Must-Haves in Your Client Style Guide
Over the years I have specialized in both family portrait photography and weddings. Both always come with some of the same questions when it comes time for the client to decide what to wear for engagement sessions and family portraits.
Enter the importance of serving your clients by showing up with the answers before they get a chance to ask!
This is when I began creating my own style guides to send to clients. I’ve sent both a PDF and a hidden link on my website.
But no matter how you choose to serve your clients in this way, the importance is to know what to put in these style guides.
Do you have a specific style and want specific colors and styles to be portrayed in your portraits? Then guide your clients toward the colors and styles you are wanting to achieve. You are the expert and they will likely listen to your suggestions.
Some photographers even set up calls or shopping appointments with their clients to help with these decisions. Remember your worth, if you are doing this and including it in your session price then make sure to build it into your price, or offer it as an add-on service.
I always, always encourage the Mom for family portraits and the bride for engagements to have her hair and makeup done professionally. The same goes for senior portraits as well.
Don’t forget the nails! Especially for brides and seniors! There will be ring shots, and senior poses often can have those hands up near the face or hair, so they need to have nice, neat, fresh nails. Remember to guide them on the polish colors as well – leopard print nails may not be the best choice this time around.
This is not the time to be afraid a client will think you are bossy. You are the expert and they are paying you to make them look amazing, so do just that!
All of these tips can be placed in sections inside of your style guide or Engagement Session Prep Guide.
Consider if this shoot is happening in the spring or fall and what colors will work well together for the venue you are shooting at. Giving them a sample of color patterns to choose from on the style guide you send to them is helpful.
Think about tones: blue tones, earth tones, neutrals, pastels, or warm rich colors.
You know where I’m going with this:
Do wear solids, don’t wear crazy prints
Do coordinate and compliment, don’t match with all blue shirts and all khaki bottoms
Do build around one outfit.
Don’t wear neons.
Do wear layers.
Layers add dimension to the images – so encourage layers for their portrait wardrobe!
Summer layering can be as easy as accessories, but fall portraits are perfect for layering, and can make all the difference in tying together the colors in the palette that has been chosen. Encourage them to consider cardigans, vests, and scarves!
Especially for the Mom’s in family portraits – it is important she know that when she looks at these images in 30 years, the clothes will be out of date anyway so as long as she chooses something that is yes, cute, but still comfortable so she can make the most of the memories she will look back on – and not notice that forced smile from the uncomfortableness of the too-snug dress she had on that day.
No matter how casual the shoot, nothing – and I mean nothing – can throw off a look more than beat up old shoes.
Earlier I mentioned to not wear crazy prints, but it’s important for them to know that one family member wearing a bit of a pattern on their shirt or dress is ok… just stay away from those tiny stripes – they make our cameras get super confused, not to mention give you a headache when you edit later.
If you are still stuck, consider checking out my styling guides that I created for you to use and send to your clients! These are designed to be sent as a PDF or printed.
Magan Ward is a photographer, wife, mom of 3, and educator to fellow photographers. She has an unhealthy obsession with Chick-Fil-A mac and cheese, and has a bit of a love affair with dry shampoo – something she tried to avoid for years until the pandemic of 2020 occurred rendering her dependent upon the waterless revelation that saves her time, something now used to instead apply nutella to waffles for tiny humans.
Putting that Masters in Education to good use, Magan enjoys teaching her fellow photographers and online entrepreneurs the ins and outs of building a business that they love…and occasionally sprinkles in some encouragement for Mamas, because life with littles is just plum hard sometimes.
You can grab her free list of favorite tools for entrepreneurs here.