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How to Get the Perfect Portrait Taken By a Professional

While you’d think having a professional portrait done should be easy, many people find it nerve-wracking. It makes sense—a portrait is something you’re not only going to share with people but is a memory that you will cherish for a lifetime. And you want that memory to encompass the whole photoshoot! To that end, here are some great suggestions for making your photoshoot easy, fun, and successful:

Create a day-before to-do list

Whether your portrait is being done in a studio or at your house, there are things that need to be done ahead of time. Those things could be as simple as dyeing your hair, putting up some artwork you want in the background, or purchasing a key hair accessory. It could also include “pack x, y, and z, before the photoshoot.” The more detailed the list, the more you can make sure you’re 100 percent ready the day of.

Compile a list of “absolute must” shots

Got a specific look you’re going for? A particular pose that can’t be missed? Put together a list of exactly the kinds of critical shots you want to make sure your Chicago portrait photographer doesn’t miss. Make notes on how you see those particular shots happening. And to that end …

Road test the poses for those “absolute musts”

Whatever pose it is you’re hoping to capture for perpetuity, practice it the day before. Draft a friend to take some pictures to help you make sure the look is coming out the way you want it to. Figure out what is and isn’t working. This saves all kinds of time and stress the day of the shoot.

The day before the shoot, pick out all parts of your outfit—and make sure you have several!

I’ll say it again, because it’s super important: all parts of your outfit should be picked out the day before, from earrings to shoes and everything in between so you’re not frantically figuring things out the day of. But even when you pre-plan, sometimes things don’t quite look or feel right once you get in front of the camera. So make sure you’ve got an assortment of accessories and wardrobe pieces to play with the day of the shoot.

Make sure you take along a printed list of pictures for the stylist to refer to

You know exactly what you want your makeup and hair to look like. The stylist does not, however, beyond anything you tell him or her, so any visual cues you can provide are helpful. Printed pictures are a great tool to make sure you get the exact look you’re hoping for. And again, emphasis on printed, because you never know if the Wi-Fi will go and you won’t be able to pull something up on your phone. Plus it’s just easier for a stylist to refer to a printed shot. Then, don’t be shy: after your stylist finishes up, make sure you’re happy with the look. If not, speak up! It’s their job to get it exactly right, so you’re happy.

Use Pinterest to your advantage

Whether it’s the backdrop, the lighting, your outfit, etc., Pinterest is fantastic for helping you organize key visual elements that you want to appear in your shoot.

Talk to your Chicago portrait photographers

Trust me, it’s very helpful when clients contact me ahead of time with questions and suggestions about planning the photoshoot. I can help you figure out what will and will not work with your ideas. The more photographers know, the better they can make the whole experience for you. And the better the outcome will be.

Make prep as simple as possible

Hair and makeup are key to the shoot, of course. If you don’t want that stress, hire a team of professionals to come help you get ready. It will take a huge weight off your shoulders if you don’t have to do the makeup store-salon-forgot the hair accessory dash. Have professionals help you out, and then take along some basics like lipstick which you can switch out as needed at the shoot.

Be confident

If you feel confident, you’ll look confident. It’s that simple. So work out the jitters before your photoshoot by practicing some power poses in the mirror. You might feel silly, but it works! Hands on your hips, straight spine, legs firmly planted—it’ll make you feel strong and then, when it comes to your photoshoot, you’ll look like one powerful person

Trust the photographer

A photographer’s job is to make a photoshoot a breeze. As one of Chicago’s most experienced portrait photographers, I can tell you with full confidence that one of the keys to a successful shoot is communication. I need you to tell me what you need. Similarly, you need to clearly convey your needs to the stylists and anyone else involved in the shoot. That said, the team taking your photographer has a great deal of experience, so be willing to take their advice. If they say something does or does not look good, they’re saying it with good reason: to make you look your very best.


Don’t over-caffeinate the day of the shoot. It’s likely you’re already nervous, so you don’t need anything else wiring you. Take a deep breath, put down the coffee, and breathe. It’s all going to turn out great!

Less is more when it comes to retouching

Yes, we can fix things after a shoot in Photoshop, but that’s not the point of a portrait shoot. What you want is to capture reality. No editing software is ever going to come close to looking as good as a real-life shot. Photoshop is great for little things like getting rid of that random hair that blew into your face on an otherwise perfect shot. But you hired an experienced photographer specifically to take advantage of that expertise. So when that photographer says “that doesn’t need to be retouched,” take those words to heart. You may not love every single little line on your face, and again, yes, Photoshop can work its magic, but sometimes those tiny details are what really make a portrait one for the ages.

I’ve been a Chicago-based professional photographer for many years. Visit my Chicago Portraits Section for information, and samples of my portraits work. Then book your Kyle Bondeson portrait session today!