I don’t really think this is rocket science, but I get so many emails and phone calls from people asking what they should or shouldn’t wear to a photo shoot, that I feel it’s worth addressing the topic.
Here are some tips to follow before your next portrait:
1. Nix the family uniforms.
I call this matchy-matchy and, quite honestly, I think it’s so 2001. Maybe we’ll bring it back again in 2021, since fashion usually goes full-circle every 20 years. But until then, matchy-matchy is a no-no. Coordinating however, is a yes-yes!
So how do you coordinate without matching? Start by choosing a color group or category. Some examples of this would be pastels, deep colors, primary colors, earth tones, etc. Once you’ve chosen your color group, each person can choose what looks best on them, within that category, without having to worry about clashing.
For example, let’s say a couple is having some engagement photos taken and they’ve chosen the color group of pastels. She can choose pastel pink and he can choose pastel blue or light gray. If they choose deep colors, she can wear a rich purple and he can wear slate or she can wear a bright red dress and he can wear a royal blue shirt. You get the idea.
2. Avoid loud patterns and graphics.
I’m not an anti-patternite. I just prefer clients not choose clothing that draws attention away from their face. After all, the whole reason you’re spending the money on portraits is so that your family and fans can adore your handsome mug, right?
Small consistent patterns are fine, such as gingham, small dots, or flowers, etc.
This can get tricky for women. There’s a fine line between adding a splash of color to your outfit and drawing attention to it. For example, if a woman chooses a long, sleek, black sundress – then a wide, red belt is great. A diamond encrusted Buddha-face belt, not so much! For up-close face shots, keep earrings at a medium size or smaller. But, if they’re full body shots, don’t worry so much about your earrings.
Men should not wear watches, in general, for portraits. Have you ever been watching a movie when you noticed an actor who was wearing a watch, and you caught yourself trying to figure out what time they filmed the scene? If so, then you’ll recall that you weren’t paying attention to the scene because the watch distracted you.
Hats? It’s hard to make a blanket statement about hats. I’ve never once felt like a ball cap enhanced a portrait but, then again, I’ve never done a team picture for the Dodgers. I have at times thought that certain portraits were enhanced by a cowboy hat, a firefighter’s hat, a navy hat, a fedora, or a top hat. These hats give us insight into the subject rather than giving the impression the wearer simply forgot to comb their hair.
4. Be comfortable and still look your best!
When I say “comfortable”, I am most definitely not referring to sweat pants! I mean don’t wear something that you will constantly be adjusting (such as a shirt that shows bra straps if not perfectly placed) or doesn’t fit well (like the pair of pants thatalmost fits perfectly but has to be adjusted after each step to avoid a wedgie). I also mean, wear something you like and that suits your body and personality.
Having said all that, this isn’t the time to wear your favorite ten-year old pair of jeans, even if you think you look good in them. Don’t take this the wrong way but portrait time is the time to break out the Spanx and iron that button up shirt! This is the time to suck it in – and stick it out! Whatever it might be that you want to “enhance” or smooth out, definitely try to do that with your clothing and your posture. Don’t rely on Photoshop to do it for you.
To break it all down, you should be able to look in the mirror and say, “Heck yes! I look goooood today!” If you look in the mirror and say, “I look ridiculous!” then go change immediately. I’d hate more than anything for a client to look at a beautiful family photo and think in the back of their mind that they look silly in their shirt.
5. If all else fails get someone else’s opinion.
Before you show up to a photo shoot, try your outfit on and ask a friend what they think. If this isn’t possible and you’re completely uncertain, then just bring a second option to your photo session. I’ll be honest with you, for better or worse.
In closing, nothing produces a great picture like a genuine smile. Let’s say you ignore rules 1-6, you’ve still got the chance to make a gorgeous portrait – with just your smile! Let your personality shine through, and you’re bound to get great results.