Portrait Tips | Photography by Brenda Colwell


Portrait tipsPortrait tips
Planning Your Session

Start with making appointments to have your hair done with a professional stylist and treat yourself to a manicure or pedicure.  Consider hiring a professional make-up artist on site or in the studio just prior to your session.  We can arrange this service upon request.

For the studio session, I have a large private dressing room for wardrobe staging and a styling station for makeup and hair styling.

Being outdoors in Telluride means planning for uneven terrain, dirt and sitting on rocks and trees (think about your shoes).  Telluride weather can be unpredictable, so bring a flattering jacket or sweater that you can easily remove or add to your outfit.  Bring one for each family member.

Try your outfit on in its entirety so you know what accessories you will need to complete the look you want.  Be sure there are no loose buttons, torn hemlines, seams, stains or holes on your clothing.  A beautiful hat, colorful scarf, or fun umbrella, are great accessories to add, especially in a contrasting or bright color.



Wardrobe - Pick a Style and See it through

Fun in the SnowFun in the Snow

Formal or Casual?    Indoors our Outdoors?    Whichever you choose put the whole look together; down to your shoes and accessories.  Bring one of each outfit and feel free to change during your shoot.  Let’s be sure to discuss wardrobe changes and timing.  Clothing changes are easy in the studio using the family dressing room.  Outdoors you can easily change clothing by adding or subtracting layers.

As a background, the outdoors is very busy.  While you don't need to have "solids" which used to be a popular look in the 90's, it is good to minimize patterns and graphics so that they don't dominate the photo and take attention away from your faces.  Blues are excellent all year; white, ivory, khaki and salmon, hot pink and black are great against lush green foliage.  Burgundy, brown, tan and gray are nice late in the season.  Avoid green as your main color, as it gets lost in Mother Nature.   Almost any color looks good in the snow, even white.  The simplicity of two colors helps separate you from the scenery.  Busy backgrounds and busy clothes result in hard to find faces (no big stripes or bold graphics unless for accent). Jeans and sweaters always look good outdoors.   Throw in a brightly colored scarf or a hat and you add a little punch.  Check your favorite stores for the latest colors and fashion.

Choose a color theme that simplifies your look.   Too many competing patterns and colors are distracting. Coordinate the clothing for your family in a group portrait so that one person will not dominate the scene.   Dark clothing minimizes body size, and light tones emphasize body size. Most people look best in darker and solid colors or a combination of dark pants and light colored tops.   

Shoes and socks are often overlooked as a significant aspect of portrait clothing. They should compliment, not contrast.  Boots are great looking in the mountains all year, and so are heels with the right outfits, but bring shoes that can handle nature's obstacles.  Bare feet are wonderful to photograph!

In the studio, wardrobe choices are absolutely endless as we blend the desired look with the backdrop, furniture and props.  In the design consultation we will create a detailed plan for you.  The main factors being colors that compliment your skin and eyes, and a style that fits the portrait you want.   That can be anything from a professional head shot to a relaxed shoeless family portrait with kids.

​When coordinating family colors, choose colors that complement one another, but don't try to all dress in the same color or exact same style.  Be yourself, choose colors that work for you, and then allow your family members to do the same. But be aware of having a similar look in terms of the degree of formality.   


ETC GroupETC Group

Larger Groups 

For a really group, large or small, follow the same tips but coordinate everyone’s wardrobe to create a greater sense of togetherness, but avoid being over-matchy.  Find colors that look good together, yet not all the same.  For extremely large groups, don't worry about it; you will give yourself a headache trying to coordinate that.  Just let your group know if the portrait is formal or casual.


The Night Before

Child's Portrait in StudioChild's Portrait in Studio

Get a good night’s sleep and drink lots of water. Both will reduce puffy eyes, and at our altitude the more water, the bett

er.   Practice posing in the mirror and “see” what a good pose “feels” like.  Think about your shoulders, tummy, chin and leg positions.

Try to be relaxed and enjoy the day.  Eat something before your session and drink plenty of water.  Pack up your “necessities” in case you want to touch up your hair or make up during the session.  Go to the bathroom before your session.  There are facilities in the studio, but if we are on location, we may not have access to a bathroom.



Kids and Babies

Children are happiest when they are fed and rested.  Get naps and meals in before your session.  Hold off donning that adorable outfit you picked out  until you arrive (unless we are shooting outdoors on a cold day, then cover outfits with a jacket).  Bring changes of clothes, food, tissue, diapers, baby wipes, and bottles.  Bring dry food to avoid soiling clothing.  Bring favorite toys or comfort items.  Those favorite toys can make great photos.

A few days before talk to your children about the portrait session, let them know what they can expect, and share why the portrait is important to you.  Kids love to have some advance intel and love to be part of the party.

When you are getting your child dressed, let them have some input about what they wear.  Narrow it down to 2 choices, and allow them to pick.  Choose clothing that is comfortable for them to wear and fits properly.   We want natural & relaxed expressions and we are more likely to get them  when your child is comfortable. 

About Mommy.  She is the most important person in the room to a young child, which is why she gets all the attention during the session making your photographer jealous.  For all newborns and small babies, Mommy needs to be right there to position, hold and spot baby.  But for kids a little older (3 and over), I want attention on my camera, not on Mommy.  So, Mommy is going to let me direct the entire session.  If Mommy is standing there assisting in the direction of the shoot, your child is going to look at you rather than my camera.  We never say, “smile” and we never say “cheese”.   We never threaten, and we never reach into the photograph.  During the session, you are going to think your kids are not cooperating.  But just put your trust in me, relax, and let me work my magic and you will love the result!   I promise!  
There is a very good chance that I am going to send you away because I want all attention on my camera, not on you.   Please, don't get your feelings hurt because I usually get my best photographs when you are not there.  You hired me because you like my photography, so trust in me to get great photos of your child

Before or during the session, I don’t want you to threaten your children, I want you to tell them that we are going to have a good time, and arrange a fun family activity just after our session.  Your child will be invited to pick a prize from my treasure box after we are finished.



Talk to your husband, sons and fathers about their personal grooming.   A beard or a mustache are very stylish and look great, but not if they are not well groomed and neatly trimmed.  Also, check for stray eyebrows and nose hairs.   Hair is very manly, but you want your man to look groomed.   Unruly facial hair is one of the biggest photoshop requests we have at the final image selection, and it is probably one of the most difficult things to effectively edit and still look nice.  Nothing replaces a good stylist and grooming before the photo.   


Quick Summary 

Keep make-up light, natural & fresh

Clothing with a good fit  (not too big, not too small)

Check little faces for food and little noses for debris

Avoid sunburn- a tan photographs well, sunburn doesn’t

Scoop necklines or v-necks flatter fuller faces and shorter necks

Turtlenecks & higher necklines flatter slender faces and long necks

Good undergarments go unnoticed, bad ones don’t

Long pants are always most flattering in a portrait

Arms are usually best if covered, unless we are photographing for a particular style (fitness or tattoos)

Guys make sure your collar is freshly pressed and wrinkle free.  Have a fresh shave & neatly trimmed facial hair and check your eyebrows

Avoid clothing prints or styles that are too obviously trendy or shoes that will date your portraits

Teens and Kids - avoid t-shirts with big graphics, look for solids.

Make-up - We can arrange a hair, make-up or wardrobe artist to be available for you




Brenda Colwell is a Family Portrait Photographer creating memories and treasured heirlooms for your family and something beautiful for your home.    Book your own unique experience.  








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