Everyone always wants to know what to wear for their photo session, and in fact some even let their uncertainty hold them back from scheduling. It isn’t as hard as it appears, and it doesn’t need to stress you out. Here are some steps to help you confidently pull it together.
The cardinal rule of thumb when you are deciding what to wear for your photo session is to dress all members of the family as if they were all wearing pieces of one outfit, but don’t use any identical pieces. There are two ways to do this. The first is to dress everyone in neutrals with one or two colors for interest. Neutrals are denim, beige & browns, muted greens, grays & black, or cream & white. Select the colors based on location, season, or your home decor - this is the BEST way to select the perfect colors!
And, please, stay away from the "everyone dressed in white shirts and khaki"...besides being an iconic style of the 80's, it is unflattering to a lot of skin tones and impersonal. We can do better!
The colors add a pop of interest without making them look like a team! If you are a fun modern family that loves color, this is a perfect look for you. Choose colors that will look good in your home when you frame these portraits and display them in your home.
Think about the primary reason you are doing the session and dress accordingly. For instance, if it’s for Christmas cards you might want to dress in wintry, seasonal clothing … for a wall display in your living room, think about coordinating with the colors and feel of your decor.
The second way is to dress everyone in the same color palette, but with a tonal range from lighter to darker. You can even use subtle patterns for interest. The image on the left shows everyone in blues and neutral denims, including soft prints and plaids that blend seamlessly together. The family on the right is dressed in tones of brown, with white as their neutral.
Colorful scarves, fun hats, flowers in the hair for girls, vests, bow ties, colorful converse tennis shoes or cool boots – all these things can add a touch of personality to the images. BUT a word of caution: don’t let the accessories overwhelm the subject. Babies and toddlers are beautiful in their simple purity, and I want them to be the focus instead of making one’s eye go straight to a giant headband as big as their head. I want the viewer to notice my subject and their personality first. Choose your accent colors and fill in outfits with those punches of color using accessories.
A beautiful variety of textures and layers can really add interest to an image, especially since we are working with a base of neutral colors and tones in our session outfits. Knits, ruffles, tweeds, sweaters, ribbon or lace can all help pull together a timeless, classic look and looks especially great against the pure soft skin of children and babies.
Avoid clothing with very obvious logos or labels to keep your images looking timeless (OK, I know that vintage “Members Only” is coming back, but still…). Also make sure that, whatever you choose for your children, it should be comfortable for them or it will be hard to get them to have natural expressions. No overtly white or neon athletic shoes for teens or dads, but stylish Vans or Converse-type shoes are fine.
Eyeglasses can be a problem, especially with small children who can’t hold still or with adults who have transition lenses. It is VERY hard to “photoshop” distortion or glasses glare, and I can only do the basics. I can contract for expert retouching for an additional fee per image, but even then results are not guaranteed. The best solution is to bring empty frames with you; most eye doctors will let you borrow them if you arrange it ahead of time. Sometimes lenses can be popped out, but you need to check with your lens store first.
It’s somewhat intimidating for women to think about getting photographed…most can’t help being a little self-conscious. When you are choosing outfits for your session, decide on yours first and pick something that makes you feel great (after all, the children are going to look adorable no matter what they are wearing). My best advice is then to do what you would do to look your best if you were going to go to a class reunion or a first date, because after all, these images will be around for a long time and be seen by a lot of people. Treat yourself to a morning getting your hair and makeup done before the session, if it helps you to feel more confident (and it will!). Then you will be all set to drop the kids off at the sitters after your session and go out for an fun evening with your husband!
For more wardrobe ideas and lots of examples, go to my Pinterest board “What To Wear Ideas”
Pam Nafziger, photographer
I live on Lake Keowee in SC but travel frequently back to my hometown area of Pittsburgh/Washington PA - and I do sessions in BOTH places!
306 Longwood Drive, Seneca, SC 29672