How to Prepare for your Contemporary Portraits


If you’re reading this page then you’ve made the decision to invest in your portraits and legacy. As an investment you, I want you to be as best prepared as possible. Please review my guidelines below so that you can plan and prepare to get the most out of your portrait sitting.

Hydrate and Rest. Staying hydrated and getting plenty of rest can go a long way in maintaining a refreshed look. By staying hydrated, you can naturally prevent dry and tight skin, With staying rested you can prevent from appearing tired and rid those infamous dark circles under the eyes. These two tips also help with energy levels, so not only will you look refreshed but you will feel refreshed as well, combined you will create a natural glow and maintain good energy on set.

Skin Care and Tanning. Please refrain from tanning (sun or bed) two to three days at least before your session. Tanning will leave unwanted color and texture in your skin that my camera will pick up. If you do want to tan, plan ahead to allow time for your skin to heal. This also holds true for micro-blading your eyebrows, you actually need up to two weeks for this healing process. Anything that effects your skin will need to have healing time. We want your skin to have a natural and refreshed glow.

Planning Ahead. Think ahead for your portraits… are you planning on doing a drastic hair style change, such as going from long to a pixie cut? What about dying your hair? Something to think about for your portraits, if you are planning on doing something of that nature, plan to get that done before your session so that you have time to adjust to your new look. I recommend at least a few days especially on a new haircut so that you have time to learn how you want to style it the day of your session. 

Inspiration Boards. I always suggest to create a Pinterest board to start collecting and organizing ideas. My style is heavily influenced by Annie Leibovitz so if you do a search for her you will see plenty of work that favors my own. Other search words would be contemporary portraits, editorial portraits, Vanity Fair portraits, fabric draping portraits or fine art boudoir.

Attire and Styling. I highly recommend bringing 4 – 5 options for your portrait sitting. We may not work through them all, and we may not even need to, but it’s better to have and not need than to need and not have enough options. Try things on before you pack for the session, see what looks good and what doesn’t. The composition of the portraits will range from up close to full body, so keep that in mind. Ask yourself if your clothes fit well? Perfect! Are they too snug? Ditch it! Consider the entire outfit, clothes you can easily move around in work best because I will be doing more posing in that part of the session. You can browse through my portfolio for ideas on what to wear, but just know that it comes down to it, choosing the right clothes will bring out your with confidence.​ * If we are photographing a boudoir set, please bring a comfy robe for you to wear in between changes and while reviewing your images. 

Contemporary Portraits by Gary Barragan

Wardrobe that exude confidence.

Portraits Attire and Styling

Coordinate your attire and styling.

Color harmonies to evoke emotions.

What should I wear for my Portraits?


Again, this is a portrait experience, to get most from it keep in mind that it’s about you and your personality. There is no need to over dress, we will get amazing images which comes from your eyes and your expression, the clothes are only be meant to further enhance your story.

What to wear: 

  • Form fitting clothes that you look and feel great in (this boosts your confidence and energy).
  • Black, white or any shade of gray (gray on gray is the most aesthetically pleasing).
  • Darker colors and tones tend to be more slimming and exude confidence.
  • Solid colored jewel tones (bonus points if they bring out the color of your eyes).
  • Lighter colors and tones can work too depending on the mood or set design we decide on.
  • Layers, bring a jacket or sweater that compliments one or more of your shirts/tops.
  • Bring a range from casual and sporty to elegant and evening. Have favorite tank top or a stunning dress? Bring it!
  • Minimal jewelry is usually ideal for portraits, however if you have a sentimental piece then definitely bring it.
  • Bright, dangling or gaudy jewelry can be a nice accent if you are going for a formal or evening look.
  • Below is a gallery for inspiration on your wardrobe selections or you can visit my portraiture page for more examples – Contemporary Portraits.
  • Boudoir sessions – please bring the pieces you wish to be photographed in along with a comfy robe to cover up while in between changes and during image review.

Pro Tip #1 – Iron, Press or Dry Clean – Plan ahead to get this taken care of, wrinkles are very distracting and give a sloppy appearance. Please take the time do this.

What not to wear: 

  • Baggy, oversized or wrinkled clothing (they add weight and give a sloppy appearance).
  • Loud colors, logos and dominating patterns/textures, (these are distracting, the focus is you not the fashion).
  • High collared shirts/jackets (you have a neck, we want to see it, hidden necks appear stumpy).
  • Shorts, this just does not look right in studio portraits. Also, please try to avoid bringing all short sleeves or sleeveless garments.

