How to prepare for a photo session at your vacation destination

Updated: Oct 14, 2021

I've always advised my clients on what to wear and how to prepare for their photo sessions, but it wasn't until I was the photo client myself when I realized just how stressful this process can be. My clients are vacationers, so they come from all over the place to Puerto Rico, where I'm currently located. They travel, so they need to have everything planned out before they get on the plane. And it's not just the outfits for themselves and their family members, but also make-up, hair utensils, whatever is necessary to complete their look.

My Experience

Puerto Rico Photo Session

When my husband and I booked our vacation in Martinique, and decided to finally book a couples photo session, we found ourselves in the same shoes as my clients. The trip was approaching, time to put our outfits together. Piece of cake, I'm a photographer, I know exactly what to wear. At least that's what I thought...

We decided pretty quickly, that it was time to go shopping, neither of us were satisfied with what we had in our closets. So, off we went and I quickly found a dress, raspberry, with polka dots, perfect color on me, but pretty soon after I purchased this not so cheap dress, I was already doubting my decision. The thin straps were bothering me, I was worried that my bra would show. I didn't have s strap less bra and I didn't feel like buying one...

So, I went back to the store and found a jumpsuit, gray, simple, I liked it. Bought! I figured, if I had two outfit choices, I'll be able to make a last minute decision. Since we live in Puerto Rico, I know how my hair behaves in hot and humid climate. I packed my hair straightener and anti frizz spray.

I felt prepared, equipped with brand new, great outfits for each of us, we boarded the plane to Martinique. As soon as we got to our place, I unpacked so I could hang our photo shoot outfits, we didn't want them to wrinkle! We would have loved to do the photo session at the beginning of our trip, but that didn't work out, so we still had a week to go. And I'm glad we did! Turns out, I wasn't as prepared as I thought I was. European plugs. Didn't think of that. Of course we did not bring an adapter. We were also staying in the tiniest town ever, with very limited options to buy electronic devices. Of course we couldn't charge our phones either, but I was more worried about my blow dryer and hair straightener. Thankfully our hotel host happened to find one, which didn't exactly fit, but we made it work. our invention probably wasn't up to code to say the least, but hey, we were able to charge our phones and I didn't have to look like a frizzy mess for our session. Priorities.

So, we enjoyed the first couple of days of our vacation, made sure we didn't get sunburned or get ugly tan lines. We realized that the location for our session was much further away then we thought. So we decided to wear something different during the drive and hang our outfits in the car to keep them clean and wrinkle free. I did my hair, but saved the make up part for later, since I wanted it to be fresh looking for my photos.

Branded Style Guide

We arrived at our location, and all the restaurants and cafes around were closed, so we had to change outfits in the car. I went with the gray jumpsuit. I put on make up, got out of the car, and realized that I hated my outfit. The lines of my underwear were showing, my bra showed depending on how I moved and I started to freak out. I put on the other dress I brought, and I was just not feeling it either. After a while my husband suggests I should just wear the dress I came with. My favorite yellow summer dress, flattering, I love it so much I wear it all the time. And that's what I did. I put it back on and immediately felt comfortable, and only a little bit salty having spent money on two outfits I didn't end up wearing...

We did our photo session, and it was a success! My hair behaved thanks to lots of hair spray to keep it in place and I just wore a tiny little bit of make-up like I always do. And I'm so happy that I ended up wearing my favorite old dress. I loved the way both of us looked.

Why am I telling you all this?

After this experience I realized how much guidance is necessary to really calm peoples nerves before a photo session. I thought I wouldn't have any problems, since I'm a photographer, but I was so wrong! People don't just need advice on what color to wear, but on what fabrics work and how to prepare for a different climate. I was well aware of how my hair behaves in the tropics, but what about the people who don't? I don't want them to hate their photos just because their hair came up with some new frizzy surprises. I've always sent a couple words of advice, but only if my clients asked me for suggestions, after my own photoshoot experience I realized that I needed to do more to provide the best service possible to my clients. So I created a brand new style guide that I send out to every client who books a photo session with me. Even the ones who don't ask, and might think they have it all figured out, might find some useful information in there.

So, when you're going on vacation and you're planning on doing a photo session, there are some things to consider that you might not be aware of. Here's a list with some helpful tips, to make sure your photo session is a success! Some things I've learned as a photographer, and some that I learned as a client.

1. Pinpoint

Make sure you receive en exact pinpoint of your photo location from your photographer before you get on a plane. Depending on where you go, your cell phone service might be limited, and your GPS might not be working properly. Here in Puerto Rico that happens all the time, so I always send a pinpoint to my clients before the session and make sure I name some points of interest close by. Research how to get there in advance, especially if it's at some remote location.

1. Communication

Try to communicate as much as possible with your photographer before the session. They should be able to give you advice on how to prepare for the climate you'll be shooting in, what to bring, and anything else you should keep in mind.

2. International Outlets

I wanted to kick myself when I realized there were European outlets in Martinique. What a rookie mistake! Do some research before your trip how you can use and charge yo electronic devices! I know this might seem like a no brainer, but preparing for a photo session without a blow dryer or curling iron can be tough...

3. Outfits

This is probably the toughest part of all, finding the perfect outfit. I've created a style guide that I send out to all of my clients, but not every photographer does. If you're unsure what to wear, check out some ideas on Pinterest, there are tons of great ideas to be found in there. Check in with your photographer too, they might have some advice on how to dress in their climate zone. I always encourage my clients to send me some sample pictures of their outfit, so I can let them know if they're going in the right direction or not.

4. Make-up

If you're not a make-up person, don't overdo it on the day of the photoshoot . Also, see what kind of make-up works well in humid climates if that's where you're shooting. Definitely make sure your make up is water resistant, so it can withstand some sweat or a drizzle of rain.

5. Hair

photographer Puerto Rico

My hair is completely straight in moderate climates, but you wouldn't believe the frizz mess it turns into in tropical climates. My only weapon is a hair straightener and lots of hairspray. You might never ever use any products in your hair, but be prepared, things might be different here or wherever you're going. Look into some anti frizz products if you're not used to the tropical climate, just in case! Another heads up, if you're doing your session on the beach, it might be windy. Choose a hair style that can handle a little ocean breeze.

5. Sunscreen

Avoid tan lines at all cost! I repeat, do not get tan lines! It's best to schedule your session at the beginning of your trip, so there's less of a chance to get burned or develop tan lines. Don't go easy on the sunscreen, make sure the whole family, or whoever is in the session uses it. If you do get tan lines, make sure your outfit covers them up. You might think that visible tan lines can easily be removed in photoshop, but it's actually a quite time consuming process, and a lot of photographers charge extra for extended editing.

6. Details

Pay attention to details. If you feel like something doesn't fit right, the straps of your dress move, sleeves are too tight, or anything that makes you feel uncomfortable right away, stay away from it. You don't want one annoying detail to ruin an otherwise perfect photo.

I hope you could find some helpful tips in here, feel free to contact me directly if you have any questions!

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