What to wear for your photoshoot
As a professional photographer clients often ask me what to wear for a photo shoot. This guide is designed to give you ideas that can help me to ensure that your photographs show you looking amazing.
I am always pleased when a client asks this question because it shows that they are engaged with the process. I can use my experience, lighting, posing, and post production to polish your photographs, but you have a huge part to play, and your styling choices can make the final product something that you will be delighted to hang on your wall.
So here are my top tips to help you to choose what to wear to your photoshoot.
Think about a photoshoot theme or style
Think about a theme or style for you photoshoot doesn’t have to be complicated. Do you prefer a casual outdoor portrait or a more formal studio image?
For me, a theme just provides context but it can help you to make choices about what to wear. The focus of the photoshoot is still about ensuring that you look good, look natural, feel good, and love the way you look.
Whether your photoshoot is a solo portrait, family group session, or a corporate headshot, you should think about how the clothing you choose reflects your personality. Consider using Pinterest to gather together some ideas and send your photographer a link to your “moodboard.” This will help the photographer to prepare for the photoshoot and it will help you to choose what to wear on the day of your shoot.
Top Tips For Photoshoot Styling
Think about colours when you choose what to wear
Choosing colours for your photoshoot is incredibly important. Colour choice can elevate a photoshoot from ordinary to extraordinary. Choose clothing that compliments your skin tone, hair colour and eye colour. Contrast is important but you don’t want what you are wearing to be all anyone sees in your portrait. Your clothing should compliment your personality, it shouldn’t overwhelm it. Of course, that doesn’t mean that you can’t be flamboyant if that is your personality type.
Take a moment to consider the photograph above. Note how the girls dresses compliment their hair colour, and that they contrast nicely with the mans jacket. The jacket in turn compliments the colour of the building. Everything works together to produce a consistent complimentary colour palette and a pleasing image.
If you are not sure what colours work best together have a look at the colour wheel on the right.
You will notice that the cool blue colours are directly opposite the warm yellow and orange colours. These are complimentary colours and work well together.
You will also notice that the light blue and dark blue are next to each other on the colour wheel, that is why the light and dark blues of the girls dresses above work well in the image above. These are called contiguous colours and they also work well together.
General colour tips
Dark Colours have a slimming effect
Tone Down Bright Colours
Very bright colours like red and bright pink or bright green can easily become the dominant thing in a photograph and this can pull attention away from the face. They can also introduce an unsightly colour cast to the skin, especially when reflected in flash photography. These colours certainly have their place, but they are best avoided when choosing what to wear for a portrait photoshoot. When choosing lighter colours, stick to pastels, pale yellow and pale blue work well, especially with jeans or khaki pants because these colours work great in nature.
I generally advise avoiding white clothing. It can look really fresh, especially in photographs of children. That said a white shirt can work really well under a darker coloured jacket or cardigan.
All of that said, blue, Green, and red colours work really well for striking and powerful Black and White images. These remain popular even in 2022 because the absence of colour really helps the viewer to focus on what is important in the image, namely you!
Avoid loud prints and logos
Your photoshoot should be about you, it isn’t an advertising shot for a fashion brand. Where possible avoid logos all together but if you want to wear your favourite Ralph Lauren shirt, that has a small and unobtrusive logo, then by all means do so.
Loud patterns and prints are also best avoided. They drag attention away from the face, and in the worst cases they can introduce a small herringbone or chequered pattern into the final image. This is called Chromatic Aberration. It can be reduced or eliminated in post-production but it is best to avoid it in the first place.
Think About Necklines
A wide-open neckline can make the neck appear thicker in a photograph. The most flattering neckline is usually clothing that comes up close to the neck, a turtleneck or a v-neck top is the most flattering. These slim down the person and frames the face beautifully. Wearing a heavy necklace is also distracting and drags attention away from the face.
Jewellery accessories should be simple and minimal, wrist watches or bracelets can be distracting so consider whether or not you want them to be in your photographs. It is best to avoid wearing glasses if at all possible as they can cause glare that obscures the eyes.
Makeup, Hair, and Nails
Where possible hairstyles should be kept simple unless you want to place the emphasis on the hair styling. It is important that hair does not fall across the face. This can cause ugly and distracting shadows, especially when flash is used. Bangs that fall too far across the face can block light from reaching your eyes, and the eyes are the most important feature in a good portrait.
Makeup should generally be kept subtle. Many people are more than capable of applying their own makeup and doing their hair to a high standard. If this isn’t you, a hair and makeup artist can be arranged either by you or by the photographer. The downside is that a skilled hair and makeup artist will take time, and of course there will be an additional cost. The upside is that you will feel fabulous and this will come across in your photographs. It is often money very well spent.
Do pay attention to your nails. Bitten, ragged nails can really detract from the finished image so it pays to have nicely manicured nails. A nude nail polish or french polish will work well for any outfit, but if you want coloured nails be sure to choose a colour that matches your outfit.
If you want the photographer to arrange a hair and makeup artist make sure that you let them know as far in advance as is possible. Asking for this to be arranged a day or two in advance is sure to lead to disappointment and a delayed photo session.
Comfort is king
When you choose what to wear for your photoshoot you should always think about your comfort.
If you have selected clothing that compliments your skin tone, hair, and eye colour you are already halfway there. Clothing that makes you feel good is important as it will help you to relax if you already know that you look fabulous.
However, if you want outdoor portraits, you should also consider the likely weather conditions and the time of the year.
