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There is plenty of information floating around out there for how photographers should prepare for sessions, but very little information on how YOU should prepare to be photographed. If you’ve got an upcoming lifestyle, family, or engagement session, this one is for you. I want to give you the knowledge on how to prepare for your upcoming session, mentally, emotionally, and physically!

I get questions all the time about how to prepare for upcoming photography sessions! Questions like “What do I wear?” and “What should I bring to my session?” And I get comments about uncertainties and insecurities about getting photographs taken. I hear “I’m so uncomfortable in photographs!” and “My husband hates getting his photograph taken.” Or “My child has an awkward, forced smile.” and “We need lots of help with posing and direction.”

So, I’m here to answer those questions and ease those uncertainties! The advice that I’m providing and the tidbits of knowledge related to your upcoming photography session are specific to my couples and families, BUT some of the tips can be applied to any upcoming session with any photographer.

Couple on Detroit rooftop. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.


Let’s begin with one of the most important aspects! Mental preparation is key and usually overlooked. You don't need to repeat a mantra to yourself or play brain games. The best way to mentally prepare is to strengthen your confidence! Confidence is crucial, even if it’s fake confidence. You can fake it until you make it, one of my favorite sayings. It truly is a mindset and something that you can gain! It's not just for models and bodybuilders. I can’t be your therapist and help you build confidence, but I can promise you that if you are confident in yourself and embrace who you are fully and everything that makes you unique your photographs will display that. Love every freckle and wrinkle, or whatever it is that makes you, you!

When you look at your photographs, I want you to feel something. I want you to be taken back to that moment or emotion. I want you to remember that season of life and smile. To do that, you have to be fully you and confident in front of the camera. Now, I know that this is easier said than done and I will help you feel confident and comfortable when I'm documenting you!

I promise that I will guide you through the photographs. The style of photography I document is often referred to as “unposed” but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to be leading you through it! I’m going to give you more prompts than poses to ensue real interaction and spark true emotion. I’m there to capture the moments in between, the laughter, the whispers, the gentle touches, and huge embraces. My goal is that you're interacting with each other so much that you forget that I'm even there. And I will help you feel confident by providing reassurance and guidance. You got this!

Couple hugging in field for engagement photos. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.
Lifestyle photography session at golf course with couple hugging. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.
Couple embracing during engagement photos at The Monarch Club in Detroit. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.


Oftentimes, you are concerned about your hair and outfit, more than your emotional state. How you are feeling when you show up to your session will be displayed in the photographs. It's not to say that if you're grumpy when you arrive from traffic or screaming children that each image will suck. That's not true at all! You can change how you feel and I'll help make it fun, but I can't fix everything. If your screaming at your children before running out the door late for your session, that stress will be apparent. Try to allow extra time to get your children and yourself dressed and ready to go. If you are fighting with your significant other and have forced them into the session, it will be more than obvious. Sit down and have a conversation with one another about your upcoming session and openly explain to each other your thoughts and feelings. Tell your significant other why these photographs matter to you and allow them to share their hesitation so that you can go into your session with ease.

And let go of fears, anxieties, or insecurities. You have nothing to be fearful of! Even if it's been years, heck even decades since you've been photographed it doesn't need to be a scary event. I'll make it fun and relaxing and plan to have fun and let go of any preconceived notions or worries!

Toddler walking outside in black and white photo. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.
Couple embracing in park during commitment ceremony. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.


Do you really need to bring anything extra to your session? Well, if it’s just you and your significant other, you can likely show up with nothing in hand and be completely fine, but there are extras things you can bring that’ll help along the way!

If you’ve got kiddos, bring snacks, a lot of snacks! Oftentimes sessions are around dinnertime so snacks can help keep hanger away and if you use them as a reward, they’re great for that, too. Bring an extra pair of clothing and don’t forget the shoes at home! Trust me, it's happened more than once. Pants rip, shoes break, dresses get stained. It's never a bad idea to have a backup, just in case!

If you’re planning on sitting on the ground at all, which will be likely with small children, bring a neutral colored blanket to sit on if you’re uncomfortable on the ground. This goes for my couples, too!

Couple with arms around each other at Detroit Riverwalk photo session. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.

I love to incorporate anything that is special to you in your session, whether that’s your pup or your favorite bottle of wine. If you play the guitar, bring it along. If your child has a favorite toy or book, make sure you incorporate it. Those items can also be great distractors or help keep the tears away. And I'm talking about the toys, not the wine! I also love to display interactions or activities that you enjoy to do together. It could be playing board games, having a picnic, eating pizza, jumping in puddles! Whatever you love, I want to capture it.

Couple with dog on Detroit rooftop. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.
Mother reading book to child on lap. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.
Couple sharing ice cream in Metro Detroit. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.

And if this is a celebratory session, champagne is always encouraged!

Celebratory champagne shower on Detroit rooftop. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.
Champagne toast in Detroit. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.


Oh, the infamous, what do I wear? Well, most importantly you want to be YOU! Fully and completely. Please do not wear clothing that does not fit who you are or your style. I never want my couples or families to feel that they have to dress a certain way to make the photograph beautiful. But also don’t let that deter you from dressing up. Sure, you likely don’t go downtown in your nicest heels and flowing dress, but if you love to get fancy then by all means! Oftentimes, you can incorporate two outfits into your session, one more casual and one that’s a bit dressier for two different vibes.

