The question I get asked most often in regards to planning a portrait session is, “What should I wear to my portrait session?”; and is often followed by, “I’m not very good at putting together outfits.”. If that sounds familiar, this post is for you. 🙂
Here’s my tips:
Avoid loud colors or busy patterns. Neon colors usually overpower the skin tone and will often reflect those colors onto the skin. Busy patterns are distracting. Small, tight patterns get distorted when photographed resulting in something called chromatic aberration. I won’t bore you with the science… just remember avoid small, clustered patterns like little polka dots, tiny plaid, or lots of thin stripes – basically any varying shapes that are densely placed together.
Neutral colors, pastel colors, muted colors, and deep colors photograph best.
Neutrals: white, beige, grey, brown, & black
Pastels: colors that are soft and slightly desaturated
Muted colors: subdued and soothing colors that lack brightness
Deep colors: intense, strong, & highly saturated
The trick is to “coordinate” outfits and not to “match” everyone in the same thing. A cohesive, overall look works best for portrait sessions! If everyone is in the same exact thing, everything tends to blend together and each person isn’t properly showcased. You want to step back and look at all of the outfits as a whole. Does one person’s outfit really clash? Does one person’s outfit really stick out above the others? Do the outfits look chaotic when grouped together?
If you’re styling for a family session, I recommend to first find an outfit that most compliments and flatters mom, and then coordinate everyone else’s outfit around hers. The same goes for engagement session. Style the future-bride first, and then style the future-groom to coordinate.
Try to keep everyone’s style & personality in the outfits; yet, think of “Sunday best” when choosing outfits!!!
Extra tips for large groups (like an extended family session with grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.):
If it’s a very large group, solid colors work best. Like the group of ladies photographed above.
I recommend you choose a mix of two “main” color options. The first option should be a neutral (white, beige, grey, black, or denim). Then, choose either pastels, or mutes, or deep colors to be the coordinating pieces. For example: everyone wears black along with something from the deep color palette; or, everyone wears white along with something from the pastel color palette. Note: Reference the color palettes above.
I don’t know about you, but I’m a visual person. So I’ve got lots of visuals for you below on what “not to” wear and better options of what “to” wear, along with reasons why. Let me start by saying the images below do not belong to me. They are photos I found on Old Navy’s IG page that I thought would illustrate my point. By the time you get to the end you may find a few of them a little redundant.
Top image: there too many different patterns and colors that clash. Bottom image: there is one pattern, one pop of color, and the colors are complimenting
Top image: conflicting patterns. Bottom image: great layering & accessorising and one pattern coordinated with neutrals
Top image: although the colors are complimenting, there are too many different patterns. Bottom image: one pattern paired with nice neutrals
Top image: two different plaids… do you really need an explanation? lol. Bottom: Simple plaid paired with solid neutrals.
Top image: again, just say no to plaid on plaid. Bottom image: how much more sleek does she look with that deep colored top (navy blue) paired with neutral (white) pants and neutral accessories?
Top image: I’m not against plaid! I’m just again mismatch plaids and only wearing plaids. Bottom image: How beautiful is she in those pastel colors? Also note, if you want to add an adventurous color, do it with accessories. Notice her handbag doesn’t quite fit into the neutral, pastel, muted, or deep color palette.
Top image: avoid matchy-matchy! Bottom image: Notice how mom’s scarf “coordinates” with the baby boy’s outfit and accessories.
Top image: Even though they’re not wearing the same thing, they have on almost the same color, so they blend right in to each other. Bottom image: How much more does the mommy and son stand out from each other by “coordinating” their outfits and colors instead of matching almost identically?
Top image: You may think it’s okay at first look, but the pattern on the mommy’s outfit is just too busy. Notice how it almost seems like your eyes can’t completely focus on her dress? It’s the pattern! Bottom image: a better option. Mommy and baby are wearing different patterns, but they’re simple and bold patterns. Also, the pattern isn’t their entire outfit, rather it is a layer of their outfit.
Top image: again, the patterns of their outfits are too busy and mommy and daughter’s outfits do not compliment each other. Bottom image: mommy and son’s outfits compliment each other. I will have to say, however, I would’ve actually chosen a different shirt for the son. You may not notice it at first because it is brightly reflecting the sun, but he is wearing a densely clustered pattern which isn’t photographing well.
Top image: They’re wearing the same dress. Boring! Bottom image: They’re coordinating in basic neutrals and slaying while doing it.
Top image: Too many patterns; so many colors – it’s distracting. Bottom image: Coordinating colors with a mix of pastels and neutrals. It’s so much more pleasing to look at.
Top image: Mommy and daughter are in two different patterns. It’s just too busy. Bottom image: Mommy is in a bold yet simple pattern and son is in a complimenting solid neutral.
Top image: The patterns are too busy AND they’re too matchy-matchy. How much better would this photo be if they were standing in front of that gorgeous flower wall wearing solid colors? They would pop instead of clash! Bottom image: Coordinating outfits is key people!!!
Top image: mom and daughter are too matchy-matchy. The family is also wearing several different patterns. Bottom image: each member of the family is wearing a unique look, yet they all coordinate together and compliment each other. Notice how each person stands out from the other but no “one” person steals the spotlight. That is the ultimate goal!
Top image: I just want to scream “NO NO NO”. lol. Did you even notice that there are three people in the photo? Bottom image: Coordinating deep and neutral colors with one pattern for a little added variety. It’s absolutely perfect for each person to wear his/her style AND show his/her personality and still look great for the photos while doing it!
Top image: you guessed it! Too many different patterns even though only a few basic colors are used. Bottom image: They’re all wearing completely different outfits, yet they still look so cohesive like they undeniably belong together.
Top image: Don’t dress your kids in the same outfit! Maybe if they’re twins they can get away with it; but, if they’re not, dress them with his/her own style! Bottom image: They are dressed totally differently, yet completely complimenting.
Top image: Same polka dot sweaters with mismatch floral and leopard designs. Ugh… just say no! Bottom image: This has to be one of my favorites. Same shoes, but two different colors. The brother has got this cool swag outfit and little sister is wearing a super sweet complimenting sweater dress. They have on completely different outfits but only a couple of key colors with one common theme. Clearly they’re dressed for valentine’s. Yes yes yes!
Okay… I realize that it won’t be often that a group of girls are trying to coordinate with each other. But, I find that this still illustrates my point. Top image: these bottom are fabulous on their own, but together, it becomes chaotic. There’s different patterns and different colors that do not compliment each other. Bottom image: Doesn’t that seem more pleasing to the eye (as a whole that is)? There are two different patterns, but they are not competing against each other, and (as a whole) the colors are aesthetically more pleasing. I must admit though, I’m not a fan of the pants with the small polka dots. I hope you can notice how that pattern just does not photograph well.
« Amaya – Class of 2019
Awaiting Baby Jaden »