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What to Wear to Your Photo Session

Updated: Nov 11, 2022

So you've decided to have your pictures taken, congratulations! Now on to the tough part.. what to wear? Your photos should reflect you and your style, so by all means, I always recommend wearing something you feel confident and beautiful in! However, there are also some tips that work for everyone to make you look even better. Below are a few of my recommendations, but of course some of these rules can be broken if we are going for specific style or edgier shoot. As always, don't be afraid to reach out with any questions!

Couples photo shoot in matching color schemes

Avoid Logos and Patterned Prints

Patterns and logos and can be especially distracting. Avoid irregular patterns in particular. examples of acceptable patterns would be plaid/checkered or other small/symmetrical, repeated patterns, but overall it is best to stick with solid colors when possible.

In the case of digitals, stripped patterns in particular can be a problem because of something called moiré. A definition and example of Moiré is below.

Moiré pattern occurs when a scene or an object that is being photographed contains repetitive details (such as lines, dots, etc.) that exceed sensor resolution. As a result, the camera produces strange-looking wavy patterns.

Moiré Example on clothing Moiré can even happen on buildings!

To avoid moiré effect in your photos, stick to solid colors. If you have a shirt you really love that has a pattern though, feel free to send me a picture of it before hand and I can advise on whether it will work. There are a couple photoshop tricks I can try, but in general it is much easier to prevent moiré in camera, than fix in editing.

Tone Down Bright Colors

I tend to stay away from recommending bright colors as they can often pull attention away from the face and may be reflective. Think neons, bright orange, yellow and green.. 70's colors... we want to avoid that!

Instead, you may gravitate towards light pastels. Pale shades work well, especially with jeans or kaki pants.

a teen wears white to her senior session
White is timeless for photos!

White is Timeless!

If you are worried about looking your slimmest, then it is probably safer to avoid white. However, white can be beautifully simple and fresh. White shirts and/or blouses under a dark jacket are perfect and timeless, and always look clean and fresh.

Avoid Short Sleeves and Shorts

Seeing more skin can be distracting for formal portraits (and even casual ones). When arms and legs are exposed to the camera they will pull attention away from your face - the most important part. This does not mean you cannot wear short sleeves at all, but be mindful of your choices. Additionally, shorts tend to look less professional depending on the type. An exception would be if we are going for a super causal look, or if they are part of am athletic outfit (a popular choice for senior photos if you're showing off your passion!) Lastly, if you are uncomfortable with your body type, long sleeves and long pants can be helpful to cover areas that the viewers eyes might gravitate towards.

family photos are great for coordinating colors

Don’t over Accessorize!

Overbearing or heavily noticeable accessories can be a major distraction. Simple and minimal works best. For women, choose one necklace, and maybe one bracelet. (Weddings are another exception - it's your day, go all out if you wish! That is the one time flashy jewelry is all in!)

Make Up, Hair & Nails

Hair styles should be simple and kept off the face, we want to see your beautiful eyes! Be mindful of bangs that come down too low or hide your eyes. When in doubt, it is always a great idea to have your make up and hair professionally applied for your photography session. It will make a huge difference in how you look and feel! We can recommend local services and even have one on site for your session if you request that service ahead of time.

Consider Hair and Skin Tones

There are some colors you would probably never wear because you either just don't like the color or know it doesn't look good on you. That is A-OK and I encourage you to be aware of those things. Additionally, I would recommend staying away from skin toned color clothing. We don't want it to look like you are undressed in your photos, and if your outfit is the same shade as your skin that can be tricky to avoid.

coordinate family photos with a common color or theme
Coordinate with a common color or theme

Group / Family Sessions

Keep your clothing simple and coordinating. While not everyone has to wear the same exact color, it can be helpful to stick to a color scheme, or a pattern type. Jeans are the timeless choice and they’re great for fun, casual pictures because they are flattering and don’t show wrinkles. White tops with khakis or jeans can look very nice and casual, but if anyone in your family is super pale, white can make pale skin look paler. Lighter shirts on top give the pictures a more casual and bright look, while black or other dark shirts on top give the portraits a more serious and thoughtful feel (not to mention that black is slimming!). For the children, choose outfits that fit well and are not too loose or baggy.

First, decide whether the basic tone of the clothing will be warm-toned (reds, browns, etc.) or cool-toned (blues/grays/blacks, etc.) Then, make sure to follow all of the above instructions. Keeping a group in similar colors focuses the attention of the portrait to the faces and individuals that make up the portrait. Dissimilar colors in groups tend to be more distracting.

An example would be having everyone wear black pants or jeans, and a shade of blue for their tops. There are many different shades of blue, so try to stick to either a darker shade or a lighter shade. The idea is that everyone should be in the same general color or theme, while not having to have identical colored shirts or outfits.

Plan Ahead

Obviously you'll need to do a little planning ahead to make sure what you want to wear is not in the wash the day you need it. But it can also be helpful to literally lay out all the clothing onto a bed ahead of time. Top, pants, jewelry – everything should be included…shoes, too! Then, take a careful look at the collection. If your eye goes to any one item in particular, you can be certain that the same thing will happen in a photograph. That item should be changed. Clothing should not be too tight or too loose. If children are involved, you may want to have multiple outfits in mind in case one gets dirty on your way to the shoot, or at the shoot.

Choosing your photo session attire can be fun!
Pets are always welcome at sessions!

Final thoughts. Your portraits are meant to be enjoyed for generations to come. Fad-type clothing should be avoided, unless you are planning to have new portraits made annually. All of your efforts in choosing something to wear will definitely be worthwhile! Most of all though, remember to have fun and choose clothing that reflects you and your style, so that your images will be something you can look back on and treasure for years to come!

What is your favorite and least favorite thing about preparing for a session? We'd love to hear from you - comment below!

Fun Family shoot, on the farm, tractor family photos
Last but not least.. don't forget to have fun!


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