles should be consistent with the intent of the portrait. If you’re considering a new or different haircut for a portrait, get it at least a week ahead of time to avoid any last minute crises.
Decorating with Portraiture
When planning portraiture, it’s important to think about the characteristics of the place where you intend to display the images.


The portrait’s overall color theme should blend with or complement the room in which you want to display it. Carefully chosen clothing and background elements can add to the peacefulness, liveliness, richness or other decorating emphasis you want for your display room.


Generally speaking, an appropriately sized portrait will dominate the space in which it is hung, but will not appear to crowd that space. Knowing the size of the finished portrait can be important for creating the composition, because the perspective of an image changes with the size of the image. If the portrait is a closeup of the subject’s face and is sized very large, than the face could appear disproportionately large. So remember to look around in advance to determine where you want your portrait displayed, and measure the space so that we can determine the best portrait size for that space. Don’t forget that you’ll need room for the frame as well.


There are many artistic techniques available that make it possible for you to design your portrait according to your personal preferences. For example, you can choose to have softened edges, a color-tinted image, an abstract watercolor effect or even text added to your portrait. Many portraits are displayed in a series and can be framed together or separately for maximum effect.


The final element of design is the frame, which can significantly affect the overall impact of the portrait. Framing should be complementary to the image so as to focus the viewer’s attention on the subject, as well as an appropriate accent for the room in which the portrait will hang. We have a wide range of beautiful frames and mattes to choose from. After your portrait is printed we will have you come in one last time to look at your image with frame and matte corners overlayed and we will help you to choose how best to display your images. Once the frame is finished we’re also happy to come to your home and help you hang the portrait if you would like the help, just ask!

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