Here, in the west of Scotland, there is a fair chance that it may be raining on your chosen date. It can be chilly, even on summer evening. None of these things need ruin your photoshoot, I love shooting in the rain because it can result in really beautiful and dramatic images.
However, heavy rain can quickly ruin your makeup and hairstyle and no one want to be wet, cold, or, rarely, too hot on a photoshoot. If you are not prepared for the weather conditions a photoshoot can be a miserable experience given that you can be outside for a couple of hours.
It is always a good idea to discuss bad weather arrangements with your photographer in advance.
Think about footwear. You won’t want to be wearing stiletto heels if you are planning an autumnal photoshoot in a forest. Wear trainers, boots, or even wellies, and you can slip your heels on when you find the perfect spot.
Lastly, wear things that are natural for your personality. If you are not the sort of woman who ever wears a long dress and heels then don’t choose that sort of styling for your photoshoot. If you are a man who only ever wears jeans and a shirt, then don’t pick a three-piece-suit for your photoshoot.
Clothing that feels awkward and unnatural for you will make you self conscious and this will come across in your photographs. Remember, if your photoshoot is for images to display in you home they will be seen by your friends and family, and those people already know what you normally look like.
I want to create an image that is the best version of you, not a fake facsimile of you.
Dress for the style of photoshoot
When you want a simple portrait in the forest in autumn, choose a colour palette that compliments the seasonal colours. For example, in the image on the right, the purple colours compliment the yellows and golds of the leaves in the background.
In this image, the hat and scarf serve to frame the face and draw the eye straight to the subjects eyes.
The clothing chosen is also warm and comfortable, it can also be a good idea to layer your clothing as you can achieve a number of different looks by adding or removing layers.
Group and family photoshoots
When choosing what to wear for a group or family photoshoot the rules I have outlined above are even more relevant. Your family portrait will be much more striking if colours are coordinated for everyone in the image.
It’s really important to note that this does not mean matching outfits. To be blunt matching outfits are really naff! They remove any sense of individuality and everything blends into one. In reality, coordinating outfits, even for a large group or family is much easier than you might imagine.
I recommend starting by deciding whether the whole group should wear warm colours (brown, yellow, orange etc) or cool colours (black, blue, grey etc). This doesn’t mean everyone has to wear exactly the same shade of colour. So long as everyone in the group wears warm or cool colours no one will stick out and everyone will get equal prominence and the focus will be on the faces rather than being drawn to one colour that stands out from all the others.
A good idea is to lay out everyone’s clothing for the shoot, including shoes. If your eye is immediately drawn to one item then that is exactly what will happen in your family photograph. Ensure that everyone dresses for the same season. You don’t want everyone in winter coats when one person is wearing a summer dress.
One further consideration for a family photoshoot is to consider your home decor. Think about where the finished image will be displayed and choose clothing colours that will compliment your room.
Maternity photoshoots are one of my absolute favourites. The goal here is to show off that adorable baby bump.
There are, of course, many ways to highlight that bump to create beautiful memories of an exciting time in any family’s life. I recommend booking your maternity shoot at around 32-weeks gestation. At that stage the bump is very prominent, baby hasn’t turned and dropped ready for delivery, and mum is looking radiant.
In the image on the right you can see how mum’s dress colour compliments her hair colour. The dress also compliments the green background perfectly.
For studio based maternity images a simple white or black buttoned shirt can work really well when photographed against a black or white background.
A new baby is obviously an exciting time for the whole family. Bring your partner and any previous children along to the shoot and colour coordinate them in the same way as you would for any family or group shoot.
Babies and small children
As a general rule newborns and babies look best when photographed in their birthday suits or swaddled in a soft blanket. When we photograph babies we naturally want the focus to be on them. For that reason, I recommend that other family members wear dark clothing.
Of course, if you have a special outfit for baby then they should be photographed in it. Plain colours work best. You should also bring along any props that you would like to include. A favourite toy or teddy bear can lead to super cute images and they can help to keep baby smiling or giggling. For babies, bare feet are a must.
Toddlers can quickly become bored and distracted on a photoshoot, a favourite toy can help to keep them engaged. I recommend plain and informal clothing for younger children, though a pretty dress usually works well for little girls.
Including things like hats, sunglasses, jackets, or blankets can really add a sense of fun or whimsey to photographs of young kids.
Remember, your family photographs are meant to be enjoyed for many years. It is best to avoid “fad” clothing that will date your images.
What to wear for corporate and business photographs
Choosing what to wear for you corporate or business photoshoot is reasonably straightforward. Whether for individual or team images, staff should wear what they normally would on a typical business day.
It is worth giving some thought to your corporate image. If you are a team of lawyers then photographs of everyone in jeans and a tee-shirt doesn’t really portray the right corporate image. That type of styling might be much more appropriate if you are an emerging computer game business for example.
For team corporate images it is still worth coordinating colours across the whole team. For example, if all the men are wearing a jacket and tie, ask them all to wear the same coloured tie and ask the women to wear a similar colour business suit or dress.
Do think about the audience for the images. If the photographs are for the company website or the annual report then, in most cases, they should be more formal. If they are for use on the company’s social media accounts then more casual images are likely to connect better with the audience.
Corporate photoshoots are one occasion where logos on clothing might be appropriate, for example if your staff typically wear a polo shirt bearing the company logo.
Hopefully, this article has given you lots of ideas on what to wear for your photoshoot. If you are ready to book your shoot feel free to drop me an email to discuss your requirements and make a booking. I look forward to hearing from you.
In the meantime here are a couple of other resources that you may find useful.
Styling tips from Click Magazine