Photo Session style Guides

Photo Session style Guides


I am so excited for your session! I feel so honored to capture these special moments in your life together. I’ve created this guide to help you get the most out of your photos, and by the time you’ve read through it, I hope you’ll have all your questions answered and feel excited and prepared for your session. Then I’ll take care of the rest! Your only job is to be yourself, laugh a lot and let me create beautiful photos you’ll love forever.

​If you have more questions when you’re done reading through this guide, please don’t hesitate to ask!


Anna Kathryn


I am a natural light photographer because I believe that natural light, from the sun and its reflections, creates beautiful photographs that feel timeless and authentic.



A.Most clients schedule their sessions on weekends (Friday, Saturday, Sunday) so my weekends sometimes book out several weeks in advance, but my week days are usually available too. If you have a flexible schedule and are able to shoot on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday, I can usually fit you in right away.


A.The best light for your photos will occur during “golden hour,” which is the hour immediately before sunset or right after sunrise, when the sun is close to the horizon and casts soft, rich light on the earth. Even after the sun disappears behind the horizon, we still have 20 minutes or so of soft twilight that’s ideal for photos. To establish a start time for your photo shoot, look up the sunset time for our shoot date (and location) and subtract an hour. That’s the best time for us to start.

Remember, the sun sets much earlier during winter and much later during summer, so make sure to factor that in when choosing your portrait session date, especially if you’re taking off work or have evening plans afterward.


A.You can set you photos up for success by planning your photoshoot around a time of day when your kiddos are happiest. Even if that time doesn’t perfectly occur at golden hour, it’s more important to me that your kids are in a good mood than that the light is perfect. If your kids are happiest in the middle of the day, we can either select a location that has some shade to shoot in, or maybe consider an at-home session that is softly lit by a bright window nearby.


A.Did you know there’s a golden hour right after sunrise too?
I’m a morning person, so if you are too, I would LOVE to plan a sunrise shoot with you. The benefits of a sunrise session are that we get the whole beach (or park, or pier) to ourselves, and my mornings usually aren’t booked up weeks in advance like my weekend evenings. If you’re willing to brave an early wake up, don't hesitate to suggest it... I’m your girl.


A.Sometimes the timing of your shoot can be determined by the location. We usually have lovely golden light right up until the scheduled sunset when shooting on the parkway here in the mountains. If we opt for a downtown setting or park setting, such as Asheville or the Arboretum or Lake Lure, the direct light disappears a little sooner, which means we can start earlier in the evening if that’s better for your schedule. If we’re shooting indoors (such as an at home session), the middle of the day is great because bright light outside turns your windows into soft light sources.


The location of your session is up to you! The first thing to decide is whether you’d like your session to have an urban or natural feel. Are you city people who love culture and architecture? Let’s do some photos in downtown Asheville! Or do you love hiking and camping? The Blue Ride Mountains are packed full of trails that lead to windy overlooks and picture-perfect mountain views. Want to get your toes in the water? Looking Glass Falls is the PERFECT spot for a gorgeous waterfall.



Outdoor, open-air environments are a great backdrop for kids to explore. I recommend avoiding downtown areas where there are a lot of busy roads and distractions, especially if you have young children. It’s best to have a place where you can all feel safe and comfortable, and not have to worry about people or cars in the background. If you have a place in mind that is special to your family, such as a farm or garden that you often go to, that is great too!

If you've never done a family photo session at home, you might want to consider doing one there. Home is a great place for photos because it's a source of endless picture-worthy activities and routines. Home is where your kids are most comfortable (i.e. happiest and silliest) and most likely to demonstrate their unique personalities. Home is also where the memories are made, so a home photo session is a great way to capture some of your favorite routines, moments, and spaces. Another hidden plus of a home session is that in the event of a wardrobe mishap, you can always change things up. Don't feel like you need to clean and decorate your whole house. Just tidy up one or two rooms (preferably the ones with the best light) and we'll have a great time! 

You know your kiddos best, so pick a location where they’ll feel comfortable and energized, not fearful and overwhelmed.


One way to make your photo session particularly special and memorable is to make your pictures tell a story. Three great ways to do this are through selecting a unique location, adding props, or planning an activity (or all three)!


