“What should I wear?”
…is one of the most common questions I hear from clients immediately after they book their session.
There are so many top tips to keep in mind when you plan your outfits for a photoshoot. Whether it’s for outdoor photoshoots or indoor, studio or home sessions, you as an individual, family photographs, couple photos, there is no doubt you will find what you’re looking for in this blog post.
Because there are so many things to consider that can give you the perfect outfit for your session, we’re going to move through these tips quick.
So buckle up and enjoy!
Keep It Simple
The most important thing is to just keep things simple. Don’t try to overthink your outfit or coordination of your family’s outfits.
At the end of the day, these top tips will work for every scenario.
Monochromatic Color Scheme
You can pick one color to coordinate without falling into the trap of the cringy matchy-matchy cliché. Picking 1-2 colors on a gradient scale can be a great way to have your family match while still being unique.
For example, I had a maternity family session with a family who decided to coordinate on a blue theme from a scale of crème or off-white color to a dark blue. The simplicity was perfect without being corny.
Another example with this idea of one color is the theme of white shirts or white tops paired with blue jeans. The intention is that everyone does not have to wear the exact same top or jeans bottom. Just be consistent with the one color scheme that still allows individuality while simultaneously tying the whole family together.
Complimentary colors are those “exact opposite” colors that we all learned about on the color wheel in grade school. Remember blue and orange, yellow and purple, red and green?
If you’re wanting bright colors to represent your family, then incorporating this colour scheme will help ensure your family members have different outfits yet still go well together at the same time.
Sticking to a neutral theme helps to bring the focus on you, your face, and your family members face. Some photographers think bright colors are distracting from the focus of the photo session, which is YOU. Going with a neutral palette of white, beige, grays, brown, and even black can give that desire effect.
Especially in outdoor photography when that ideal time of golden hour hits, these colors can make your portrait or lifestyle session look astounding.
Along with neutral colors is the theme of earth tones. Great for outdoor photography with the whole family. Or even a portrait session.
Earth tones can also be described as natural colors and usually contain some sort of brown or goes well with brown.
And here is one of those important pro tips when it comes to the actual print of your clothing for photography sessions. Solids over busy print, most of the time. I always suggest this since prints, depending on the print itself, can clash with other family members outfits, be distracting or sometimes unflattering.
HOWEVER, I will be the first to tell you that print patterns can look just as amazing as well.
With those important general tips out of the way, now let’s focus on settings.
Let’s talk outdoor photoshoots first. Outdoor shoots are one of the most common settings for photoshoots.
Nature is always a great setting for portraits or family pictures. Besides keeping the above tips in mind, it is key to be comfortable in whatever outfits you’ve chosen. Especially for outdoor family sessions, every member of the family should be comfy in their family photo outfits.
Keep in mind that you will likely be walking a bit and depending on the season of the year, the type of photos you’re going for, comfort while mobilizing is key.
PRO TIP: Coordinate with your settings
Tailor your outfits to the setting. This can mean the style of the clothes such as formal or dress-up versus casual as well as the color scheme.
If the intent of the portrait session is for formal photos, then classic clothing may be the best for that session.
For example, I did a formal couple portrait session with a Bishop and First Lady (they’re actually my parents). Because I knew the clients very well and their personalities, I knew that one would be looking forward to the session (mother) and the other would not (dad). We also knew that the goal of the session was to represent their position in pastoring and the setting would be a beautiful classic building downtown in San Antonio.
For that reason, we stuck with a black theme but made sure the outfits were comfortable enough for them to walk in while still reflecting their personal style and making a big impact.
Keeping all of these criteria in mind, their session turned out fantastic and relatively painless.
PRO TIP: Bring a "Glam" Kit
For those that will likely have to do some walking, for example in a popular nature park or downtown in a city where parking is a distance from the photoshoot location, bring any and all accessories to make sure your appearance is at its best when it comes to the actual photo shoot time. That’s why I say, bring a “glam” kit. A small bag or backpack you can throw these things in, including water bottles, wipes, etc. that is easy to tote around during your shoot.
