How to Dress for Photographs

June 09, 2012  •  Leave a Comment


How to dress for photographs


What should I wear for my photo shoot?

These types of questions are common and I hope to provide you with some suggestions regarding clothing and what to bring to the photo shoot. First I will start with some general suggestions and then go into a little more detail specific to the type of shoot you are considering:

What to avoid

  • Avoid bright yellows, reds and oranges (they battle the subjects face for attention) and the camera will readily pick up the reflected light and render skin tone with a colour cast.

  • Avoid clothing containing logos, slogans, or other distractions.

  • Bold stripes, large designs and polka dots stand out and tend to draw attention from the portrait's subject.

  • Avoid short sleeved tops or shorts. When arms and legs are exposed and there’s lots of skin visible, it can be a distraction from the main focal point of the photo - the face.


What to wear!

  • I like white long sleeved tops and blue jeans. This combination works very well with the white background.

  • Black tops can also work well with a white background but this is a high contrast and leads to photographs with a very different style.

  • Also consider wearing a top that has an interesting collar and/or sleeves.

  • A top that has interesting textures (e.g. a sweater) can also add depth and richness to an image. If you will have more than one change of clothing for your session then consider bringing a variety of necklines, textures, colors, and undergarments to achieve a wide variety of looks.

  • Stick to solids and subtle patterns.


Usually I would say stay away from striped shirts, especially horizontal stripes.  In this case the stripes are made subtle by the open sweaters.  The photo also stands out because the family chose different and contrasting colors.  This adds to the appeal of the photograph.











This is a great example of how clothing can look differently in black and white than it does in color.  Light colored solids and stripped clothing are often washed out in bright outdoor ambient lighting situations and the dramatic effect of contrast is lessened in black and white.  Solid colors in darker shades typically show in more detail and allow the face to stand out in a black and white photograph.  




This photograph is a great example of what you should wear.  The solid and varying colors allow the subject to stand out against the lighter color in the background and surrounding outdoor setting.  With full body photographs like this, it is also important to pay attention to the foot wear.  High boots and shoes in dark shades of leather photograph very well and break up the twelve legs in blue jeans.  







The photo to the right depicts great examples of good clothing choices for a typical photo shoot for a family.  The clothing items were taken from the website of OldNavy and demonstrate that it is also very affordable to obtain a great look and photograph for you and or your family.  



















Great example that shows how Jackets and vests of varying lengths can also add a great look to a photograph.  If you are fashion challenged like myself, keep it simple.  Clothing with prints, patterns, plaid or stripes can date a picture and clash if more than one person is wearing a similar style article of clothing.  




Simple and elegant is the advice when selecting jewellery for a portrait. The same applies for any other accessories that you wish to have included in your portrait.

What to bring?

  • A comb or brush and hair-spray if you use it.

  • A light face powder to reduce any shine on your face that may build up during your shoot.

  • For gents (or women who prefer not to wear much or any makeup), bring a lip balm. Dry lips don't show well in photos and so a non-shiny, non-waxy, none colored lip balm is essential. Avoid chap sticks, as they tend to leave a white residue.

  • If you normally wear makeup, bring it with you but avoid high gloss lipsticks or very shiny lip gloss. Often they look too unnatural and reflect too much light in photos.

Pregnancy / Maternity

There are lots of clothing options for a maternity portrait each can be used with different lighting and backdrop styles:

  • White blouse, with lacey cuffs with a few buttons fastened and your bump on show, this works really well with a white backdrop.

  • Cropped top and casual trousers/tracksuit bottoms in a dark colour; this can be effective with either a white or black backdrop. When using the black background moody lighting is used to add shadows and depth to your portrait.

  • Wrapped in a sheet, just below your bump. (White or black - to match the background).

Since your bump will be exposed, it is important that, for a couple of hours before the shoot, you don't wear any tightly fitting clothes across it (to avoid any marks left by waist bands etc), likewise for any other areas that are likely to be exposed.

Children, toddlers and babies

Little ones photograph best in simple clothing. White and pastels are classic choices.

Newborns and babies have gorgeous skin, and nothing shows off that natural, innocent soul like nakedness (or just a nappy). An added bonus for slightly older babies, is that eyes tend to stand out more when they are not overpowered by clothing.

A popular look for baby and children portraits is all white. This gives a clean and natural look to the images, and is a great way to create a classic portrait that captures the purity of childhood.

Don't be afraid to put your baby or child in bold colours or prints. Although not generally recommend for an adult (or newborns), vivid colours on young children will result in a playful, lively portrait, especially primary colours like red, blue, and green.

If your child wears his Superman cape everyday, maybe you should let him wear it in a few pictures. Why not? You want pictures that capture that your little man really is, right? Besides, he may be much more willing to take other non-cape pictures afterwards. Props can be great addition, too, so consider bringing your child's favourite book, stuffed animal or toy.

Group photos - the family portrait

Coordinate outfits. Everybody in the portrait should wear items that complement each other in style and colour. It is not necessary for all clothes to match, but they must make sense together. Choosing clothes with same or similar colours unifies the picture and keeps the focus on the people in the picture.


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