Best Face Forward! Essential Tips from Mitzvah Photographers

The big weekend’s here, and it’s time for the family portraits! How do you make sure your photos represent your happiness as your child becomes a bar or bat mitzvah? We asked some of Atlanta’s most well-known Mitzvah photographers for their best tips!

Patti Covert, Scenesations Photography

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  • Groom from head to hand! Get your child a manicure since he or she will likely read from the Torah with a yad in bimah pictures and fingernails will show.
  • Ready Your Tallis. Don’t make the portrait session the first time the tallis comes out of the bag. Steam out wrinkles and remove tags beforehand. And, of course, bring it with you to synagogue!
  • Pop your arm. No woman, whether a size 2 or a size 20, likes the look of their arm pressed up against their side. (Think of all those models with hands on hip!) Leave a little distance between your bod and your arm.
  • Skip the cell phone. Leave your cell phones out of the photo session or else the child may find themselves not knowing where to look. Trust your pro to get the best smiles.

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Josh Johnson, Shotzy

Let Go! Give your photographer your must-have shot list of family groupings for portraits, and then let him handle the rest! You’ve spent a lot of time preparing for this weekend, and your photographer has the experience and knowledge to document it for you. Relax, have fun and let your photographer take over so you can enjoy!

If You’ve Got it, Use it. If one member of a family is there, but no one else is, that’s ok! Let’s put that cousin in the portrait when it’s time to add to the Mitzvah family grouping. If you have a special family heirloom or other accessory that is meaningful to your family, we’ll find a way to use it in your images.

Add Extra Events. You may not be thinking about a photographer at Shabbat dinner or Sunday morning brunch, but hiring an affordable shooter for an hour can get you some joyful, candid images that capture the spirit of the weekend. Families who’ve done this are so glad they did, and love the casual at-home shots with extended family and close friends.

Bring Me to Your Leader. Designate someone who knows the family well to be your photographer’s guide at the celebration. She or he can tell me who I should get a lot of shots of – cousins? college pals? camp friends? Help me capture the faces you most want to see in your album without bothering you during the festivities!

Barry Dreyer, Bima Shots

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  • Know Your Angle. Always turn your outside shoulder slightly towards the photographer and angle your feet toward the focus of the photo (usually the bar or bat mitzvah child) to give your body a slimmer line.
  • Go Natural. The camera’s flash can reflect off shiny or glittery make up, so keep to natural matte shades. Tell other family members this also….especially teenage sisters and grandmothers.
  • Save the Chatter. When the photographer is pointing the camera at you, please don’t continue your conversation! Open-mouthed mid-sentence is not how anyone looks their best in a photo.
  • Special IS Special. It’s ok for the photographer to capture the unique character of each person, and a professional is adept at working with all types of people, including those with special needs. Allow your pro to shoot the true personality of the bar or bat mitzvah, or important family member, just as he or she is.

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Zach Porter, Revelry Photo House

Be Yourself. Try to avoid being stiff and considering this a serious portrait session. Some of the best shots I capture are candids. When you’re watching your child read from the Torah at rehearsal, when siblings horse around while waiting for their shot, when someone tells an inside joke that makes the family laugh… those are the images you’re going to love most.

Don’t Rush It. If you’re stressed and running late, it’ll show in your pictures. Allow plenty of time to get to the synagogue or venue so that you can get there and be relaxed. I’m the one who is working then, not you!

Friend Me. If we can have a portrait session for the sign in board or book, that gives me a good chance to get to know your family before the big day and vice versa. I’ll get a feel for your style and I try to match my energy to yours, so that you’ll feel most comfortable and we can get some great images!

Let Littles Do Their Thing. If young children are part of the family portraits, and they don’t want to cooperate, don’t stress! Let them have a snack or play with a toy on the floor. I find the kids where they are and get on their level to capture the moment. When they become interested, we can bring them into the larger group.

Jenni Girtman, Life on Film Mitzvah Photography

  • Get Close. Get chummy with your photographer and share the details of your family that’ll make it easier for him or her to know who should be grouped together, along with any relationships that require special care. 
  • Solid Beats Patterns. Solid color clothing photographs better than prints, so keep loud patterns to a minimum.
  • Allow for Spontaneity. Hug your child! Make a funny face at your sister! Your photographer can help create moments that beautifully capture genuine relationships when you’re open to suggestions of the moment versus your expectations of a traditional portrait session.
  • Stuff Happens. If family members missed their flight or got stuck in downtown Atlanta traffic, don’t stress! Your photographer can arrange another time over the weekend to capture images of beloved family member who don’t make it to the scheduled session.

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Ross and Debra Cohen, Cohen Photographic Art

Get us in Early. We like to arrive before you do to get some images as you arrive at the synagogue or party venue. The excitement is in everyone’s faces! We also set up our own studio lighting to get the best images no matter what the in-house lighting situation is. Making sure we can get in early gets you better quality shots.

Bring Your Accessories. Often, families forget their child’s special yad or tallit. Make sure to bring them so we can capture those special elements in the images on the bimah.

Say Yes! You want to see real smiles and love on the faces of everyone in the family. Sometimes to get there, we’ll tell a corny joke or two and encourage you to get close to your neighbor and say “yes!” That always puts the family at ease and allows your face to project the love you feel for your family.

Go Outside. So many synagogues have beautiful grounds and landscaping, or your venue may have a unique exterior wall or space to sit. Let’s take advantage of that for some additional backgrounds. A change of scenery also creates a different vibe for your poses and gives you more variety for your photo album.

Visit the Atlanta Party Connection Vendor Directory to find your ideal Mitzvah photographer and snag a Shelly’s Special discount!



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