Do you have a special place you love to go on dates?... Got access to an apple orchard where you can pick apples?... Want to create some photos against the backdrop of a local music festival?... Want to bring me along when it’s time to pick out your fall pumpkins at the local pumpkin patch?... Do you know someone with an Airstream in their backyard that you can commandeer for an afternoon?... Is there a local landmark you’ve always wanted to visit but never had a reason to?... Think outside the box and let’s go somewhere unique. Please note: try to pick a location that has some natural light. 


I’m not talking about fake mustaches and feather boas. I’m talking about a flower crown (or bouquet!), a shiny vintage car on a roadside overlook, sparklers, smoke bombs, balloons, and more. ​


Want to try something a little different? Turn your photo session into an activity! From baking cookies at home to hitting your local gym together to getting messy making clay pots, there are so many activities that will make you smile, laugh, work together, and bring out the unique personality of your dynamic relationship(s). It can be a simple activity like a champagne toast or a picnic or a more involved activity like setting up a tent on the mountain side and jumping into the water fully clothed. Staging an activity will bring out lots of candid moments and keeps our time together interesting and varied.


Your photo session is an opportunity to think outside the box! I encourage you to brainstorm unique locations that you might have special access to that most people don’t. For example, maybe you, or someone in your personal or professional network, can secure permission to a location that would otherwise be off-limits, like a beautiful private estate or industrial space. Maybe it’s a family ranch, upscale hotel, a sailboat, airplane hangar or rooftop view. The sky is literally the limit! Spend a few minutes thinking about it and checking around. You’ll be surprised with what you come up with. Plus, if something seems out of reach, just remember: you never know until you ask! 


There is no such thing as "too dressed up" for your photo shoot. 

Style tips for her //////


Have you ever dreamed about rocking a romantic gown, tulle skirt, or flower crown, but just never had an occasion for it? This is your chance to do it up! Remember: there is no such thing as “too dressed up” when it comes to your portrait session, so don’t be afraid to have some fun! 

Dresses and skirts look most stunning because they really flatter every female body, especially on camera. What's more, a full and flowy skirt is like a built-in "prop," giving you something to twirl and swirl, and adding effortless movement and interest to your photos. I recommend avoiding pants and shorts for your session, and saying yes to a dress instead.  Lauren (pictured to the left) rented her dress from an online site just for her session. It was STUNNING!



When choosing color(s) for your outfits, I recommend selecting soft, light tones and muted shades. By avoiding ultra-bright, bold colors, it will help bring all the attention to your faces.

The camera loves soft pastels and neutrals like peach, lavender, blush, sky blue, sage green, golden yellow, heather gray, creams, tans, leather, denim, and soft white. This soft color palette fits beautifully into almost all natural outdoor environments.

**Black, though slimming, becomes very shapeless in photos. Avoid black if you can, but if you must wear it, black pants are fine.** 


Fabric selection has the power to add positive interest or negative distraction to your photos. 

A solid-colored fabric is always a winner, but if you don't want to wear (or don't have) a solid-colored dress, select a print that is minimalist and understated, rather than bold and design-forward. Think calicos, dainty florals, repetitive geometric motifs, checkered patterns, or small stripes.

​Another way to add visual interest is to opt for texture like lace, seersucker, linen, denim, chiffon, or tulle.

Remember: the goal isn't to have someone look at your photo and immediately say, "Whoa look at that dress." Instead you want them to say, "Oh my goodness you look stunning.


​Flowy dresses and skirts look amazing on camera because they bring extra movement to the photos, especially when juxtaposed with nature, like our dramatic North Carolina beaches, mountains, and grassy hillsides. Consider a cut that allows for beautiful movement in the images.

If the location you've chosen might be windy (as many mountains and clifftop overlooks are) I recommend a mid-thigh or longer hemline. Wind is our friend most of the time because it creates drama and movement, but not so much when you have to keep one hand on your backside to keep the dress down. ​

​A good rule of thumb I’ve learned is that: the eye is drawn to what is revealed. Meaning bare arms up to the shoulders, bare legs in short dresses, and particularly low-cut necklines—no matter how great they look—might distract from your face in the photo. I'm not saying don't do it... I'm saying be aware. 


If you’re bringing a couple outfits (as for an engagement session), save your favorite outfit for last. It takes a little time to warm up and get comfortable in front of the camera, so your favorite photos will likely happen near the end.


