Client prep is a very important part of your workflow. Overlook prepping your client, and you're SURE to run in to last minute problems. Your client needs to know what is suitable to wear, they need to know how the session will go, they need to know how to get their children to cooperate!
The best way you can prep your client is by preparing a document that you can send them, that clearly outlines the most important things they need to know. This serves two purposes: It lets them know how the session will play out, and also gets you off the hook if they don't read it or don't follow your directions. I include things in mine like "try to limit the amount of sugar your children get before the session, and save the sweet rewards for after they've cooperated." This way I'm not struggling to get children down from a sugar-high, and I'm not trying to photoshop out red juice moustaches and stains on the children's clothes.
In your document, you should include:
*Advice about what to wear (that pertains to the style you prefer to shoot).
*Remind them they need to be dressed right down to their shoes. Shoes MATTER in a session!
* No logos on their shirts.
*Include PHOTOS of your clients who have previously nailed styling their session. If you don't have any, you can do a google or Pinterest search for "How to dress for a photoshoot" and find amazing colour schemes.
*Remind your clients they need to consider their location when picking their outfits. A beach session with clients dressed for the woods just doesn't make sense! ;-)
*Reminders to have the family well groomed- bathed, fingernails clean, teeth brushed, etc..
*Information on what will happen if you need to reschedule due to weather.
*An explanation of how you work with children, and a reminder for parents to give you your space when photographing the children. Often times parents will be behind you shouting "Look here! Smile!" etc. Parents tend to get anxious and stressed, and make the child anxious and stressed.
*What they need to know about outfit changes and location changes.
*Anything else you feel the parent should know about how to prepare for the session.
Client's Hair and wardrobe
Let's be real: Mom is the most important part of this photoshoot. Mom is most likely the one who wants the photos done. Mom's always the one behind the camera, dad never remembers to take photos of her with her kids. (Ok, generalizing here, but I see this a lot!)
Mom also has insecurities- major ones. Mom's body changed after babies, Mom gives 110% to her children and there's little left over for her. In order for Mom to love her photos, she NEEDS to feel amazing. She needs to look her best. She needs to remember she's still an individual, and not just a mom. Use your prep time to encourage mom to really, really treat herself. Tell her to have her hair or makeup done, get a manicure, buy a new outfits... Obviously these aren't totally necessary, but every little bit helps to make her feel like she's got herself together.
As a part of my style, I prefer for my clients to have a loose, natural hairstyle. I don't want anyone showing up with a ponytail in. I want clients to feel relaxed and "like themselves", but if their natural state is anything like mine, it's yoga pants and a pony tail! So it's important to let them know that hair is kind of a big deal in photos. Provide your clients with the names of a few hairstylists who know how you like your clients to by styled, or consider including hair and makeup as a part of your photography package.
Makeup I have mixed feelings about. When someone goes way too heavy on the makeup, it can be time consuming to edit and smooth. It's best to advise you clients that if they're good with makeup, a light application can be very beneficial and help their features stand out. If your client wants makeup done but doesn't feel like they can do it themselves, refer them to a makeup artist who knows what you need. Basically, make friends with a couple hair stylists and makeup artists, let them know what you need from them, and then send clients their way- You scratch their backs, they'll scratch yours! ;-)