7 Secrets for Getting Great Professional Photos - Christine Kane

If you dig up some of my early music career photographs, you’ll find me standing in an alley with my guitar. I’m usually wearing a bulky jacket and black boots. Typically, a friend was taking the photo, and I just wanted to get the whole damn thing over with. I really believed it wasn’t worth spending the money to get a good photograph.

Boy was I wrong.

In 2001, encouraged by my coach, I consciously chose to uplevel my approach to my work and my music. I invested in a great photographer for the CD cover art.

And – surprise! – that’s when I started getting invited to do radio interviews and being featured in major media. My CD got airplay, too. Lots of it.

We all know that image shouldn’t matter. And yet, in the professional world, and even in the arts – it does matter. A professional photo shows that you take your work seriously (yes, even if you’re creative and fun-loving) – and it conveys success. Plus, the internet can connect you with so many new opportunities, it only makes sense to put yourself out there in a professional way.

But there are some things you need to know. I’ve learned the hard way that just because a photographer has worked with Faith Hill or Sheryl Crow doesn’t mean he’ll have a clue how you want to come across in your photos. It’s important that you fully engage in the process, and that you get clear about some things before you invest in any photographer!

It doesn’t have to be painful though. And right now, I’m going to make it a whole lot easier for you! From my Been-There-Done-That files, here are 7 Tips for Getting Great Professional Photos…

1 – Get Clear.

Don’t hire anyone until you’re clear about what you want to convey in your photo. Make a list of words to describe who you are, how you show up in the world, and what you share with your clients, customers, students, audiences, etc. (“Professional but not stiff.” “Fun and funky – but in an accessible way.” “Trustworthy and kind.” “Successful and no-nonsense.”)

Write down colors, thoughts on your surroundings, etc. Start a file of your favorite images from magazines. Share these with your photographer.

2 – Hire a Professional.

I know. I know. You can always get your friend Rachel to take a few photos of you after work one Thursday. But I encourage you to uplevel your image and go pro.

You don’t have to break the bank to get a great photographer. Many top-notch wedding photographers offer great prices for mid-week sessions. Ask around or search the internet, and don’t be afraid to interview several different photographers.

3 – Get Make-Up Advice.

I’ve worked with make-up artists who sprayed foundation on my face like spackle. And some who made my hair stand up about 11 inches from my head. You’d think I would’ve spoken up – but for many years, I thought everyone else knew better than me what I should look like.

And yet, I still believe in using a make-up artist!

My advice is to REQUIRE a phone conversation with her before your shoot. Share your images from #1. Listen to her ideas and advice. You’d be surprised at how much make up you need for even a natural looking photo – but spackle is NOT necessary!

If you don’t have the budget for a make-up artist, then get help from friends in the know. I’ve done my own make-up on many shoots – but I used all the advice from those old Seventeen Magazines I used to pore through when I was a teen!

4 – Plan your Outfits in Advance.

Two weeks before your photo shoot, plan your outfits. Pick at least three. (Avoid crazy patterns on your shirts!)
If you need help in this area, I highly recommend making an appointment with a personal shopper at Nordstrom – which has fantastic customer service and highly-trained employees. Plus you’re not required to purchase anything! Share your work from Step #1 with your shopper. Take your time during your appointment.

5 – Go Light on the Accessories.

You don’t want your photo to say, “Hi, I’m Joan. And this is my BIG GIANT PERUVIAN BEAD NECKLACE!” In other words, your accessories should complement – not overpower – your look.

6 – Bring your own Mirror to the Shoot.

Keep a mirror nearby during the shoot so you can check for things like lipstick on teeth and bra straps sticking out in between shoots. Photographers aren’t always good at catching these things because they’re focusing on the lay-out and lighting.

7 – YOU are the most important element.

Your energy. Your light. Your radiance. These are the most important things.

Before you head to the shoot, sit quietly and remember your intentions in your work and life. Connect to your center and take some deep breaths.

