Before having a photo session, it’s important to consider the colors and the styles of your outfits. Clothing choices for photos are kind of a big deal. It’s taken me many photo sessions with individuals, couples, and families to realize just how important those choices are. My hope is that my findings and tips will help you to make the best decisions about what to wear for your next session.
Typically, for a portrait or head shot, you wanna stay away from sleeveless tops and patterns, and long sleeves or 3/4 length sleeves are ideal. I learned some of these basic rules early on in my photography journey. You can read about some of those early discoveries in my post–Photography Basics: Portraiture Class at Precision Camera. Before that class, I never thought about how much clothing selections can make a difference in the overall look of the photo.
In the photos below, all of those rules have been broken, but the clothing choices still work. Let me tell you why.
In the photo above, the base of the blouse is a light color that mixes well the model’s skin color and light hair. The print is subtle enough that it doesn’t overpower her. Because the shirt is a V-neck and has a defined waist, we still see the model’s long neck and get a glimpse of her body shape. All of those things make this top work. If there had been no waist definition with the print, it would have over-powered my slender model. Prints with no shape at all can make even a slender person look bigger than they are. So, if you’re gonna choose a print to wear for your portrait, remember those rules–small print, light base color, V-neck, and defined waist.
The photo above was taken in the heat of summer. It’s hard for anyone to want to wear sleeves in the Texas summer sun. The reasons this sleeveless dress works is because of the solid color on most of the dress, it’s fitted to her upper body perfectly, and the fact the the model has a beautiful neck and shoulders. If you’re gonna choose something sleeveless for your portrait, then make sure the overall shape of the outfit is shape hugging or defining. And try to stick to a solid color. With the exception of the detail on the hem of the dress, this is one color, and it works well on the model.
The picture above is of myself! I have dark hair and olive skin. When I wear black and other dark colors, my face also gets darker. It’s not a good or appealing representation of my natural coloring. So, for this session, I chose carefully. I chose a solid color, a shade of pink that I I thought would compliment my coloring, and something that had some shape to it. Even though I’m in a sleeveless outfit, it works because of the color and the shape of the jumper. In this instance, my clothing choice–based on the style and the color–made a huge difference! Oh! And on my way home that day, a cashier at a local coffee house said I was looking cute in my romper! High five!
Couples’ clothing choices can be tough. You’re bringing together two individuals and trying to make them look cohesive. For a couple’s session, remember that your faces and bodies will be close together, so your differences are gonna be more obvious. Unless you’re brother and sister, it’s likely that you and your partner have contrasting hair and skin tones. Carefully choosing your color mixture while also keeping in mind each person’s other qualities–like you would for an individual portrait–will be worth the effort. You’ll create that look you want with your partner. You’re two separate people, yes, but you go together perfectly without being so “matchy-matchy”.
In the photo below, this bride-to-be matched her white and pink with her groom’s green and brown and they have the same shade of blue jean. The fusion is visually appealing. But–because he has darker hair and her lighter, they could have switched the colors–him in the white and her in the green. I wouldn’t change who’s wearing the pink shoes, though!
Families can be the toughest to style color-wise. Everyone wants to wear black because most family members have a black top in their drawer! But resist that urge, I say. Choose white over black if you’re looking for a color each person in your family might actually own. White shirts and blue jeans or white shirts and khaki shorts, skirts, or pants–photograph much better. These lighter colors should work for any hair color and skin tone. I don’t have an example of this in one of my own photos yet, but I hope to add one soon. If you need a visual right away, here’s one from pinterest, https://www.pinterest.com/pin/492649936716868/.
In the picture below, I remember the first shot I took of this family. I was so excited because the yellow the mom was wearing along with the pink she put her daughter in and the stone of the building were giving me beautiful warm colors. But–if they had all been wearing yellow and pink–that would have been disastrous–to bright and distracting. This mom matched her husband and son’s subtle black and blue with her vibrant yellow and her daughter’s fun pink. The result–beautiful colors for a beautiful family.
Take the time to really think about what your wear before being photographed. If you alone are the focus, make sure wear something form-fitting and in a solid color, if possible. If you’re preparing for something with you and your partner, consider your individual skin and hair tones first and then start to make color matches. For a family session, think lighter colors, and try to stick to no more than three colors–it’s safer. Make sure to leave enough time between booking your session and actually having it. That way if someone needs a new top or a pair of khakis, you can have the time to find them and purchase them. Planning your clothing choices well ahead of time will always yield you the best results for your photos–I promise!