Headshot + Portrait Photography Norfolk-Foxboro by Areti Bratsis » Headshot and Portrait Photography

Dressing For Your Portraits

What should we wear for our portrait? That is the ultimate question and point of greatest concern while planning for a great session.

I have a client whose children I have been photographing every year for 16 years. I was shocked to hear her say once, “ I hate this part!” Hate? I never want that word associated with anything I do. When I asked her to clarify what she meant, she revealed that finding just the right outfits for her growing family had always been a point of immeasurable stress! I had no idea.

It is not that I had not conversed with her and advised her. That is the easy part. The hard part was actually finding the right articles of clothing for the season in which we were going to create the images. The other issue is that she made it a deliberate point to showcase each child’s personality and refused to buy two of everything.

Here is what you don’t want to do

  • Dress everyone in the same things (An example would be everyone in jeans and a t-shirt)
  • Dress men and women in the same type of outfits. (Polo shirts look great on men and on women, but when side by side looks a bit androgynous and non descriptive)
  • Let everyone show up wearing anything they want (can we say visual nightmare?)

Why get so hung up on clothing?

The clothing and the manner in which you dress can either enhance or detract from the visual appeal of your photography. If we are planning a color session, the palette used in the clothing becomes an element we need to consider, especially if you are going to incorporate the image into your existing home decor. Patterns in the textiles can also become a hindrance if not chosen correctly.

When you view a portrait, the core grouping or subject matter ( your family) become a visual form. By coordinating your colors you actually minimize the mass ( your bodies) and all emphasis is placed on the faces and expressions. That is the goal of the portrait artist. To capture a subject and convey a message.

Some general tips

  • First pick a theme. Will this be formal, casual or something in between?
  • Try to select a color palette you like and work with up to 3 different colors that go well together.
  • It is entirely acceptable to wear patterns but keep them to a minimum and/or make sure they are subtle.
  • Absolutely, positively stay away from trademark logos. Are you being paid to endorse xyz company? The eye has a difficult time focusing on a face when it is trying to read a message. Little polo ponies and small insignias are o.k., but a written word or verse is not.
  • Stay away from stripes unless you absolutely have to.

Just an aside from my experience: Unless you absolutely love a body part please do not showcase it. What I mean here is, if you don’t like your legs showing, then don’t wear a short skirt. I can’t tell you how many times I have hear this one. Or, if you don’t love your arms, by all means please don’t wear sleeveless.

  • Take a minute to look in the mirror in the outfit you plan on wearing.
  • Stand absolutely still as if you were looking at a photograph.
  • Honestly answer this question: Do I love the way I look in this outfit?
    If you follow these tips, I am certain you will find that coordinating just the right outfit will not be so bad. Look in your closet first and if you need to buy something new, shop early in the season as to ensure you will find everything you need to dress your family in a stress free state of mind.

Some Examples

Here a some examples of nicely coordinated outfits which add interest to the images and still enables you the viewer to enjoy the subject.


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