What to wear to a photoshoot

Clothing suggestions for your portrait photography session.

The selection of proper clothing for your portrait is a critical factor in the preparation for a successful portrait. If the clothing is noticeable or overbearing in a portrait, it could easily become a distraction. Clothing that does not attract attention to itself is the ultimate goal. It could be the difference between a very successful portrait and just another picture. You may be asked to change your clothing selection before I take your portraits if you do not follow these basic guidelines.

Dark clothing tends to slenderize. Darker clothing helps to blend the bodies with the background, so that the faces are the most important part of the photograph. Dark colors definitely tend to slenderise the subject.

Tone down bright colours. Bright colors attract attention away from the face and may be reflective. Avoid wearing red, bright pink, bright green etc. When choosing lighter colors, stick to pastels, but avoid pink tones. Pale yellow and pale blue work well, especially with jeans or kaki pants. These colours work great in nature for example, if you have a sunset photography session booked in.

Light clothing can look beautifully fresh. If you are worried about not appearing slender then it is safer to avoid white. White can look beautifully simple and fresh. White shirts and/or blouses under a dark jacket are perfect.

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Prints and patterns are a definite NO. This includes logos. Avoid prints of any kind and patterns. No matter how small the print or the pattern, it will become a distraction. In the case of digital portraits, in particular, small patterns in clothing (even a small herring-bone or checkered pattern) can cause terrible distortions to appear in the portrait that are not originally there.

Avoid short sleeve clothing and short pants. Long sleeved clothing is a MUST! For casual portraits it is equally important to wear long pants instead of shorts. When arms and legs are exposed to the camera there will be more flesh in the photograph in those areas than on the face, itself. This is a major distraction.

Don’t over accessorise! Overbearing or heavily noticeable accessories can be a major distraction. Simple and minimal works best.

Glasses. Eye glasses may or may not be worn. Non-reflective lenses, of course, are a big help. Better yet, sometimes it’s possible to obtain a matching set of frames without any lenses. This is particularly helpful, if your lenses sometimes distort the outline of your face.

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Make Up, Hair & Nails. Hair styles should be SIMPLE and MUST be off the face. Hair falling down onto the sides of the face create distracting shadows. Bangs that come down too low onto the face will keep light from getting into the subject’s eyes – the very most important part of the face. It is always a great idea to have your make up and hair professionally applied for your photography session. It will make a huge difference in how you look and feel. Vivid Photography & Imaging recommends FMK Hair. If you have your preferred hair and make up stylist this is always ok. As look as you feel and look fabulous and you allow enough time to have your hair and make up finished before your scheduled session. Please enquire about booking in a stylist well before your shoot. Your nails should be manicured. No chipped nail polish.

Proper Necklines for a Portrait. The most flattering neckline for anyone is something that comes up close to the neck. A wide-open neckline tends to thicken the neck in a photograph. On the other hand, a neckline that comes up to the base of the neck – a turtleneck or a v-neck top is the most flattering. It tends to slim down the person and frames the face beautifully.

Group / family portrait sessions. Keep your clothing simple and coordinating. It must be carefully selected to blend the bodies together. Avoid loud or busy patterns and large logos. Solid colors are best. First, decide whether the basic tone of the clothing will be warm-toned (browns, etc.) or cool-toned (blues/grays/blacks, etc.) Then, make sure to follow all of the above instructions. Keeping a group in similar colors focuses the attention of the portrait to the faces and individuals that make up the portrait. Dissimilar colors in groups tend to be more distracting. White tops with khakis or jeans can look very nice and casual, but if anyone in your family is super pale, white can make pale skin look paler. Jeans are the timeless choice and they’re great for fun, casual pictures because they are flattering and don’t show wrinkles or panty lines. Lighter shirts on top give the pictures a more casual and bright look. Pastels are also usually appealing because they enhance natural skin tones. Black or other dark shirts on top give the portraits a more serious and thoughtful feel (not to mention that black is slimming). Everyone should have color-coordinated outfits (Not a uniform necessarily, but there should be a theme). For the children, choose outfits that fit well without a lot of “growing room”. Jeans / khaki’s and white or black tops are always very nice for a family portrait.

