Fairhope Wedding Photographer & Educator | Ellison Smith Creative- Formerly Goodie & Smith Weddings


Portrait SESSION

choosing the perfect time, location,
outfit & more!




We are so excited to be working with you and can’t wait for our time together during your portrait session! It’s normal to be a little nervous about your session. We always tell people that we still get nervous before having my photos taken – and we do this for a living!

There is a lot to think about when it comes to planning a session and since we get asked some of the same things over and over again, we thought it would be the most beneficial if we put together a guide that walks you through everything you need to know.

We’ll cover what to wear, whether to bring pets & how to manage them, location ideas and more!

If there is a question you have that isn’t answered by this guide, please shoot us an email! We are always happy to help!

– Toni and Jessica


The Guys

We get it. Having your picture taken for 1-2 hours might not be in your top-10 favorite things to do during your downtime. And at first you might feel sort of awkward being in front of the camera. But we think you’ll find that by the end of the session, it’s a lot easier than you thought, and you even had a little fun. 


Is there a "good" time to take photos?

Portrait sessions can take place anytime. We’ve found that there isn’t a “good” or “bad” time to take your photos. We normally plan sessions based on a particular “look” a you have in mind, spring flowers for example, or based on schedules. 

Sessions typically last about an hour — we love to begin sessions about one to two hours before sunset. We prefer to shoot when the sun is lower in the sky to avoid harsh shadows and bright sun patches. The first two hours after sunrise is also an ideal time to shoot.

We schedule sessions during what we believe will be the best light of the day – which means that it’s super important to be on time. If you’re late to an evening session, we could run out of light before we’ve finished shooting and if your session takes place in the morning, the sun gets more harsh as it rises. 

Family Beach Session Photographed by Goodie and Smith Weddings


While we shoot most portrait sessions between March and late November, sessions can take place all year. Most G and S families choose a season based on the location where they want to shoot. 

A few things to keep in mind during each season: 

Holiday Cards

If you are wanting to use the photos for Holiday cards the session should be completed by October 31st. This will ensure that you will have an opportunity to order the cards before Thanksgiving and will receive them in time to mail them out in December. 

 Between inclement weather, editing, designing your cards and printing, two months is generally a safe amount of time to make sure your images and cards are ready. 

Mom walking with her children at the Grand Hotel Photographed by Goodie and Smith Weddings



We love it when families choose a location that is special or sentimental to them in some way . If you  can’t think of anywhere specific to shoot, we can help you decide on a location. As long as the light is great, we can shoot anywhere. We have shot at farms, college campuses, downtown areas (Fairhope and Daphne are our favorite), and even coffee shops! We are serious! Do not shy away from unique ideas! The more creative the better.


Downtown Fairhope
The Grand Hotel in Fairhope
Spring Hill College
Bragg Mitchell Mansion
The Pillars


Orange Street Pier in Fairhope
Alabama Point in Orange Beach
The Marina at the Wharf
Fairhope Yacht Club


Downtown Mobile
Downtown Pensacola
Downtown Fairhope

fun and unique

Little Point Clear
At home lifestyle session
Mr. Genes Beans in Fairhope
The Fort Container Park in Spanish Fort
Baldwin County Fair


Historic Malbis Nursery
Izenstone in Spanish Fort
Blakeley State Park
Tree & Flower Farms
Mobile Botanical Gardens
Bellingrath in Mobile
The Orchard at Hayes Farms


Cooking class
Coffee Shops
Sailing / Boating

the above locations are all beautiful but we also love exploring meaningful locations with our couples!


Our dogs are a huge part of our families, which is why we love when families choose to incorporate pets into their session. Keep in mind that bringing a pet along often means that we’ll need to choose a pet friendly location. 

We recommend planning for your pet to be at the first part of your session and then either dropping them off or having a friend take them home. We won’t use the pet in every single photo, so it’s also nice to have a friend available to hold him or her in between shots. 

If you’re going to bring a pet, We recommend exercising your pet before the session and bringing your pets favorite toy or treats! Depending on your pet’s fur type, it might also be a good idea to groom them before the shoot and bring a lint brush!



When picking outfits we recommend keeping in mind the word “compliment” rather than “match.” It can also be a great idea to choose “color-families,” such as pastels or jewel tones.  And don’t be afraid to be BOLD!  Most Patterns are actually ok…. however, graphics are not favorable for portraits.  If you’re wearing a pattern, make sure it’s not overwhelming and distracting. We love accessories as well! Statement necklaces, scarves, cute shoes and classic watches are great ways to add detail to outfits.  Last, Empty your pockets! Literally.  You don’t want to have key chains or phones showing through your pockets. (This is for the guys especially!).

Inclement Weather

what to do if it rains

We’ll check in the week of your session to confirm the time & location we’re meeting and the weather. We know it takes a lot of time to get ready for an family session and it’s the worst to get dressed up and drive out to your session only to have it rain. Let me know what works best for you – but if the weather looks like it won’t be great, We typically try to make the call at least 12 hours in advance. If we need to reschedule, We will offer our next available dates within 2 weeks of your original date. 

Cake Smash Session at Historic Malbis in Spanish Fort, AL


champagne is always a good idea


If you’re planning to bring props to your portrait session, we recommend including them only if they’re meaningful to you. Shots of drinking coffee at a local coffee shop would be cute if that’s where you met; however, a trying to fly a kite together when it’s not a part of your relationship may come off as contrived. And, champagne is always welcome.

Family Session photographed by Goodie and Smith Wedding in Midtown Mobile, AL


"What do I do with my hands"?

When it comes to posing for your family, you don’t need to worry about a thing! We’ll guide you through the entire process beginning with “poses” that are super easy and natural. If we tell you to do something that feels a little funny, it’s probably because we know it’s going to make you laugh – and that’s the photo we are actually looking for. We want you to feel as relaxed as possible and enjoy your time together!

Family Session at Historic Malbis in Spanish Fort, AL
Family Session at Historic Malbis in Spanish Fort, AL
Family Session at Historic Malbis in Spanish Fort, AL

Family Night

If you’re anything like us, you probably don’t get dressed up all that often. Which means that the day of your portrait session is the perfect occasion for a family night (or brunch if your session is in the morning!) 

Take this as an opportunity to create a tradition and make the evening fun. Go get pizza at ravenite (our favorite) followed by ice cream at Whit’s (also, a favorite)!

Used for Mobile – Dont delete

Family Session at Historic Malbis in Spanish Fort, AL
Family Session at Historic Malbis in Spanish Fort, AL
Family Session at Historic Malbis in Spanish Fort, AL

When to Expect Your Images

As soon as possible after your session is complete, we will begin the editing process. Unless we have a holiday closure, you can expect to receive your photos between 2 and 3 weeks after your session.  While you wait, be on the look out for a few sneak peeks on Facebook and Instagram. One we are completely done editing, we will schedule your Design Session.


We know that this guide is long and hopefully it covers everything you need to know to prep for your portrait session! However if there is something we missed, or you need a recommendation feel free to email.