How to Prepare: Documentary Shoots


Something I’ve learned over my years of photographing people is that, sometimes, we need a little help when it comes to dressing & prepping for a shoot. Even as a photographer myself, it took time for me to understand what works and what doesn’t. Now that I know, I always give my clients some advice before their session so they can have the best outcome possible. If you are booked in for a Documentary style shoot with me (families, maternity, newborn, couples, mum & bub, etc), this post is for you!



It all starts with colour. Colour (and light) is the most essential ingredient to get right, as they either enhance or overwhelm an image. When it comes to clothes, I always recommend neutral tones, when I say neutral I mean basically any colour but neutralised. So you can have a beautiful earthy green, but definitely avoid a bright/fluoro green. In fact, avoid anything bright or fluoro if you can. I love: maroon, mustard, navy, cream, dusty orange/pink, forest green (etc). The main colours to avoid are: bright pinks, oranges and reds. The reason? Skin tone. If you have beautiful dark or olive skin, this may not be relevant to you, but those three colours can really impact our shoot as they’re the three colours we generally see underlying skin tones and you definitely don’t want your skin to look weird. If you’re unsure about something you want to wear, just ask me!



Patterns are another make or break item when it comes to doco style shoots. Patterns are eye grabbing, so if there is ever a pattern in a shoot, it will most likely draw the most attention to the person wearing it. Patterns to avoid: bright, strong, bold, loud, busy, and steer clear of logos! SOME patterns work well, especially if they’re using soft/neutral tones (as mentioned above), if the pattern is small or delicate and not attention demanding. I like my sessions to be as relaxed and comfortable as possible, so in the end, make sure you feel comfortable with what clothing you choose wear.



Props aren’t really necessary in doco style shoots, because as the title itself explains, we’re documenting, not faking it! BUT if we have some kids to keep engaged throughout our session (especially at home), I do recommend you have some ideas before the day to keep them entertained and happy. I don’t agree with forcing our kids to do things for photos (let’s be real, no kids will be interested this way, and this is about documenting them not posing), so my advice is to keep them as happy as possible. Some things my clients have done in the past: family gardening, games outside, home made lemonade, lego, cubby house peekaboo etc. So it can be helpful to have some ideas up your sleeve if we’re shooting at home. If we’re shooting in a public space, we will most likely be walking anyway so they won’t need as much distraction - but it can be handy to have a toy or two (the less bright and eye grabbing the better). Something to keep in mind for location shoots, best to avoid bringing a bag unless you want that bag in your photos. We will be on the move most of the time so putting things down out of the way every few minutes will eat up your shoot time. My motto for happy family shoots: Let the kids guide YOU.


My motto for happy family shoots: Let the kids guide YOU.



Should I have my hair/makeup done professionally?

Not necessary at all for doco style shoots. These shoots are about capturing real moments and engagement between you and your loved ones, and it should be as realistic as possible. Trust me when I say, it honestly won’t matter to you if your hair has been blow waved once you see those irreplaceable moments of you and your children laughing together.

Should I put my whole fam in white t-shirts and jeans?

It’s a no from me! Definitely don’t do this. Realistically it’s better than logo’s and bright red shirts, but we want this to look real, not like a commercial. I realise that some photographers shoot this way, but that’s not what you’ll get with me.

I’m a pattern lover and my whole wardrobe is bright colour!

Well hello, I’m a Gorman lover too, so I GET it! Shoot me an email and we can pick something together, and just ensure that the rest of the fam aren’t in clothes that will compete with your outfit.

Can you just carry our bags for us while we walk?

I have done this in the past, but it does impact the shoot quite a lot as I’m no longer able to focus on what I’m there for: capturing moments! Also, it’s a health and safety risk so I have to say no from now on. Please avoid bringing bags for this reason.

Amy SinclairComment