The Style Guide
We're so excited and honored to help you create memories you'll cherish for a lifetime! We've created this guide so you can get the most out of your photos no matter how experienced you are. By the time you've read through this article, you'll have all your questions answered and feel more than ready for your session. Your only job is to be yourself, laugh a lot and let us create photos you'll love forever. We can't wait to get you in front of our cameras!
What everyone needs to know
About taking amazing photos
Choose a date & time
We begin most of our sessions two hours before the scheduled sunset during “golden hour,” when the light is the dreamiest. Remember, the sun sets much earlier during the colder months of the year and much later during the warmer months, so make sure to factor that in when choosing your portrait session date, especially if you’re taking off work or have evening plans afterward. To get the most out of your session, plan a buffer when getting ready so you can arrive a few minutes early to your session and be ready to start on time. We’re only able to shoot when natural light is still in the sky, so we’ll want to take advantage of every minute we have together. If you’re wearing two outfits, save your favorite one for the second half.
Our fall & weekends fill up far in advance. Book a week day or in the spring or summer to get the best timeslots, weather, scenery, and fastest turnaround times.
Choose the right location
Our favorite OC spots:
The location of your portrait session is up to you! Like you see throughout this guide, most of our clients choose to showcase the natural beauty of our home state. For most of our sessions, outdoor, open-air environments are always our first choice. We love shooting in wide-open natural spaces because the light is divine, especially during golden hour. There are great options all around the state, so even if you’ve never seen us photograph in a specific spot before, we’re always up for exploring a new spot together!
Have special access to a private location? Let us know and we'd love to try to shoot there!
Styling tips for her
Dress it up
Have you thought about rocking a romantic gown, tulle skirt or flower crown but just never had an occasion for it? This is your chance to do it up! Remember: There is no such thing as “too dressed up” when it comes to your portrait session, so don’t be afraid to have some fun! If you don’t want to add a new permanent piece to your collection, a lot of our clients love Rent the Runway for their session because it’s such an affordable way to feel like a million bucks. Other clients love having a great excuse to bring a new permanent piece (or two!) into their closet!
Dresses and skirts look most stunning because they really flatter every female body, especially on camera — which is probably why the red carpet is always full of so many dresses and not very many pantsuits! We recommend avoiding shorts for your session and saying yes to a dress or two instead. Jeans and pants look great for a slightly more casual look. It all depends on what type of look you want your session to be. Long, full-length, flowy dresses and skirts look amazing on camera because they bring extra movement to the photos. Especially when juxtaposed with nature, like the desert, forest, plains or beach. Consider softer fabrics like chiffon or tulle which allow for beautiful movement in the images. When considering the length of your dresses or skirts, it’s also a good idea to factor in whether or not there will be little ones in your photos. If you have smaller children, we’ll likely have you sitting or crouching on the ground to interact up-close with them. Cute, shorter cocktail-length dresses photograph beautifully, but if you have little ones in your photos, a floor-length dress or skirt, or perhaps a cute midi-skirt, will make moving around with your kids much easier, and look perfect on camera, too. If you’re an expecting mother, we always recommend floor-length gowns or maxi dresses. These dresses create the best silhouettes to flatter your figure and really highlight your bump. A lot of our expecting mothers love to incorporate flower crowns or headpieces as well.
There's no such thing
as too Dressed up
Make a statement
Choose a color
one outfit or two
Pairing an accessory or two like a hat or jacket with your outfit can really help bring some extra dimension to your images, and be a nice tie-in when you’re coordinating with a group. Belts, bracelets, and earrings bring great visual interest, so choose one or two that don’t compete for attention. Fresh florals in a crown can be a really romantic touch for you or your girls as well.
When choosing colors for your outfits, we recommend selecting softer, lighter tones and more muted shades. By avoiding ultra-bright, bold colors, it will help bring all the attention to your faces and let the eye focus on the way you feel about each other. The camera loves shades of soft pink and muted blues, mixed with sophisticated light neutrals like heather gray, creams, leather brown and white. That softer color palette fits beautifully into almost all natural outdoor environments. Earthy tones of brown and green also photograph beautifully!
You can bring one outfit for a one-hour session or two for a two-hour session! Most of our clients who choose two outfits will bring one “wow” dress, and then another more casual outfit that has a “date night” or trendy feel. Remember, though, you don’t have to bring two looks if it’s too stressful to coordinate or if you’d rather just stick to one fabulous look. One outfit that you love will be so much better than one outfit you love and another you’re not very excited about.
In our experience, every woman regardless of her shape has an area of her body that she’s self-conscious about, so recognizing what area that is in advance is key. Choosing flattering silhouettes and colors that complement your natural features is the best way to ensure you’ll love the way you look in your photos. Three-quarter length sleeves create an awesome slimming effect on all arms, so be on the lookout for an option with a longer length sleeve. You could also bring a cute jacket, blazer or cardigan along, too. Skinny straps or strapless dresses have the opposite effect on arms on camera, so we recommend avoiding those whenever possible if your goal is a set of slimmer-looking arms. These little tricks make all the difference!
Flatter your features
Bring a pair of easy-to-kick-off flats to wear when moving from place to place in between photos. Your feet will thank you later!
