Photo by Jamie Rubeis
Let’s admit it. Choosing what to wear for photos can be super stressful! It’s enough to make anyone crazy, even photographers. But finding that perfect outfit (or family of outfits!) is easier with a little bit of guidance.
Luckily, our very experienced Click Pros have a tip or two (or 26!) to help you select the perfect photo-worthy wardrobe options to help anyone look and feel amazing for their photo session.
Choose your palette first.
Tip from Meghan Doll: “Pick a palette of 3-4 colors. Let this be your starting place. Think in terms of tones: blue tones, earth tones, neutrals, pastels, etc. Everyone in the family can express their own sense of style within the chosen color palette, and the whole group will coordinate beautifully.”
Don’t match. Coordinate.
Tip from Erica Williams: “I tell my clients they need to coordinate, not match, when they are deciding what to wear for photos. I tell them to start with the youngest and pull colors from their outfit to dress and layer everyone else. Layering can make a huge difference in tying in all the colors. If they still need help, I will put together a fashion board of outfit examples and let them know where to find the items.”
Use the color wheel.
Tip from Leslie Crane: “I love using the color wheel when I help my clients decide what clothes will look good in our chosen photography location. Most of the time, I’ve scouted the location ahead of time so I have an idea how I want to use the spot and the colors available there. For my seniors who bring several different outfits, this can be really fun. There are many ways to use the color wheel when deciding what to wear for photos, but one way I love is to use complementary colors. For example, in the color wheel, yellow and purple are directly opposite from one another so are considered complementary. I can use those two colors (both in the location and my client’s attire) and I know my results will be beautiful!”
Choose neutral clothing.
Tip from Tarah Beaven: “For at-home newborn or family photos which are typically taken on the big bed, I always recommend wearing cotton t-shirts, linen pants, no shoes and loose and comfortable clothing. Staying neutral in a bedroom setting keeps the photos simple and soft with the focus on the connection and emotion between people. And don’t forget about the bedspread! If it’s really bright, has a distracting pattern, or maybe it’s a little drab, take it off and stick with light colored sheets instead.”
Tip from Leslie Crane: “When families have no idea what colors to wear for photos, I suggest wearing any combination of cream, gray, and tan. It is pretty hard to mess that up and looks good in almost every setting, especially dried-grass fields which are readily available in the fall. The result is a monochromatic look that I love. The soft neutrals always bring the focus back to the people in the photos. This timeless look is easy to pull together, and (bonus!) dads love looking comfortable and not all dressed up.”
Use muted colors.
Tip from Vanessa Brack: “Since my work is more about feeling and less about style, I advise my clients to keep it simple and clean. I like the focus to be on the emotion and connection of the family. Subdued colors, solids, and muted prints work well for that. Skip logos and words as they draw the eye. Babies and toddlers look adorable shirtless and in just a diaper.”
Tip from Julie Kulbago: “I’ve found that muted tones look beautiful together in a family picture. When picking patterns, choose smaller ones that won’t pull attention away from the main subjects, and only put one person in a pattern. When thinking about texture, choose different ones that will give photos some interest such as lace, corduroy, denim, and knits.”
Choose colors from your home.
Tip from Chloe Ramirez: “Many of my family photo sessions take place in the comfort of the home. I tell my families to dress to coordinate with their home. Is your home light, bright and airy or moody and dark? What colors do you decorate with? What style do you lean towards? I also tell people to dress with no logos showing and muted colors, if possible, to enhance the timeless feel.”
Opt for monochromatic.
Tip from Tarah Beaven: “Dress monochromatic to match your location. Sounds crazy, right? But here’s a few reasons why this can make for interesting portraits. Dressing to match your location puts the focus on the face because everything else is benign, so to speak. It forces the viewer to break down the details in the photo since they’re looking at variations of a single color.”
Shop at the same store.
Tip from Jessie Nelson: “Make coordinating family photo outfits easy by shopping at the same store or brand. It’s especially helpful when there are multiple children to dress. Just this spring, I found a dress for myself and then immediately went shopping at the Carter’s store. In ten minutes, I found shirts for all three of my boys! The colors not only coordinated with my dress but coordinated with each other as well.”
