Here is some advice that you might not have heard before . . . dress to match your living room! It may sound strange, but think about why you are having your portraits taken . . . to display in your home, right? So consider the colors in your house, and where you would like to hang them. You will get the biggest impact from the new art hanging on your walls if it fits the space where you have it placed. If you have a home designed around earth-tones, then putting our kids in neon colors won’t really work, even if they look adorable in it! Likewise, if you love bold colors and black frames, then putting your family in pastels won’t really “pop” in the room.
Sometimes my clients tell me that they have yet to design their living room yet . . . or want to change it . . . in that case, my best advice is to stick to clothing colors you really love, because chances are those are also colors you will use in your room!
Okay . . . now to more specific advice!
In general; solid-colored clothing is the best bet. Patterned fabric can sometimes distract, or clash, with other details in the photograph. If you are going to wear patterns, wear bold patterns rather than very busy small patterns.
Wear clothes that are comfortable, or you won’t look comfortable in your photos! Self-expression is important; so wear clothes that reflect your personality. Layering clothes works well because it gives you multiple options without having to do a full-fledged clothing change. That said, you may find that t-shirts with wording, or any clothing that is very glittery, will not photograph as well as plainer options. However, you should bring clothes you love, and we will work around any problems. Shirts with logos and very trendy clothing will date your photo, so if you want to wear something “in fashion”, consider bringing at least one “classic” outfit as well.
Women have the option of working with a lot of accessories, so bring them! In general, my clients buy more of the photos of themselves wearing bold colors and one bold piece of jewelry than the do when they are wearing patterns or multiple small jewelry pieces. My theory on this is that by keeping the colors bright and wearing one big piece, their clothing is less distracting from their face and they like the way they look in the photo better. Keep in mind that what looks great to your eye will not be the same as what looks great in a photo.
Women, keep in mind that clothing with flounces or ruffles may not be as flattering in a photo as they are in a still photograph.
I will work with whatever clothes you bring, but as a rule of thumb, avoid bright orange and bright white – neither color is universally flattering. The most flattering colors tend to be those in the blue family (blue, teal, purple, etc.) That said, I like photographing families all wearing white shirts, or a young girl in a fuchsia dress . . . so bring what makes you feel great, and I’ll worry about making it flattering!
Women should avoid tube tops, and wear a bra, if possible. Unless it is a fashion statement, you bra should match your clothing. Trust me, these little details will be the thing that bothers you about your photos, and they are easily avoided. Be sure that your clothes are not creased from folding. Remove sunglasses an hour before you shoot to avoid indentations on your nose. Be careful not to burn if you will be tanning in the week before your photo session; peeling skin is not the memory you want! Also be aware of tan lines when choosing your clothes.
Men should shave within 2 hours of the session. Ask a friend to check you for stray hairs (neck, nose, ears, etc.) A five o’clock shadow, or other unwanted hair, can ruin an otherwise great photo! Men tend to look best in shirts with collars rather than t-shirts or collarless shirts. The collar helps frame the face, and if worn with a colored t-shirt underneath, can be changed up easily.
For two or more people, it usually works out best if everyone in the group wears similar style clothing in the same color family. Keep in mind that you need to coordinate the entire outfit; if everyone but one person is wearing dark wash jeans, that single person will stand out as much as a person wearing red in a sea of white.
The portraits that tend to sell best (and therefore are the ones my clients like best) are where the entire group is wearing the same color on bottom (jeans, black or khaki pants, etc.) and everyone is wearing something coordinated on top. For example, everyone might wear a white shirt, but everyone has a different style. Or, everyone wears a pastel shirt, keeping the pastels in the same range of darkness/lightness (intensity). Alternatively, everyone might wear shades of blue; ranging from teal to navy. The main thing in coordinating colors is that you keep everyone in the same intensity because if you have one baby blue shirt in a sea of people wearing navy, the person wearing the light shirt will get noticed first. If you put everyone in navy, or shades about the same darkness as navy, then the color won’t distract and you will notice people’s faces.
I like to mix solids and colors in group portraits, so dad might wear a striped shirt, mom a solid color, a child in a patterned dress, and another child in a solid colored shirt – all in the same color family. Does that make sense? You want it to coordinate, but not make it too “matchy-matchy”. You don’t want to end up looking like a school team!
Unless you are at the beach, or someplace obviously sunny and casual, avoid shorts and short sleeve shirts. Even 3/4 sleeves are better than short sleeves. Your eye tends to go to the lightest spot, so a lot of skin on the arms and legs can distract from the main focal point of the portrait.
Family shots are both great fun, and greatly challenging. The more people, the more potential distraction from the “group”. As a general rule, choose a style and color family or color palette (for example, pastels, or jewel tones). A photo with everyone wearing matching clothing can take on the attributes of the Family Von Trapp. Avoid clothing with busy patterns (stripes, plaid, designs) and t-shirts with logos or words. By simplifying the wardrobe, the focus is on the people, not the cacophony of colors and designs surrounding them.
Newborns and Babies:
Keep it simple; bare is perfect . . . but you’ll want to bring at least two changes. Babies tend to get grumpy if you change clothes often, so choose carefully. I have tutu’s and hats, but feel free to bring your own. I like to take a variety of pictures . . . some with clothes, some with just hats, some with just shoes, etc. I can coordinate backgrounds to match the clothes. It is really important to feed the baby right before the photos, because we want them full, and warm, and sleepy. I will bring a space warmer; because the more the newborns sleep, the longer we have to get that perfect shot!
Light colors can be hard to keep clean for the kids, so if you want to use a lighter color, save it for a change of clothes during the shoot. For shots with more than one child, clothes that are similar in style and color, but not matching, are the best option. The idea is that the clothes will fade away and their faces will be the focus. I like shooting kids with bare feet, when practical. Do remember to bring hats, bows, and accessories that the child likes to wear. Also, bring props that reflect the child’s interest; soccer ball, baseball mitt, violin, guitar, favorite doll, etc. These items will often make the child feel more at ease in the photo.