What to Wear

Clothing for portraits – what to wear:

The below exerpts appeared in Digital Photography’s online blog.  It’s a pretty good example of what to do/not do in order to make your session turn out the way you want.  I urge you to read this and then we can discuss. – Rob

Clothes make the portrait!


What the subjects are wearing in a portrait is just as important as all the other details such as: lighting, location, and posing. Poorly selected clothing can really take away from an otherwise really great portrait. The goals in helping your portrait subjects or clients select clothing are:

  •  to make the people the main subjects
  • to flatter the subjects and help make them look their best
  • to disappear and be a non-issue

Poorly chosen clothing, or having no discussion about it at all, can result in just the opposite of all those things.  NOT what you want to have happen!

  • clothing that stands out so much you hardly even notice the people
  • arms, legs or tummies that look less than flattered and people that are unhappy with the end results
  • clothing that takes so much attention and draws your eye around that it becomes more about the clothes and a fashion photo that it does a portrait of the people in them

So, what IS the best clothing for people to wear?

  • wear solid colored clothing so that we see all of your faces and no one person stands out. If you wear stripes or flowers, you will stand out from the rest of your group.
  • choose muted tones that are a bit subdued so that you are the subject not your clothes and you don’t stand out from the group. Bright colours project (especially reds, oranges, and yellows), which also makes you look larger.
  • choose similar tones for your top and bottom (both dark or both light) so that one doesn’t look bigger than the other.  White top, dark pants will make your top look bigger.  White pants, dark top will make your bottom look bigger.
  • choose 1-3 colors for your group portrait, ones with similar tones that go nicely together and have everyone work within that color palette. For example: dark green, navy, and burgundy – all dark jewel tones.  OR tan, a lighter olive green, and denims – all lighter, softer tones.  So that we see the people first and your portrait looks stunning. Wedding group photos look so good because they’re all wearing the same colors and the people stand out!
  • choose a top with sleeves at least to the elbow because your arms take up more skin area than your face and will draw attention and it may also make your arms look larger.
  • choose long pants for men/ladies or a skirt below the knee for ladies so that your legs don’t take attention from your faces, and you will be able to sit and bend without showing too much leg.
  • choose dark socks and footwear (unless it’s a barefoot photo on the beach) because white just sticks out like a sore thumb and that’s all you’ll notice in your portrait.
  • keep jewelry simple and minimalistic because too much draws attention from your face.
  • do your hair the way you’d normally do it while wearing these clothes – no fancy up dos with jeans, no pony tails with evening gowns, etc.
  • if getting a haircut or new hairdo, make your appointment at least 2 weeks prior to your portrait session.