If you have smaller children, we’ll likely have you sitting or crouching down on the ground to interact with them on their level. Dresses of any length photograph beautifully, but if you have little ones in your photos, a knee-length or longer dress or skirt will make moving around with your kids much easier.


Heels elongate women’s legs, making them look fabulous. Closed-toed heels in particular look great on camera because they carry out the line of your leg all the way down to your toe. If your toes are showing in a peep-toe heel, you might want to schedule a pedicure before your session so you don’t regret letting your toes show. These little tricks make all the difference! If there will be much walking at our photo location (or if your heels are particularly uncomfortable), you might consider packing a pair of flip flops for swapping out in between picture spots. 

​IF YOUR SESSION IS AT THE BEACH, plan to be barefoot, because your feet will likely get a little bit wet. In this case, you would wear a pair of easy-to-kick-off sandals or flats to wear from the parking lot to the sand.



Professional hair and makeup is on the top of most of my clients’ checklists because it looks amazing on camera and removes the stress of getting ready on your own. This is the time to treat yourself! Whether it’s lash extensions or blown-out hair, professional hair and makeup will give you an extra boost of confidence in front of the camera, and it always photographs like a dream.

If you’re working with a makeup artist, have him/her apply your makeup in natural light, if possible, so that it looks fresh and not too heavy. Plus, that’s the type of light we’ll be shooting in, so it’ll give you the best expectation of how it will translate on camera. ​Some clients feel like their professional makeup is “too much” at first, since it’s more than they would wear on a normal day, or that their false lashes look too big, so if you feel that way at the beginning, don’t worry! Good makeup artists know how to get it all just right for the camera—and clients always love the final result. 


Pairing an accessory or two with your outfit can really help bring some extra dimension to your images, and also be a nice tie-in when you’re coordinating with a group.

Big statement necklaces bring a lot of pop to the photos, while the smaller, delicate ones are not as noticeable on camera. Belts, bracelets, and earrings bring great visual interest, so choose one or two that don’t compete for attention. Fresh florals in a crown can be a really romantic touch for you or your girls as well.


  • Steam your dress so you don't have any fold lines or wrinkles 
  • Cut the tags and ribbon hangar straps out of it, so there aren't any oopsies peeking out from under your arms. 
  • Try it on—with the underwear you plan to wear—and make sure there aren't any gaps or obvious lines.


If there is a Sephora store in your area, I hear you can get a free mini makeover from one of their amazing beauty experts, for free and no purchase or appointment necessary. That's what Bev (pictured) did! 

style tips for him

style tips for him


Long, fitted pants and closed-toed shoes are a very sophisticated look for men. They draw attention away from his legs and feet and place it where you want it: on his handsome face. Fitted dress pants or fitted solid-colored pants work best on camera. Denim looks great if it's nice denim. Pinstripes and plaid patterns tend to distract the eye. I also recommend staying away from graphics and logos. 



Feel free to mix a suit coat, blazer or sport coat with a different pant color. It adds some extra visual interest, and breaks up the color tones. This is a fresh take on a timeless classic! 


Next time you walk by a store like J. Crew, you’ll notice the male mannequins and models are always wearing several layers at once. Layers on men look great on camera. Even if it feels overdressed, adding another layer will bring extra dimension and visual interest to your photos. Blazers, vests and sweaters up the level of any look. Don’t be afraid to get a little creative with layers! 



Brown leather dress shoes complement almost every look, whether he’s wearing a full suit or a blazer and colored pants. Ties, bowties, pocket squares, colored socks, belts, tie clips, suspenders, vests, watches, and statement rings are sharp complements to any outfit for men and boys alike.


Though your guy might be just as stoked (if not more so) for your session as you are, it's possible that he's not... and that's common! It might be difficult for him to get stoked to take photos for an hour if he doesn't have an expectation of what’s to come and why it’s so important to you. Take fifteen minutes to educate and empower your guy. Tell him why you chose me as a photographer and why you like my style of photography. Show him some of your favorite sessions that I’ve done, explain why you love them, and express to him how much it means to you. Trust me, once he knows it's important, he’ll light up the camera for you!

​The most common thing I hear from guys before photo sessions is this: because of a bad experience in the past (or a story they heard), they don’t like taking photos or don’t think they’ll be good at it. By the time we’re done, though, they can’t believe how fast it went and just how much fun they had! 


Use these sample palettes to visualize wardrobe options for your session.