Wardrobe can be the difference between good portraits and GORGEOUS portraits. Yeah, it’s that important. It can also be the most stressful part of preparing for a session, so let’s dive into that daunting question: “What should I wear?”
Timeless vs Trendy
You know those awkward family photo memes with the entire family in matching windbreakers? You know immediately what decade it that photo was taken just because of what they’re wearing. Trends will date your images, and we don’t want that. We want portraits that never go out of style. Here are some current trendy pieces to avoid:
- Girls’ boutique outfits with lots of patterns and bold colors. These are cute for normal wear, but just are not flattering for portraits (especially if you want those portraits to stand the test of time). The competing patterns and colors will also be distracting.
- Lots of sparkle and jewelry. Too much glitter or bling tends to glare and flare in camera and be very distracting. With sparkle, a little goes a long way!
- Bold prints. These are a big trend in leggings especially at the moment, but they will be extremely distracting in your portraits, and will make them seem dated in the future.
Styles that are timeless and beautiful for portraits:
- Maxi dresses and skirts
- Solid button down shirts
- Linen or cotton fabrics
- Solid tees and tanks
Choosing A Color Palette
Neutrals are your best friend! You’ll never go wrong with a color palette that has a sturdy neutral base. Creams, grays, blacks, and tans are the perfect place to start when planning your colors. I recommend keeping your palette limited to no more than 3 different colors (with at least one being a neutral).
The best colors for portraits are either jewel tones or pastels (depending on what season and mood you’re going for). Bright colors and neons are unflattering in camera and can cause unnatural color casts on the skin, so always avoid those.
Other color tips:
- Avoid being too matchy-matchy. We’ve all seen (and maybe done) the beach photos with everyone in white shirts and khaki pants. It’s a little boring and usually ends up making the family look like one big blob. You want everyone to look cohesive, but not be identical, to keep the images interesting and engaging.
- Get variety with one color by incorporating different shades. For example, mixing navy and lighter shades of muted blue.
- Think about the colors in your background. Avoid wearing colors that are too similar to what may be in your setting, so that you won’t blend in too much. For example, if you’ll be shooting in a forest, avoid lots of green and brown.
- Keep it in season. If you’re doing a spring/summer session, pastels will look great. If it’s fall/winter, go with more muted or jewel tones.
Solids and Prints
Solids are always the best go-to for portraits. They keep the focus where it should be (on the face), and compliment rather than compete. That’s not to say avoid all prints and patterns. Those can add interest and accentuate certain elements or styles. Still, it’s best to use them sparingly.
Accessories can be an easy way to change up your look during a session. Hat on, hat off…Scarf, no scarf…A shot with sunglasses or a great jacket…There are lots of possibilities. Much like prints though, accessories are best in small doses. Make the pieces you choose count, and make sure they enhance rather than detract from your overall look. Floppy hats and tailored jackets are my absolute favorite accessories for sessions (especially teens and seniors).
Shoes are another important accessory most tend to forget about during the planning process. Make sure you are wearing the correct style shoe for your outfit, otherwise it’s always going to look unpolished.
Planning Family Outfits
When planning a family portrait wardrobe, I find it best to start with mom. Her outfit usually takes the longest to assemble, and is usually the one that sets the style tone for everyone else. Once mom’s outfit is complete, move on to the rest of the girls (we ladies are usually the most difficult to assemble because we have so many options). Next, you can tackle the boys and dad. Their outfits are typically the simplest and easiest to gather.
For extended/multi-family sessions, I highly recommend everyone sticking with neutrals and maybe one other color in various shades. These tend to be the easiest to put together for a large group.
Still need some inspiration?
I’ve put together a Pinterest board filled with beautiful examples of great outfits. Check it out here: Portrait Wardrobe Inspiration
I’ve also got a board with examples of what not to wear. You can find that here: What Not To Wear For Portraits
The best advice I can give you is to keep it simple. Don’t overthink it. And most importantly, HAVE FUN!