June 1, 2012

Top 10 Tips: What to Wear to a Portrait Session

No matter how good a photographer is, poorly chosen outfits can ruin your final images.  So to help you get the images you want, I compiled a list of my Top 10 tips on how to dress for portrait session success!  This list is for all types of portraits - family, children, engagement, etc.

1. Consider your location's colors when choosing clothing.  Pick clothing colors that will compliment the hues that will be in the background of your photos.  For example, if you are having your portraits taken at a location with a lot of green foliage in the background, neutral colors would work great, but wearing red would create a Christmas effect.

2. Choose clothing that fits.  Try on your clothing options well in advance.  Mentally choosing an outfit from your closet in advance is good preparation, but actually trying it on the day of the shoot only to have you realize it doesn't fit the way you remember just adds unneeded stress to your experience.  There's nothing worse than last minute shopping!

3. Choose clothing that is timeless.  I'm a child of the 80's - I know very well that clothing fads come and go.  Choose clothing that is more classic in appearance, and you will be proud to display your images in your home...instead of hiding them in the bottom of a drawer when the fashion times have moved on.  Not that I speak from experience or anything...

4. Choose clothing that shows your personality.  The clothing we wear is one of the biggest statements we make about who we are.  Wear clothing that is "you," and you'll love your images for years to come.

5. Choose clothing that makes you feel beautiful.  This is particularly important for moms who are trying to dress their whole families for portraits.  Mom tends to pick out clothing for everyone else first and plans her outfit around what they're wearing.  Often times, Mom picks something that she doesn't particularly like, but since it coordinates with everyone else, she wears it.  A photographer once said to me, "I always tell moms to wear something that makes them feel beautiful, then coordinate everyone else around her outfit." It's so simple, it's brilliant!  I've been telling my moms the same thing ever since.  Put yourself first, moms!  You deserve to feel beautiful!

6. Avoid bare arms.  Most often times, kids can get away with bare arms in photos; however, cameras tend to not be as friendly with adults.  Yes, there are plenty of things a photographer can coach you to do to make your arms look better in photos.  But let's be honest - your biggest critic is always yourself.  I know that's true with me!  If you're wearing a sleeveless shirt, please bring something to layer over it - a cute jacket, a shrug, a wrap.  We will try some photos with bare arms and some with the layer.  My clients most often pick the photos with the added clothing layer.

7. Avoid clothing with crazy patterns.  Solid colors always work best.  Light patterns that coordinate (such as the ones in the image below) are fine and can even be layered under something, like a jacket or a shrug to lessen the strength of the pattern.  But even just two people wearing wildly conflicting patterns in different colors will be hard on the eyes when looking at your final images.  When in doubt, stick to the solids.

8. Wear appropriate undergarments. Did I get your attention, ladies?  Good...because this one is for you.  Please test out your undergarments with your outfit selection well before the day of the shoot.  Wear a supportive bra.  (You do plan to wear a bra, right?)  If your bra is bulky and the shape of it can be seen while you're wearing your clothing over it, it is not the right bra for your portraits.  I absolutely adore t-shirt bras for their ability to go stealth under clothing.

9. Wear clothing & shoes that are comfortable and easy to move in.  I will be photographing you from all angles.  You will be standing, sitting, and perhaps, even laying down.  If you can't bend in your clothing, this is not a good pick for your photo session.

10. Don't forget about fingers and toes!  I'm one of those photographers that will photograph you from head to toe.  I love to add some detail shots to your portrait session, such as shoe shots and closeups of hand-holding.  Don't forget to prepare your finger and toes to be photographed.  Ladies, I highly recommend you treat yourself to a mani-pedi.  And speaking of fingers...don't forget to clean your ring, especially for an engagement shoot!

I hope my Top 10 list helps to guide you into making the right decisions about what to wear during your next portrait session.  Still at a loss?  Check out Pinterest for photo shoot clothing ideas or simply Google it!

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Jennifer Tacbas is a wedding, engagement & portrait photographer, proud owner of Jennifer Leigh Photography. While she is based in the Golden Isles along the Southeast Georgia coastline, Jennifer often travels across the country and abroad to photograph true love. 


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