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Tip. Lay out all the clothing onto a bed. Shoes, socks, stockings – everything should be included…shoes, too! Then, take a careful look at the collection. If your eye goes to any one item in particular, you can be certain that the same thing will happen in a photograph. That item should be changed. Clothing should not be too tight or too loose.

Maternity. The goal is to show off that adorable baby bump, I prefer to do maternity on a solid black or white backdrop. Black, from head to toe is usually good (a flowing white outfit can also look great). A simple black or white (or both!) button down top in which the bottom area can be unbuttoned easily to expose your belly works best. Please encourage the father (and your children if you have others) to come along if you wish (they should also dress in solid black or white). Several poses with your hands showing will be taken, so be sure to remove any jewelry that you do not want in the pictures (some women want to have their wedding ring in the picture, others do not.

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Most prefer to remove their wrist watch). If you know you are having a boy or a girl and/or know what your baby will be named please let me know that info as well. Finally, be assured that I will not ask you to leave your comfort zone. I don’t want to ask you to do anything that you are uncomfortable with. Please be up-front in regards to what you would like, and are willing to do. I promise that we will do very graceful and tasteful posing for your pictures.

Newborns and Babies. 95% of the time, photographs of newborns and babies look best in their natural element i.e…their birthday suits! If you want them to be photographed with clothes, solid colors usually work best. Of course if you have that amazing outfit that you would love a photograph of, include it. Bare feet are a must. Feel free to bring any kind of prop that you want included. I prefer parents to dress in solid black from head to toe so that I can get the creative shots you are looking for.

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Toddlers and Kids. I am a very casual person and I prefer to photograph children that way as well. Typically, my style of photography does not work well for traditional clothing or traditional portraits. Try to leave the “Sunday Best” at home. Solid colors work best. Bright and fun and funky bring out a whimsical side while Khaki’s, blue jeans, and white shirts are for more serious captures. A pretty dress is always beautiful for little girls. Don’t forget hats, sunglasses, boots, blankets, jackets, etc. can be great to show personality and bring out their silly side. Feel free to bring any other prop or comfort item that you want to include.

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Teens. Teens have their OWN sense of style – I love to let them express it however they wish.

Final thoughts. Your portraits are meant to be enjoyed for generations to come. Fad-type clothing should be avoided, unless you are planning to have new portraits made annually. You will feel very rewarded when you view your photographs. All of your efforts will be worthwhile.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask me before your portrait session. See you at your shoot!
Murielle Sassine.

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9 thoughts on “What to wear to a photoshoot

  1. This is an extremely good hints particularly to those new to having their photos taken. Its
    short and precise information… Thanks for
    sharing this one. A must read article.

  2. Good post, I can agree to many things there. Maybe one remark, though: You say that for babies, bare feet portraits are a must. I would agree, but I would also extend this to older teenagers, young adults, families and so on. Bare feet just look so much better on anyone, which is why I think that as a general rule, indoor portraits should be taken with bare feet only. So, everyone has to remove his/her shoes and socks, when entering the studio.

  3. I would agree with SassyB89. Bare feet in photos is not only great for babies. I am a photographer myself and when shooting in the studio, which I do most of the time, I tell all my customers to lose their shoes and socks for the shoot. We are not taking formal portraits, after all, where wearing the right shoes would be an issue. When I am taking pictures of a family or a group of friends, I want them to be casual, relaxed and natural, which is why formal clothing is a no go. As for shoes and socks, they are really not appropriate for this kind of portrait, as shoes rarely match, can look clumsy and can also date the photograph, whereas socks don’t photograph well at all. When feet are bare, however, it always makes for great portraits. Which is why many photo studios, including myself, insist that feet are bare for all studio sessions. Actually I have become somewhat strict about this, since the experience has been overwhelmingly positive so far. 🙂

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