Family lifestyle session. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.
Belle Isle engagement photos in Detroit. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.
Detroit lifestyle engagement session. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.

Now, I know that wasn't specific advice, so if you want some more help you can check out the Pinterest boards I've created for couple portraits and family portraits to give you some inspiration! And here are some general guidelines for what to wear, but remember, rules can always be broken. Neutrals tend to work best with any environment, but don't be afraid to add a pop of color. Burgandy, burnt orange, and dark yellow tend to look good in any season. If you just love greys and blacks, that's okay, too! Lighter colors such as cream and tan can be a great compliment in more natural environments where greys and blacks fit best with cityscapes. You can definitely incorporate pattern into your photographs, but be aware of clashing patterns! Plaid shirts and floral dresses can be a bit too much, so if you're unsure try to stick to one pattern. But as you can see from above, patterns can be mixed! Be careful with clothing that is thin or shear. Ask yourself, if the sun shines through my dress, is my underwear going to be visible? I can't Photoshop your undies in every photo. And if you don't have time for a full outfit change, you can wear layers like jean jackets, sweaters, or hats to quickly change up your look!

Lifestyle engagement session on Detroit River. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.
Couple walking in Shinola Alley in Detroit. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.

Make sure you wear comfortable shoes because we'll be moving. And because we'll be moving be careful with clothing that is too tight, too short, or restricts your movement. We move baby, move! We’ll be walking, dancing, moving, and grooving! If you’ve got that favorite tight miniskirt but can’t move an inch in it, then that’s likely best to save for date night. The same goes for the guys. If you can’t sit in your pair of jeans, then maybe it’s best to grab a more comfortable pair. Heels to high you can’t walk? Maybe not a great choice!

Also, don’t be afraid to accessorize! If you love wearing rings, put them on. You’ve got a favorite necklace, go for it. And make sure you think about all the details. For my couples, your nails will likely be in the spotlight a bit, so take that into consideration if you like painted nails.

Finally, remember that it doesn’t matter if you get your hair and makeup done or come as you are, and it doesn't matter if you’re wearing your favorite old t-shirt or brand new shoes. This should be a body-positive experience. Be proud of who you are, celebrate who you are, and don’t you dare worry about the few extra pounds you were trying to lose before your session. You’re going to be beautiful!


Let's address the common phrases that I hear first! "I’m so uncomfortable in photographs!” and “My husband hates getting his photograph taken.” Or “My child has an awkward, forced smile.” and “We need lots of help with posing and direction.” You're likely uncomfortable because a. you aren't confident in yourself or b. the photographs you've previously taken have been overly posed and forced. To help the first, jump back up to mentality and confidence! But for the second, I will ensure that you feel comfortable by providing you guidance, so don't worry. Again, if your significant other dislikes photographs, have a conversation about why they matter to you. They likely dislike photographs because of the first point, feeling uncomfortable, which I will help with. Don't stress about how your child smiles, we'll make jokes and create fun interactions to capture their real, natural smile. Please do not yell at your child during the session and say that their smile is "ugly" or "bad." Trust me, it's happened and it only makes the situation worse. Instead, offer encouragement and if you know there is a certain word or phrase that makes them laugh, be sure to use it! And remember, I'll help you feel confident and comfortable and provide lots of guidance as to what to do during your photographs, so don't you worry!

Now, what can you do to make it the best? Let go of all expectations! The wind is going to blow, it may be cloudy and start to drizzle, the children may act up. Your hair might not be laying the way you want it to be. Your favorite location downtown may be jam-packed. But, I promise, it will all be okay. It will actually be better than okay, it’ll be amazing! That wind is going to make magic and don’t worry, I’ve always got a cute umbrella. Kids tend to be a little bit more rambunctious or moody for photo sessions as it’s out of their routine, but with the interactions that I’ll provide those beautiful moments will be capture! And trust me, you’re not going to be looking at that tiny hair out of place when you see the authentic emotions and timeless moments captured. And that favorite spot that we couldn’t go to, we’ll find a great alternative nearby that will still be the perfect setting to tell your story!

Detroit Riverwalk in Downtown Detroit, Michigan. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.
Family lifestyle session. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.
Couple outside theatre in Detroit. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.

A few more tips! Allow for extra time, always! Heading downtown on a Friday night there will likely be traffic and limited parking. Give yourself plenty of time to get ready and get to your session. You may have to take a half-day off of work, and just enjoy it. Eat beforehand and drink plenty of water so you’re not hungry or dehydrated. If you've got some favorite tunes that help you relax or are fun to dance to, send them my way! I love playing music at my sessions and I'll have my speaker on hand. And finally, just breathe and have fun with it. Be silly, let your goofy go, and laugh until your nose crinkles and your eyes close!


Be vulnerable. I know that this is challenging. But the more real you are, the more authentically you can be captured. I will do everything I can to draw out your personality and best qualities, but if you’ve got your walls up and you’re guarded, I can't work miracles. The more you are open with me, the more I can creatively portray you in your truest form.

And if you've got any other questions or uncertainties, make sure you reach out! I want to make sure you feel fully prepared for your session! Don't have a session booked, but you're interested? Say hello and let's do the dang thing!

All my love,

Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.



welcome to

hey there, i'm nicole!


I'm a down-to-earth, honest soul capturing Detroit and Windsor couples, families, and brands. I document clients who desire raw and timeless imagery. I also offer education to new and seasoned creative entrepreneurs.

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