Pro Tip #2 – Buy and Save – Is there a jacket or top at the mall that’s calling your name? Go back and get it! Leave the tags on, bring it to the shoot then return it when we are done.

Footwear – Bring options for this as well. High heels, dress shoes or even your casual Hey Dude as they can be an extension of your personality. These aren’t always photographed depending on the framing of the portraits, but they are a good option to have. However, what I can tell you is that the portraits I’ve created where the clients are barefoot tend resonate the most due to the emotion it evokes… intimacy, vulnerability and confidence all at once.


Men… Shaving, Let’s talk about this real quick. 

  • If you are normally clean shaven please shave a few hours before our session if possible. Not the night before, but earlier in the morning if possible. This will give time for the skin to heal and allow the redness to settle down.
  • If you are going for a bearded or scruffy look but also want a clean cut look, then please come how you would wear your facial hair. We can capture that first, then you can go to the bathroom and shave. Please bring your shaving toiletries and a towel if you decide to go this route.
  •  Please make sure that your ears, nose and eyebrow hairs are neatly trimmed up.
Please browse this gallery for inspiration and examples of what previous clients have worn.

Do I need to use a Makeup Artist for my Portraits?

​Well the good news is that makeup is included if you booked a contemporary portrait session!

Although it’s not required and you are welcomed to do your own makeup, I do highly recommend hiring one of the talented artists I work closely with. Their work can be seen throughout my portfolio and website
. Each of the artists have been professionally trained and specialize in clean and natural makeup styles but can go more dramatic and editorial if requested. I place my full trust in them. You may now be asking, why use an artist from my team vs doing it yourself, well there are two major benefits – 

Benefit One – ​They are trained professionals who are familiar with my lighting system and can meet the the diverse makeup needs of each client, no matter your skin type or complexion. The goal of professional portrait makeup is to end with a result that looks like there is not much makeup applied in the first place. That doesn’t mean, less applied, it’s just applied differently using advanced techniques. Now of course, before the makeup begins the artist will consult with you on your preferred style of makeup and its application.

Benefit Two – They remain on set throughout the entire session. By doing so, adjustments are made based on lighting, styling and the clients preferences. They will ensure your makeup is photogenic and cohesive with the other styling factors such as hair, clothing or backdrop. When I am behind the camera they are watching on the capture display for anything the camera picks up that is less noticeable with the eye. They also to tend to makeup corrections such as lipstick or eye makeup smudges along with flyaway taming. Frequent hair placements and makeup touch ups are necessary to get the best results in between sets. This allows me to concentrate on working with you to bring out the best expressions with each of the sets. Plus, when it comes to the styling, it’s always good to have a second opinion!

Bonus – Pampering – You are essentially receiving a pampering session during your portrait session. So why not make plans after the session for a night out with friends or loved one. You’ll look stunning!

Preparing for the day of your session – 

  • Do rest up, hydrate and eat something small before arriving.
  • Do arrive with a clean refreshed face (no applied facial products or medicines).
  • Do arrive with your hair lightly styled as you would wear it on a good hair day.
  • Do bring your favorite color lipstick, eye shadow. We can try to work it in during the session. ​

Men’s Grooming – Yes, men can benefit from a makeup artist being on set as well. How so? The artists will do light complexion and skincare work to achieve a healthy and hydrated skin appearance. This also entails covering blemishes, shine control, and evening out skin tone. They also tend to features such as brows, facial hair and hairline by filling in sparse areas to achieve fullness and symmetry. They will also apply anti shine products to the top of the head, if bald. They also assist with attire adjustments as needed as well. Wearing a tie? I’ve got you covered then. I’ve been known to tie a pretty snazzy double Windsor knot.

For children under 13, I strongly encourage little to no make-up as I want to preserve their natural and youthful appearance in camera. Ages 14 to 15/16, we can apply light and natural make-up, again the goal is to preserve their youth and not make them look older than they are.

Pro Tip – Natural Retouching – I honed my lighting and retouching skills in the beauty & fashion industry. So between the skills of the make up artist and my retouch philosophy, a few blemishes or minor breakouts will not be an issue. Please don’t stress over this, you will be in experienced and professional hands!

Makeup and Men’s Grooming by Becca Schell.

Behind the Scenes of a Portrait Session.

Artists tend to you throughout your sitting.

Contemporary Portraits

Makeup by Becca Schell.

If you have further questions, please feel free to email me and I will be happy to chat with you. See you soon!