What to wear for a photo session can be a daunting decision for anyone. And, let’s be honest, knowing what NOT to wear for photos is just as important as knowing what works. As a photographer, you want to help your clients show up happy, confident and looking their best for photos so you can focus on capturing memories.

Vague answers like, “a dress, a button-up shirt, a sweater or something you feel comfortable in,” can misinform the client and ultimately leave them dissatisfied with their photos. Clients need to know what kind of dress, what pattern on the button-up and what fabric the sweater should be!

We asked style experts Holly and Melissa from Style & Select to share their best tips on what not to wear for photos. Because what works for the office might not work for family photos and what looks trendy today might make your clients cringe in two years. Here are 15 things to avoid wearing in photos:

Women:

Women usually focus on everyone else’s outfits first, but then stress about what to wear for themselves. Women tend to believe the baggier, the better because they think it will hide whatever they want to hide, but that’s a false perception. Women of all shapes and sizes are beautiful however there are certain clothing items, fabrics, cuts and styles that restrict poses and movement, or cannot lay in a flattering way.

Don’t wear:

1. Short “shift” dresses

2. Dresses with stiff fabric

3. Maxi dresses with no defining features

What not to wear for photos, dresses for women

If dresses aren’t your client’s style, then they’ll need to know which shirts, sweaters, blouses and bottoms look best. Certain trends do not translate well in photos. Also, the same rules apply to tops as dresses: Baggier is not better, loose and stiff fabric can crease in all the wrong places and jersey knit fabric can cling in certain areas.

Don’t wear:

4. Baggy tops (purposefully slouchy or oversized is OK)

5. Stiff or boxy fabric, which can crease and fold in all the wrong places

6. Jersey knit fabric, which can show undergarment lines

What not to wear for photos, shirts for women

Wear this instead:

We highly recommend dresses, because the right dress can be the most flattering piece on every body shape. Look for dresses with flowy fabric and defining features. Tops and sweaters that can be tucked into pants or skirts, or tops with waist defining blouses are also great options.

What to wear for photos, maxi dress
Photo by Melissa Jane Photography

Men and boys

Males (of all ages) typically do not have the variety of options that females do. They are limited to shirts, sweaters, pants and shorts. When choosing a photo session outfit, men and boys should steer clear of these items:

Don’t wear:

7. Neon colors

8. Large brand logos

9. Overpowering patterns

What not to wear for photos, men's shirts

Wear this instead:

Rather than overpowering patterns and logos, try plaid or solid color button-up shirts or sweaters. Fun patterns that go with a particular look are also OK. For example, a funky pattern or bold stripes make sense if you are going for a retro look.

What to wear for photos
Photo by Jodi Lynn Photography

Children and toddlers

Kids are a little easier because body image isn’t a factor, but they still have a few “do nots.” Character tops, bright neon colors, and logo brands are all battles with kids clothing, but with tons of kids clothing options available, those photo no-nos are easy to avoid. Graphic tees with fun sayings or prints are OK, but shirts or dresses with race cars or unicorns is probably not going to create the look your clients are going for.

Don’t wear:

10. Character tops

11. Graphic tees with busy patterns

What not to wear in photos for kids

Wear this instead:

Instead of characters or trends, try solid shirts, stripes or patterns. Graphic tees with fun sayings are also OK.

What to wear for photos
Photo by Kayla Locke, Locke Photography

Babies

Babies are cute as can be all on their own, but distracting clothes can take the focus off of that adorableness. Encourage your clients to stick to simple outfits.

Don’t wear:

12. Onesies that are two sizes too big

13. Large bows

14. Oversized ruffles and frills

15. Thick or puffy vests that bunch up at the neck

What not to wear in photos for babies

Wear this instead:

Simple onesies, plain dresses and adorable rompers or overalls are timeless pieces that look great on every baby. Pair outfits with a beanie or simple headband to accessorize.

What to wear for photos
Photo by Hazel and Honey Photography

Don’t forget about the shoes!

What clients put on their feet should not be an afterthought. Your client has the perfect outfits picked out, but everyone is wearing old tennis shoes or gilttery character sandals. Sound the alarms – this is not a drill!!

Shoes are a part of the outfit and should match the style of clothing they have picked. If everyone is wearing dressy/boho vibe clothes, they should not be wearing Nike tennis shoes or Old Navy flip flops. If the collective ensemble is leaning towards a retro/modern feel, then black shiny dress shoes and cowboy boots do not mesh well.

Shoes should always complement the overall outfit or be as neutral as possible!

What not to wear for photos, shoes

How to put it all together:

Ok, this is a lot of information, but we hope that it has given you some insight and tips on how to better guide your clients on what to wear and what not to wear for photos.

As a general rule of thumb, we always tell clients to pick one statement piece and work everyone’s outfits around that one item with solids, neutral patterns and accessories to tie it together.

Below are some photo-approved examples of what a photography client might be shown in their styling results on Style & Select.

Photo by Elephant Juice Photography
Style and Select photo wardrobe options
Style and Select photo wardrobe options
Style and Select photo wardrobe options

Outfits aren’t everything, but they do have the power to impact your photos one way or the other. You have to decide how important styling is to you, your business and your brand.

Holly and Melissa of Style and Select photography wardrobe service

About Style & Select

Holly and Melissa are photographers and the co-founders of Style & Select.

Style & Select offers a digital and custom tailored styling tool for photographers and their clients. Photo approved clothing items for everyone in the family are shown in the Style Results and the custom coordination tool allows clients to piece together outfits for everyone before a single thing has been purchased. The best part is, clients are linked directly to S&S’s partnered retailers to buy their selected items if they wish to (or they can utilize similar things they already own).

What not to wear for photos (and what to wear instead)