There is a reason this is in my FAQ section on my website; I get asked what to wear A LOT. Obviously, if you're paying a professional to take portraits of you and your family, you want to make sure they come out the best that they can! I personally like to go to my clients' homes and help them pick out what to wear so they feel confident the day of our shoot! I also offer a client wardrobe if they don't like anything that they have in their own wardrobe. But for those looking to coordinate their own wardrobes, here are my top dos and don'ts of dressing for a photoshoot!
DO Wear Neutrals, Pastels, or Muted Colors
Neutrals, pastels, and muted colors look good on all skin tones, on all body types, and all age groups. These colors all typically work really well together so it's hard to go wrong if you're mixing colors. They also work really well with a lot of indoor decors, which is important if you're planning on displaying your photos in your home!
DON'T Wear Neons or Bright Colors That Clash
Sometimes a pop of color can look nice if you surround it with softer, more neutral or muted colors. This is especially true for sessions where you want one person to be the primary focal point of the images, like in a maternity shoot for example. However, generally speaking, bright colors tend to not photograph very well. They can also be unflattering and add weird reflective light under chins or on faces. Another reason not to wear bright colors during your shoot is because they are very eye-catching which deters from the main focus of the images: YOU!
DO Wear Subtle Patterns and Textures
It is absolutely OK to have patterns on your clothing during photoshoots! There are a few rules with patterns and textures though, so be aware of them. If you're going with patterns, use them sparingly and try not to mix too many patterns as this can make the image too busy and the viewer has no idea where to look. I'd say one or two patterns is acceptable. You also want to make sure that these patterns are subtle. Patterns like gingham, ditsy floral, etc. are totally fine. Also, when selecting patterns, consider my first tip about appropriate color choices. The patterns are only ok if they all WORK together and don't clash or fight for attention.
Using a multitude of textures and fabrics is always good as it adds a lot of visual interest without totally overwhelming the photo.
DON'T Wear Super Busy Patterns
Stay away from patterns like stripes, zig-zags, leopard print, tie-dye, polka-dots, paisley, etc. These are all really super busy patterns and they will be very distracting to the viewer. There are some exceptions to this, but definitely run them by your photographer before committing to outfits using these patterns! And always ALWAYS stay away from pieces with words or graphics on them! These can really date your photos and, honestly, just look very tacky.
DO Wear Something You're Comfortable In
This gets overlooked a lot, but it is super important! Don't just focus on the style of what you're wearing when picking out your wardrobe. Comfort is just as important! You want to be able to move around pretty easily and feel confident in what you're wearing. This is especially true for family photos as there are usually a lot of dynamic shots of everyone playing or cuddling together. If you're uncomfortable, that's going to show in the photos.
DON'T Wear Super Form Fitting Clothes
While this may work for other genres of photography like boudoir or wedding, for the family genre, this more often than not presents issues. Again, you want to be comfortable and be able to move around easily. Looser clothes make this much easier. Tight clothes can also tear during shoots or create unflattering shapes when getting into certain poses. I would say the only exception to this is for maternity portraits when a form fitting dress can be used to accentuate that beautiful baby bump.
DO Wear Quality Pieces
I'm not saying you have to wear all Louboutin or Versace. However, I AM saying you should wear quality fabrics. Choose fabrics like cotton, silk, velvet, cashmere, leather, etc. and stay away from the cheap fabrics like polyester and spandex. Quality fabrics made by reputable brands usually photograph better because they fit better, breathe better, and are more comfortable.
DON'T Wear Cheap Fabrics
Cheap fabrics like polyester and spandex don't photograph well, are prone to tears, don't breathe well (hello sweat stains!), and can even transfer some of the dye to your skin! It's also important to note that a lot of the time, cheap clothing brands are also made in places where there is little to no regulations on ingredients they can use in their clothing and may use dyes that contain lead! Yikes! If your budged doesn't allow for you to purchase quality clothes for your photoshoot, see if your photographer has a client wardrobe or if they'd be willing to match what you spend on wardrobe with a product credit! I'm always happy to offer either of these options to my clients.
DO Accessorize with Intention
Accessories should always ADD to the outfit without being a distraction. A nice wide brim hat, waist belt, or statement necklace can add a lot of visual interest to a photo, but too many accessories can clutter up the image and come across as tacky.
DON'T Bring Lots of Props
I'll say it again: your photos are about YOU. Bringing lots of props can really distract from the images and the story you're trying to tell with them. In certain circumstances props may be appropriate, like bringing a sonogram or baby booties to a pregnancy announcement session or if a big part of your family's story is that your dad plays guitar and sings to you, then it may be really nice to add the guitar into some images. As is the rule of thumb for most things in photography, less is more. The focus of portrait photography should always be the people being photographed. Anything else should serve to compliment the people in the images.
DO Dress for the Weather
I tell my clients this all the time! Not only will you be super uncomfortable if you dress for the wrong season, but the photos will likely look "off" too if the background says winter, but your wardrobe says spring or summer. So dress appropriately for the season and weather. If there's a specific outfit you want to wear, you can always schedule your session for an appropriate time of year to accommodate that outfit or opt for a studio session instead of outdoors.
DON'T Wear Lots of Layers
A few layers of clothes is fine, but layering too much can make you look bulky and be distracting. If the weather is going to be super cold during your shoot, you can ask to reschedule or switch to an indoor session instead.
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