After I book a session with someone, the first question I typically receive is “What should I/we wear?”
Most people simply want to know what colors work best, if they should all match (if it’s a family or group), should they wear more makeup than normal, and so on. Occasionally clients will recruit me to help figure out color schemes, based on the time of day and location of our shoot. I’ve had many clients even send me photos of what they are thinking of wearing, which I love, because it helps me to visualize our session before the day gets here.
What to wear is definitely a high priority when you have a session coming up, and since we’re entering that time of year when photographer’s schedules are filling up with sessions, I felt it only made sense to provide some guidelines for planning you session wardrobe!
These are all suggestions I have made over the years. While many are basic guidelines that most photographers will provide when it comes to wardrobe, some of these are based on my own experiences and what I tell clients. In other words, some may not be the traditional wardrobe advice.
Colors & Patterns
Colors are important.
When you’re trying to decide what color scheme to go with for your session, ask yourselves these two questions; “What colors are similar to the season?” and “Where is my session being held?”
Are you going to be in a park filled with a lot of greens? Stay away from anything in the green/yellow/brown family. We don’t want you to blend into your surroundings! Are you going to be on a beach at sunset or during the golden hour? Stay away from yellows & oranges.
Neutral colors like black, grey and tan are always great. Pastels like light blues, light pinks, peach and green can make for a beautiful shot, especially in the spring time. I’m a big fan of bolder colors in the fall, like cranberry, deep turquoise, pumpkin orange and gold. Colors that always work are colors like red, royal blue, yellow and pink.
White works too, in most instances. It doesn’t work on a super sunny day, in direct sunlight, and especially on a beach. But white can work with a lot of colors on the bottom, and it pairs well with pretty scarves.
Neon is never okay. Not unless you’re going for an 80s themed shoot.
Be wary of busy patterns
I love a good pattern just as much as the next person. Polka dots, paisleys, florals – I love them all. But it the pattern is too busy, the camera doesn’t always love them.
Big patterns work great. If you want to wear something with a pattern stick to big florals, large stripes & dots, thick plaids, and big paisley prints. Basically, if it’s a very large print, it should work. Small, intricate patterns don’t work. Stay away from small plaids, chevrons, teeny tiny stripes, checkers, and anything that resembles an optical illusion. A good rule of thumb is this – if it hurts your eyes to look at, the camera won’t like looking at it either.
Textures are fun.
Linen, cotton, chiffon, tulle, ballet skirts. Get creative.
Tops, Bottoms, Dresses and Shoes
Dresses are lovely.
They are feminine, beautiful and flow lovely in photos. Having said that, if you don’t normally wear a dress or don’t like wearing dresses, the day of your session is not the day to wear one. Unless it’s a special occasion like an engagement session or something along those lines.
This might sound harsh, but you won’t be comfortable. Sure, your outfit will look beautiful, but if you’re not comfortable or confident in your outfit, it will come across in all of your photos.
Choose your top and bottoms at the same time
I’m the worst offender for this. I always get drawn to a top, fall in love, buy it, and then realize I don’t have anything to wear it with. When deciding what to wear for a top, think about your bottoms at the same time. If you’re going light on top, go dark on the bottom, and vice versa. Navy tops and black pants will be far too dark together.
Bottoms that work include dark wash jeans or medium wash jeans, dark skirts, and khaki’s. Leggings are okay as long as they are dark, like black or grey, and you’re wearing them with boots, or with a dress. White works on the bottom, just be sure to wear a dark color on top.
Please stay away from acid wash. Please. Just leave it at home.
Don’t all match.
And by matching, I mean all wearing the identical outfit. The whole matchy-matchy thing was big in the late nineties/early 2000s. It’s not now.
What you wear should complement each other. Wear clothes that have similar colors or one like color. I did a session last summer where everyone in the family wore navy and pink. While they were all wearing the same colors, every outfit was different, and it was GORGEOUS.
You will like your photos so much more if everyone’s own style is reflected, with similar color schemes, rather than every person wearing white button ups and khaki’s. I promise.
Wear shoes you would normally wear.
If you’re like me, and practically break an ankle every time you put stilettos on, you probably shouldn’t wear them to your photo shoot. If you’re a tall boots and jeans kinds of girl, wear that for your session. For the men in your life, they should aim to wear a nice pair of shoes, like dress shoes. Not their favorite pair of Nikes, or workboots. Flip flops are okay. I’m not a huge fan, but if we’re doing a session on the beach, they work. Pretty sandals are always okay.
Hair, Makeup & Accessories
Even if it’s bright out. Please, take the off. Even if it means putting them back on in between shots. And if you wear glasses, and have contacts, wear your contacts. That way we won’t be worrying about the glare on your lens. Transition lenses are also hard. Especially in bright situations where they become sunglasses.
Check your wrists, ladies!
Why? Because if you’re like me, you always have a hair elastic hanging out there. Even if it’s just a spare, you know, in case the one in your hair breaks.
Simple makeup and hairstyles go a long way.
I love getting my hair and makeup done just as much as the next girl. I’ve had my makeup done for a few different sessions now. I’m all for it, but just make sure if you’re getting it done, you’re makeup is simple and not overdone. Same with hair. If you’re the type of person who wears their hair done, don’t get an updo for your photos.
And no one says you need to get your hair and makeup done. If you prefer wearing your hair down, and little to no makeup, then by all means, go for it. You want to look like YOU in your photos.
What’s the takeaway here?
BE YOU. Don’t be someone you THINK you want to be or look like in your photos. Unless, of course, you’re doing a stylized session or a modeling shoot. I can’t stress this enough.
If your normal is jeans, cute sweaters, and tall boots, then rock it (I’m on of those girls!) If you’re constantly wearing dresses and heels, then rock that! If you’re husband/boyfriend/partner prefers to be in a polo and jeans, that’s what they should wear. If you’re daughter wants to dress like a ballerina and your son wants to be a superhero because he refuses to take off the cape he always wears, excellent!
Your photos should capture you, as you are, in that moment.