What to Wear

The biggest fear may people have before a photography session is WHAT TO WEAR.

This doesn’t have to be a big anxiety!  It doesn’t require a lot of money for new clothes, if a group is being photographed it doesn’t require matching (please, no!) or even all the same color!  A few simple guidelines make choosing clothing as simple as a trip to the closet.


What do you plan to do with these photos?

Yes, this really does relate.  Do you plan to hang a large print over the mantle in a formal living room?  Want a relaxed, comfortable photo of your family having fun for office desks?  Are you hoping *this* will be the photo Grandma keeps on her nightstand?  Think of the rooms you might want to feature the photos in.  Consider the colors in the room when choosing main colors.  If you plan to use matting and framing on photos you always want the surrounding mat/frame to match the photo, but you also don’t want it to look out of place in the room.  


Choose one or two main colors:

These might be favorite colors, colors featured or that coordinate with the rooms you thought about above, colors that are most flattering, or even just the colors you have available in the clean laundry.  Especially if you’re working with a group of people you want to select a couple of colors that go well together for people to choose what they will personally wear.  Even if you want mostly neutral colors (explained below) the pictures will be much more fun with at least small “pops” or elements of brighter colors.  The days of blue jeans and white tees for every picture are long gone! At least add colorful scarves, belts, hair accessories, pants or skirt, tie, etc.

Freebie colors

When you choose your colors, that doesn’t mean that you’ll all be covered head – to – foot in those colors!  Outfits can be assembled with the addition of “freebies”.  These are neutral colors such as khaki (tan), denim, navy, black, brown, cream, and white.  If you want people to look even more cohesive you can narrow these down a bit (example: white, not cream; black, not brown or blue or vice versa) but keeping a variety of “freebies” will allow your portrait to look more natural and comfortable.  It will also make it easier to “shop” from your favorite clothes!

What about patterns?

Yes.  And no.

Patterns are a great way to add variety and interest.  They’re also a great way to make for a confusing, cluttered photo.  Keep the prints to a minimum, especially in group photos.  Avoid logos completely, if possible.  Writing on clothing is distracting and draws the eye to the clothing in the photo instead of to the faces, where the focus should be.  Smallish flowers, one simple plaid, moderate stripes, low contrast dots, those will generally work very well.  High contrast dots (black on white as opposed to brown on cream) will look more ‘spotty’, harsh stripes can be distracting, large flowers can be overpowering.  When in doubt, feel free to text or email me a quick picture of your possible outfits and I can offer my two cents.

Formal AND casual

In general you should have an idea of whether you prefer a more formal, dressy photo versus a more candid, casual photo.  Regardless of your choice, though, there is still room for some differences.  It works just fine to have one person in jeans and another in a skirt!  Don’t get too caught up in what one person is wearing when you’re looking at the overall feel of the group.  For portraits of couples or individuals — those shoots allowing for outfit changes, bring some variety!  One dressy outfit, one casual outfit, and one between is an easy way to have photos to fit a variety of situations.


Don’t be afraid to Google “photo outfits” or go on Pinterest and search the same.  There are lots of examples of how to follow through the suggestions I have made here for a comfortable “You” image.


My goal in each photo shoot is to capture the person.  Not just the face, but the character.  Clothing is a great way to show part of who you are.  If you never wear anything more dressy than khakis and polos don’t try to show up in a tux unless you’re going for something different and unusual.  If you never wear jeans with holes in them then don’t try to wear those and present someone you’re not.  People want to look at a image and feel like you are there with them.  Be YOU!