That means bring a towel, in case you sweat. Bring an umbrella if the heat is excessive or rain is threatening. Bring shoes to walk in so you don’t ruin your new shoes with scuff marks or grass stains or hurt your feet, for ladies with plans to wear high heels, before the photos are takes.
And yes, make sure that your comfortable clothing is not baggy clothing or (too) tight. Fitted clothes always look 10x better than baggy. Everyone wants to avoid looking bigger than they are so fitted is key!
If your session is inside a studio, then there are some natural differences to keep in mind when preparing your outfits.
Know the planned background of your session, not just colors but the theme and the style of the planned shoot. The professional photographer of your studio session will have control over the lighting in a way that they do not in an outdoor environment. They may suggest certain colors or style of clothing to help you prep appropriately. And believe it or not, skin tones can also play a factor in here.
For pale skin tones, darker colors may cause you to look paler but lighter colors can enhance your appearance and give a lighter, brighter appearance to your photos.
Similar to an outdoor photo shoot, taking note of these factors will help you plan the coordination of your attire.
For in home sessions, the clothing should be tailored to the goals of the photoshoot.
If you’re planning to do a “day in the life” of your family, and young kids are involved, then keep it to comfortable clothing and bare feet but also a color scheme that is complimentary of your home colors.
In home sessions are a great choice for when the heat of summer months is unbearable or you just had a newborn and it’s too early for you to endure the elements.
This is also probably where changing outfits is easiest to do, giving your loved ones the opportunity to wear clothes that express their individual personal style yet still having a cohesive look.
To see an example of outfits that you can emulate, use other photos similar to your goal photo session as inspiration.
And of course, a great tool for this besides the platforms of social media like Facebook and Instagram, is Pinterest.
Create a pinterest board by searching the photo session you plan to have, and pinning those photos to your own board whose colors and style of outfits you’d like to imitate.
As a visual learner myself, I know my clients do much better with “seeing” examples of what they could possibly wear and then preparing a similar style but their own style.
Pinterest is a great platform because you can search the scenario, setting, and goals of the photos you yourself are planning to have. Whether that’s engagement photos, family photos, whether it’s inside versus outside, this will no doubt give you the creative examples you’re looking for.
Quick Pro Tips
Now let’s quickly hit some major tips that you must keep in mind for your photo wear.
- Avoid logos and big brands.
- Consider adding a statement piece of clothing or simple accessories that mean something to you. That could be a hat, or particular watch or a special dress.
- Avoid different patterns in different family members clothing. A cohesive look can be difficult to obtain within family photos when this happens.
- Be careful with too much skin exposed, like in short skirts or short sleeves.
- Use a lint roller if you wear white or black!
- Make sure your clothes are ironed, if they’re not meant to be wrinkly.
- Make sure your clothes are clean (no stains!).
- Keep in mind the season of your photo session, like summer time may not be ideal for dark colors and white may not be ideal in a snowy, wintery setting.
When it comes to what to wear for your photo shoot
…there are so many factors to consider.
And there are many other perspectives out there with similar and yet different tips as well.
While this may seem excessive and even overwhelming, do keep in mind this last thing, and it’s that there is no hard and fast rule when it comes to photo attire. In other words, there is no “wrong answer.”
If there is a tip that you disagree with, you do YOU. At the end of the day, you need to be happy with your photos and no one can dictate to you how to reflect yourself in the clothing you wear unless you let them.
Personally, I give my clients recommendations if they ask for them and I always include the tip to avoid busy patterns and stay with solids. And I’ve had clients who agreed and complied with that suggestion and others didn’t.
In both cases, the photos came out beautiful and reflective of every individual’s personality. That for me, was the most important thing.
And every time, looking back, I see the beauty of how their clothes reflected them.
So yes, if you want to break the “rules,” by all means. If you want to wear bold colors, different colors, bright colors, busy patterns… Do so. The best look is YOUR look.
And don’t let anyone, myself or any other professional photographer included, try to tell you differently.
I hope you found this helpful in some way, and I wish you the best for your upcoming photoshoot!