Bad lighting is the enemy of good photography. Unfortunately, unless you are professionally trained, you might not know that the midday sun is not the best light for photographs. Hamilton explains, “You actually want your subjects to be in shade rather than direct sun and you also don’t want them facing the sun because this causes squinting.” Consider doing your photo sessions in early morning or late afternoon for beautiful soft light. Cloudy days are also great for photo shoots.
You may want to ask around about student photographers, especially if you are anywhere near a fine arts school. I know a few lovely people who have done a lot of discounted work (as in anywhere from covering travel cost to $150) to get the experience and possibly further their portfolio. Just keep in mind that student/amateur does not = terrible all the time, ask to see their previous work.
When styling a photo session, I like to start out with a basic color palette and go from there. It can help to have one “rock star” in the photos who carries a pattern in their outfit that the rest of the group’s clothing or accessories pulls from, while keeping everyone else’s outfits more simple. You can do this with a neutral and a few colorful brights, or try a softer palette that has different tonal ranges of the same shades.