Confidence. It's always your best accessory
Go Pro: Hair & Makeup
Professional hair and makeup are on the top of most of our clients’ checklists because it looks amazing on camera and removes the stress of getting ready on your own. This is the time to treat yourself! Whether it’s lash extensions or blown-out hair, professional hair and makeup will give you an extra boost of confidence in front of the camera, and it always photographs like a dream! Good makeup artists know how to get it all just right for the camera— and our clients always love the final result. If you need a hair and makeup artist we highly recommend Crystal from Golden Glow Beauty. She’s sweet as pie, talented as heck, unbelievably professional, and a wonderful person. You’ll LOVE her! We know she’ll take good care of you!
Skip the Spray tan
Although it might seem counter-intuitive, we recommend that you do not get a spray tan before your session, even a few days prior, because it tends to photograph orange even when it’s applied subtly and by a professional. Your actual skin tone will photograph the most beautifully and naturally.
Styling tips for him
A good fit
Long, fitted pants and closed-toed shoes are the most sophisticated and masculine looks for men. They draw attention away from his legs and feet and place it where you want it: on his handsome face. So, for your session, it’s best to leave the shorts and sandals at home, as well as any pants that are loose or baggy. Fitted chinos or nice jeans work best on camera. Solid shades of gray or navy are a strong complement to most women’s outfits and khaki never goes out of style.
We strongly recommend staying away from graphics and logos as they tend to date the images and become distracting.
mix a suit coat, blazer or sports coat with a different pant color. It adds some extra visual interest and breaks up the color tones.
Next time you walk by a store like J. Crew, you’ll notice the male mannequins and models are always wearing several layers at once. Layers on men look great on camera, so even when it’s hot outside, trust us when we say that it’s worth an hour or two of discomfort for photos that will last you both a lifetime. Adding another layer will bring an extra dimension and visual interest to your photos. Blazers, sweaters, and coats bump up the level of any look. Don’t be afraid to get a little creative with layers!
It's in the details
Brown leather shoes compliment almost every look, whether he’s wearing a full suit or a blazer and chinos. Ties, pocket squares, belts, and watches are sharp compliments to any outfit for men and boys alike. If two looks are too stressful, no problem! One will do the trick! You can still mix and match accessories to compliment both of her dresses without doing a full change during the session. So, either way, it’s a win.
Rolled sleeves bring some life to a stiff button up, and cuffed pants adds a casual layer of interest to a formal pant
Mental preparation for him
Most men aren’t overly excited to take photos for two hours because they don’t have an expectation of what’s to come and why it’s so important to you. Take fifteen minutes to empower your guy. Tell him why you chose us and our style of photography. Show him your favorite sessions that we’ve done, explain why you love them and express to him how much it means to you. Trust us, once he knows it’s important, he’ll light up to the camera for you! The most common thing we hear from guys before photo sessions is this: because of a bad experience in the past, they don’t like taking photos or don’t think they’ll be good at it. By the time we’re done, though, they can’t believe how fast it went and just how much fun they had.
Take a minute to show him our work and tell him why these photos are important
Prepping your family
Coordinate the crew
As you’re coordinating your outfit with your family, keep in mind that your outfits will look the most cohesive on camera when the color palette and wardrobe pieces coordinate, but don’t actually “match.” In fact, we recommend you avoid thinking about “matching,” and instead think about what “fits” together. This will create more visual interest, and allow each personality to shine through.
How to mix colors
The goal is to visually break up the colors so you’re not all wearing the same color on top and bottom. We encourage you to think about planning each outfit with “dominant colors” and “accent colors” in mind. A dominant color is a color that you see the most in an outfit, while an accent has a smaller piece of visual real estate. When you’re planning each family member’s outfit, if you can aim for each person to have a different dominant color, and then tie in and vary the accent colors, it’s going to look great all together. Feel free to vary the shades of the colors, too.
Mix up the pieces
If you have multiple children, don’t feel like you need to put them all in the same type of outfit. For example, one of your daughters could wear a dress and flats, while the other wears a skirt and boots. One of your sons could wear a button up shirt, while the other wears a sweater. Mixing up the wardrobe pieces will bring visual interest to your photos and bring them from boring and predictable to sophisticated.
Prep your little ones
Before your session, pack a bag with snacks, water and any small objects (like toys or lollipops) that might help us get their attention when it’s time for them to look at the camera. If they are old enough to understand you, it’s a good idea to prepare them for what’s to come before the session starts. Explain how much the photos mean to you so they know to be on their best behavior. A lot of families pick something fun in advance as a treat after the session if they’re good listeners, like an ice cream cone, for example. It also helps if their bellies are full and they’ve had some good rest beforehand. Once you prepare them physically and mentally, then feel free to give them (and you!) grace! They’re little, and we know that some days don’t always go as planned. We’ve seen it all and will make sure to get you great photos, regardless of their moods.
Be sure to check out or post on "6 pro tips for parents to take amazing family photos" for more on mental and practical prep.
We know we just gave you a lot to think about. We created this guide to help make your portrait session experience something you’ll look back fondly on for years and years to come. At the end of the day, though, the location you choose and the outfits you select won’t matter nearly as much as the memories you make together. Your future memories are the most important thing to us, and we want your session to be a time for you to just be yourselves and enjoy it. Have fun together. Laugh a lot. And we’ll take care of the rest!
One last thing
Need more tips for your family session?
6 pro tips for parents to take amazing family photos
We made a separate guide to give parents everything they need to successfully plan for a perfect family photo shoot. We'd love for you to read through it!