Then, as the photos are being shot, remember to be present in your body. Look into and through the camera lens. Act as if you’re looking into the eyes of your very best friend. Don’t be afraid to let loose and smile and laugh. These are often the best photos!

  • kristi hedberg

    Christine, I have had the wonderful opportunity to photograph so many of ‘your’ incredible uplevel women, and all brings so much to our sessions. The above is all spectacular advice.

  • Dana Marie

    wait! it works now! I think there was just a lag time —- thank you so much for sharing that video!!!!

  • Dana Marie

    Hi Chris, I just tried to do the Gravatar thing but I wasnt able to see my image on the website commented on…..is there anything that might make it not work? You have to make sure you use the email associated with it right? or what is the determining thing that will link the image to your comment?

  • Terry A.

    As a freelance photographer, I do some portraits and your recommendations are wonderful! A portrait session has to be a partnership between the photographer and the subject to achieve the greatest success. Communication leads to trust and trust leads to a relationship and it is that relationship that leads to a beautiful capture, in my experience.

  • Christine Kane

    Thanks everybody! Great to see the added advice!

    Thanks Lucy! I’ll check him out!

  • Lucy Marsh

    Hi Christine,
    If you haven’t already connected with Mark Silver at Heart of Business, you should visit his blog and website. You two are on a similar beautiful vibe in encouraging people to show up to their lives and their businesses with all of themselves, with heart and creativity. Thanks for showing up to your own heart and creativity.

  • Elaine Bailey

    This is great advice! I will use this as my check list for my next photoshoot – epecially planning what to wear in advance!

    Patti – I LOVE the ‘I know something that you don’t know!’ this makes me smile already! 🙂

  • patti digh

    christine – loved this. would add the best piece of advice I’ve gotten when having a photo made – just before the shutter clicks, look at the photographer and think to yourself, “I know something that you don’t know.” makes for a great energy in your eyes. 🙂

  • Sangita

    For a while when I was reading your post, the words you have put here together in every step could not stop me from imagining them as they are said here. I just want to say that your way of expressing the words is genuinely worthy, meaningful; it has the power of catching one’s attention, making one to dive into the world of imagination. Nice and simpler steps to get one’s photo shot. Thanks…

  • Julie Thompson

    Thank you for such a wonderful post, Christine! For someone as photophobic as me, these tips ought to make the whole process a bit less painful and a lot more rewarding!

  • Sue

    Love this. It’s great information AND as usual made me laugh out loud. I need to get mine re-done!!

  • Anna Barlowe

    Hi Christine, thanks for your great blog and website. It happies me. 🙂 My mother introduced me to it, and it has helped give me the courage to leave my go-nowhere administrative job (I handed in my resignation letter today, in fact), and try to make a more authentic life for myself working at home on my artwork, writing, etc. I’m gonna leap, in other words, and hope the net will appear. Wish me luck.

    P.S. I’ll be blogging about it at http://annabarlowe.blogspot.com as I go along.

  • Michelle @ Following Your Joy

    Hi Christine,

    Great to ‘meet’ you and thanks for the great post! The headline caught my eye because soon it will time for me to get some good professional shots taken, so I was curious to see what you had to say. I like how you make a photo shoot a “big deal,” because it should be! It’s our chance to let our essence, our light, and our wonderfulness shine…for the world to see.

    Recently, one of my dear friends suggested that I get connected with you. And here’s why I followed through: Of course because I admire and respect your work..but believe it or not – it was also because of the energy in your website/profile photos! It was your warm smile, your casual body language, and your inviting energy that made me say: “Yep, I want to know her!”

    So I fully support everything you said her about the importance of photos; we’ve got to let our inner beauty shine and come alive! Look forward to getting to know you – you are up to great work! Thanks for getting us to think bigger. 🙂

  • greetingsvirginia

    I appreciate. Thank you for sharing your 7 secrets that people usually don’t do 🙂 Your suggestions are really simple and worth to follow in taking great photos. All the suggestions are very genuine and professional. The best tip was to look at the camera lens as if we are looking into the eyes of our very best friend. Continue to post great and simple post like this.