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What to Wear for a Portrait Session

July 31, 2017

 

Once upon a time, one of my favorite TV shows was "What Not to Wear." I have always been something of a girly, girly and consequently an amateur fashionista, so I loved watching them transform people from frumpy to fabulous. Whether we like it or not, we live in a world where peoople form opinions of us based on our appearance. While I am not hear to argue the merits of the arguments pro or con, it is important to understand why what you wear to your photo session matters.

 

I recently saw a discussion on a community board for photographers about clients who under dress. One photographer asked the question "What do you guys do when your clients under dress?"  There were several thoughts on the subject such as "As long as they are happy with them..." and "It is too late once they arrive." Which is true, but the overall consensus seemed to be that the client would receive their images, but no one else would ever see them because they aren't portfolio worthy. Maybe you don't care if your portrait session is portforlio worthy, and that is OK, but I do recommend putting some consideration into what you wear. As a photographer I can do my part, but it is also important that you do yours. You are paying for this experience after all. It must mean something to you. So let's discuss why what you wear to your portrait session matters.

 

The biggest reason is this-poorly selected clothing can really take away from a portrait that would otherwise be amazing.   Clothing choices serve the purpose of making you look good. Your clothing also helps

  • to make you the main subject

  • should flatter you and help you look your best

  • should blend in with the overall feel of the photo rather than stand out

  • should make you feel comfortable and confident

 

 

On the flip side of that poorly chosen clothing has the opposite effect. You do not want

  • clothing that stands out so much that it is all you see

  • to emphasize areas of the body that you are not comfortable with, such as arms, legs, stomachs

  • clothing that takes so much attention that your eye is drawn to the clothes rather than the people, this includes clothing with words or loud graphic prints

So what should you wear to a portrait session?

  • choose clothing that is appropriate for the occasion

  • wear solid colored clothing, or choose subtle patterns such as stripes, polka dots and subtle floral prints (it is best to mix and match solids and prints so as not to overwhelm)

 

  • texture can add interest without being distracting

  • Coordination is good, but try not to be too matchy, matchy

  • do not put everyone in the same colored shirt

 

  • choose 1-3 colors for your group portrait, ones with similar tones that go nicely together-there are countless color boards on Pinterest if you need a little guidance

  • pick colors that are flattering to your skin tones, unless you are a bride I typically suggest avoiding white

 

  • Neutrals with a few pops of color here and there work really well

  • For engagement sessions, I recommend bringing several options that we can choose from together

  • keep jewelry simple

  • choose accessories wisely, they can really add to a photo or detract from it - pick a few pieces you like (hats, scarfs, hair bows) and make sure they are weather/age appropriate

  •  choose sleeve and skirt/pant lengths that are flattering

  • pick pieces that won't emphasize the parts of your body you are self-conscious about. If you hate your arms wear sleeves or a wrap. If your tummy bothers you, don't choose a form fitting shirt.

  • shoes are important-a bright colored shoe might be cute in a child's portrait, but really distracting in a family picture, bright colored sneakers are a definite don't

  • avoid clothing that needs constant adjusting

  • pick pieces and colors that are timeless

 As with anything, these are basic guidelines and there are always exceptions. If you need more guidance or have questions please see my session tips, client page on Pinterest or contact me personally. As always I am happy to help.

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