Top 5 Tips for Planning a Great Portrait Session

1) Choosing a Location

Los Angeles is a goldmine of cool locations- as you can imagine, that is one of the biggest reasons why the film industry calls it home.  Within the Thirty Mile Zone of Los Angeles (aka the TMZ) you can find everything from sandy beaches, to urban cityscapes, to rural Western wilderness.  Here's my short list of favorite photo spots that have worked out well in the past.


Griffith Observatory is an iconic landmark of Los Angeles and one of southern California's most popular attractions. Built in 1935 with classic Art Deco style on the southern slope of Mount Hollywood in Griffith Park, just above the Los Feliz neighborhood. It is 1,134 feet above sea level and is visible from many parts of the Los Angeles basin. The Observatory is the best vantage point for observing the world-famous Hollywood Sign.  (Note- cell phone service isn't always the best up there.  Parking fees additional.)

A modern masterpiece located in the heart of Downtown Los Angeles designed by acclaimed architect Frank Gehry.  Walls of brushed metal and mirrored walls, full sized trees with lush greenery, and a beautiful rooftop garden this locaiton provides lots of unique opportunities for portrait sessions. (Parking is available directly beneath Walt Disney Concert Hall; enter on Second Street or Lower Grand Avenue. Regular parking costs $9, nearby metered street parking, or $23 valet parking at the Hope St. entrance)

A great beach location at the end of Historic Route 66- with sandy beaches, a cool wooden pier, vintage indoor carousel.  Take a ride on top of the Ferris Wheel to get beautiful Ocean views. Photography is allowed on certain parts of the pier, other areas off limits.  (Paid parking available in lot.)

Paramount Pictures purchased the 2700 acre ranch back in 1927.  It has been the location of many Western movies including HBO's show Westwood. The site features lots of colorful building facades with nice texture, tall grass, and big trees.  (+$75 for permit)

The largest passenger train terminal West of the Mississippi.  Built in the 1930s this is a historic California monument with garden patios, terracotta tile floors, and nearly a century old design.  Great spot of you love retro architecture and travel themes.


  • DTLA Studio at FD Studios - rentals hourly, half day, and full day.  My favorite stage is Art 3 with rose wall, clawfoot tub, and big windows with lots of natural daytime light and Art 1 with cement grey tones, big windows, and sunny white steps.  Both are perfect for maternity, boudoir, and portrait sessions. 
  • Home Sessions- I can bring the studio to you!  Travel is complimentary within the Thirty Mile Zone of Los Angeles.

2) What to Wear?

You should wear something that you're both comfortable in and makes you feel amazing.   The more time you invest preparing for your photoshoot, the happier you will ultimately be with your portrait results.  Waiting until the last minute to throw something together will cause stress and takes the fun out of your day. Here's a few ideas to help guide you in outfit selection.

  • COLORS: Bold and bright colors look lovely.  For couples and families, try choosing outfits with colors that complement each other rather than exact matches.
  • Limit your color selections to 3 complimentary colors.  I suggest taking inspiration from your location or thinking how you will be displaying your images.  For example, if decorating your wedding reception with engagement pictures, maybe incorporate your wedding colors.  If decorating your home, consider bringing in some of the room's colors and mood.
  • Flowy long dresses, like maxis, bring a romantic element to engagement shoots.
  • Create textures and layers.  Accessorize with jewelry, textured scarves, faux furs, knits, bold prints, and interesting fabrics.  These things always look great on camera!
  • Avoid wearing large loose clothing and items that detract from the scene like solid white on white outfits, and shorts/capris as they tend to make the legs appear shorter than they are.

Favorite Stores for Outfits

Feel free to contact me with more specific ideas to match your location and style.

3) Shooting During Golden Hour

I just love all the colors of a California sunset.  The periwinkle blues, candy pink, and soft purples.  It definitely sets a mood for romance, with soft lighting and a warm glow.  Golden Hour is my preferred time for natural light portrait sessions.  To capture this kind of lighting, you will want to end your session right at sunset.  Click HERE to check sunset/sunrise times for your session date.

tandem yoga

4) Professional Hair and Makeup

One of the biggest things that will make a huge impact on your portraits is professional hair and makeup. For your session you'll want to look and feel your very best. Hair and makeup can do wonders to highlight your best features.  You can save money and schedule your wedding makeup trial with your artist the same day as your engagement pictures. If you’d like some extra convenience, have the makeup artist come to you!   Ask me for referrals.  Pictured below Corin Cruz of Something New Hair and Makeup.

hair and makeup by something new

5) Personalized Props

Personalized props can be a great way to express your personality, gives you an activity, breaks the ice of awkward posing, and gives you something to do with your hands.  Use props to show off your hobbies and talents.

  • PETS- if you choose to bring a pet please also bring a friend to help wrangle them during the shoot or take your pet home after the first 30 minutes of shooting)
  • FOODIE LOVERS: wine/ champagne/ cupcakes / candy / s'mores / cotton candy / ice cream / popcorn
  • SPORTS: football/ surfboard/ yoga / bikes
  • GAMES: board games / lawn games / picnic / bubbles
  • THEMES: movie inspired / travel - luggage / oversized frames / dress up
  • NEWEST TRENDS: smoke bombs / jumbo balloons (like the 36" ones with streamers!)
  • WEDDING: numbers, banners, or signs (maybe wedding date?)
  • LIGHTING: lanterns / candles / chandelier  / sparklers (location pending)
  • MIGHT NEED A TRUCK: vintage furniture / chairs / sofas

Some of my favorite places for cute props

  • Etsy- for things handmade and crafty
  • Hobby Lobby
  • Aaron Brothers
  • Homegoods
  • Target