How to Organize a Step-by-Step Portrait Session

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Organizing a photo session involves a lot of work that sometimes due to ignorance, sometimes due to pure laziness, is not done well. In this article we will try to explain how to organize a portrait session down to the smallest detail step by step, starting with the search of the topic and ending with the delivery of photos. We start!

1. The Search

Of theme

You may already know what kind of photos you want to create. You may also know that you want to take pictures, but you do not know which topic is being used. In this last case you have many alternatives: portrait, lingerie, bikini, nude, erotic, fashion … even after you have decided what kind of photos you want to take. You can search to set them up in one place (eg, city meetings) or at a specific time in history (eg, pin-up sessions).

How to Organize a Step-by-Step Portrait Session

Of model

We have already made many comments, but the choice of model is very important as model’s face will be the face of your work.  You can rely on someone who is not a model, but for some reason you want him to appear in the photos (a friend, a relative …).

Either way, choose well and conscientiously. And when someone offers to become a model, but you do not see clearly, you learn to say no.


What kind of clothes and makeup will your model use? You can find a stylist or make-up artist who wants or can work with you. However, it is also possible to organize this part of the session itself or with the model. In that case, you can first ask your model if it has the clothes you need for the photos.

If so, ask him to send you pictures of the clothes to know exactly what material you have. If he says no, you have to go shopping. Many today’s clothing stores offer the opportunity to return the money to the customer if you are not satisfied.

First, make sure the shop you want to visit has this option, and then buy the clothes you need to return after the session. Remember that you can not remove the labels (so you must hide them so they will not appear in the photos). Also, you must keep an eye out for not dyeing the clothes to get your labels back money.

In the event that you need to buy shoes, you should protect the sole so that it does not wear out. A little cloth or felt hooked to the sole should be enough not to damage it. Remember that you will not get your money back if a garment is badly damaged. Therefore pay special attention to it!

How to Organize a Step-by-Step Portrait Session


Do you need a magician who can help you? You may think at the beginning that this is not necessary. Think twice about photographing with the five senses. You may need someone to help you with other things, such as lighting (when using a reflector, external flash, or focus).

An assistant can also help you set up the stage (if you need a specific scenario to create your photos) or something else that you can think about and possibly need help with. Therefore, consider carefully whether you need a wizard or not. You really do not need it. But do not be too fast, you will need extra hands later!

Of place

Do you already know where to take your photos? If this is not your case, you must investigate! You can search for a website online that is similar to the one you want in your city (for example, a Google search in the “abandoned factory Madrid” style). You can also use Google Maps for investigation. Finally, the oldest option: go with your camera in search of the places!


Day or night? Do you want sun, clouds, rain …? You should know the weather forecasts of the days near the selected day to have room and react when, for example, an unexpected storm threatens your photo session.


2. The Preparation

Search for references on the internet

Go to Google, Flickr, Pinterest, and search for photos similar to those you thought of. It’s not about copying, it’s about taking ideas and inspiring them. If you have a smartphone or phone that you can use to take pictures, save the photos that will alert you to your computer and mobile phone. So, on the day of the session, you’ll have more support if you’re left empty-handed or need a little inspiration. If you like a pose, you can also teach your model to imitate it.

Applications for poses.

We continue with the topic of poses. If you have a smartphone, you will find an application for photographers explaining the different poses of the models. This can inspire you and, as in the previous case, support the day of the session.

While the model dresses, decorates or generally prepares to take photographs, you can keep an eye on the application or photos of the models available on your phone.

Go to the site.

Do you already have the perfect place to take photos? Now you can walk with the camera before the day of the photo session. Take photos of the place, study the light that is where the best place would be to place the model …

If you do not stand in one place, it’s very convenient to draw a map there, where you are so spend that on the day of the meeting do not forget any important website.

How to Organize a Step-by-Step Portrait Session

Know the team

If you are going to work with people that you only know of having crossed a couple of mails, the best thing is that, before doing the photoshoot, you are here to meet. So the day of the session will not be so violent and you will not have to break the ice so that everything goes smoothly.

In case of non-professional model

If you have a model that is not “real” (that is, a friend, a relative …), explain everything you have in mind, show the photos you are collecting as inspiration, etc. You can even meet her before the session to do “photographic tests”, explain everything you need to know about modeling and see how it works. If you do not do this previously, you must do it on the same day of the session!


Be a model or a friend who is willing to take photos, you must sign a contract with her for the transfer of image rights.

3. The day of the session

Arrives before the agreed time. 

To prepare everything in time: measure lights, watch that everything on the site is in order, organize the stage, make some last tests …

I deal with the model.

Quick tips on using the model: View the photos to see if you like them when you change something. Leave your personal space (especially if it is a “real” model, although friends and family are also necessary, so as not to lose the photographer’s confidence).

This means, for example, that you should not touch the model if you want to reposition a garment. If you have a stylist or a assistant, ask him or her, if not, it must be the same model that does it. Tell her how to position herself, the desired pose, how to look her in the camera or not … Everything, so she knows what she has to do in each moment. You should also leave it to your own devices, have them improvise, let them work.

How to Organize a Step-by-Step Portrait Session

4. The processed

Let the images rest for a couple of days at least .

This is something that, in my opinion, is necessary. I’m the first one that when I get home, I download the camera cards and look at all the photos. I am even unable to finish the day without processing at least one of the photos. But the rest of the images I leave them for a couple of days, I let them rest.

This way I get rid of the sensations that the photo session has produced and I can see the images in a more objective way. The biggest photographic surprises I took them after a few days of rest of photographs, so I recommend you do it!

How to Organize a Step-by-Step Portrait Session

Which areas of the picture should be taken care of

If you decide that your pictures are sufficiently rested, it’s time to start processing. Where should one start? First, the general retouching of photography: curves, white balance, exhibition …

Then we will focus on the model: the eyes (which have their own white color, which have enough light …), the skin (remove) or soften Pimples, dark circles, wrinkles …), mouth and lips (white teeth, cleaning lips of imperfections …), hair, the rest of the body …

Then we can focus on the clothes of the model (if it is unwanted Wrinkles, some spots …) and finally we can focus on the background of the photograph (unwanted elements that distract the eye …). Of course you can have your own workflow. All rivers are good, there is no worse or better.

5. Deliver work

  • How to deliver it? You can deliver it in a CD, printed, through an online storage system … The options are endless nowadays. My favorite system: for exchange sessions or friends / family: via Dropbox, USB or mail. For custom sessions: cd and / or printed (according to the tastes of the client).
  • Sizes . You can deliver the photographs in two different sizes: one smaller and with a lower resolution (72dpi, for example) for publication on the internet, so that the model can post them on their social networks, for example. And another larger size and in high resolution for particular use of the photographs (in case you want to print, for example). The case is that you make clear (if necessary, you write a new contract) which photographs can be used in which sites, to avoid problems.
  • Watermark . Do not know whether to deliver the photos with a watermark or not? What I do: small photos, for publication on the internet, always go with my watermark. To prevent images from being published without my brand. The photographs delivered in large size and high resolution, instead, I give them clean brands, so they do not bother in case of wanting to print the images. You can also submit all the signed photos and if the person in question wants a particular photograph without the mark, you reach an agreement. In this way you will have full control over the images you deliver.

How to Organize a Step-by-Step Portrait Session

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