Add a pop of color.
Tip from Lisa Tichané: “I love to make my clients pop in the frame with bold colors. My work is filled with joy and happiness so adding cheerful colors to the mix can complement the mood so well! I ask them to pick only one or two happy colors and use some neutral details (white or grey) to tame them a bit. They get bonus points if at least one family member is wearing some sort of geometric pattern. I’m a huge fan of stripes but polka dots are also a great choice in my book!”
Tip from Bobbi-Jo Stuart: “Don’t be afraid of a little color! You don’t have to go overboard, but picking up bold colors from a more subtle outfit for a pop of color can look amazing. For example, if dad is wearing a plaid shirt, draw one color from it and have one child wear a pop of that color.”
Use your go-to outfit.
Tip from Dawne Carlisle: “I’m all about being who you truly are. I tell my senior clients to think about being the best versions of themselves during their senior sessions. For me, that does not mean going out and purchasing four new outfits. In fact, I always advise them to look in their closets and pull out the outfit that is their very favorite. Everyone has a go-to outfit that they choose when going out with friends, the outfit that fits perfectly and makes them feel fabulous. I tell my seniors to bring this outfit along so they are certain they will have one outfit that fits perfectly and reflects who they truly are at this stage in life.”
Fit your style to your location.
Tip from Chanel French: “Always keep your session location in mind when choosing your outfit. If your session is happening in a city setting, dress up a bit with a pair of cute heels and a fancier dress than you’d normally wear to match the bustling vibe of the city. If you’ve selected a more natural environment, choose something a bit more casual such as a maxi dress and opt for casual footwear like flat sandals or boots.”
Tip from Bobbi-Jo Stuart: “Don’t be afraid to dress up in formal clothes, especially for an engagement session. It’s not only fun, but it’s something different than the everyday and professional photographs can definitely be considered a special occasion!”
Pick a statement piece first.
Tip from Chelsie Cannon: “Choose one statement outfit with a few colors in it and use that to work off of for the rest of the family’s outfits. In this photo, mom chose her beautiful dress first, which had lovely colors to choose from when coming up with outfits for the rest of her family. I always want families to coordinate and not be matchy-matchy. I absolutely love that there are two floral dresses in this photo yet the patterns look completely different. When I posed this family, I put the daughter in floral next to dad and the daughter in the solid color dress next to mom to balance out the patterns in the image.”
Don’t forget about the shoes.
Tip from Meghan Doll: “If you’re not the type of family who likes being barefoot, be sure to keep your footwear in mind. Nothing will throw your look off more than a ratty old pair of shoes.”
Highlight your best asset.
Tip from Chanel French: “Wearing something that highlights your best asset during your session will give you a boost of confidence throughout the shoot that will definitely show in your final images.”
Keep comfort first.
Tip from Lisa Tichané: “My work is based on movement and playful behavior. A mom in a short skirt and high heels is less likely to play wildly with her kids or get messy so I always tell my clients to think about being comfortable first. What you want to remember in 10 or 20 years isn’t how talented you were at styling your kids but how happy you were together as a family. Pick the clothes that will let you run freely and be blissfully carefree! If you love to wear jeans, don’t look further. They are comfortable AND photogenic, now you only need to find cute tops!”
Keep clothing simple.
Tip from Karlee Hooper: “Clothes can make or break an image. Choosing outfits in simple, bright colors can help the subject pop against a neutral background. My very favorite dresses for girls are by Alice and Ames. They are comfortable cotton dresses that twirl really well and help to make the child wearing them stand out without any distracting logos. Plus, having a little girl spin in a twirly dress helps to make her feel more relaxed and the movement looks great in photos!”
Tip from Meg Loeks: “My family lives far north in a rural area. We love the outdoors and it’s important for me to chose clothing that is simple so that it’s not taking away from our environment and beautiful surroundings, yet I want my boys to stand out from the background at the same time. I always strive for colors and textures that are going to complement our location.”
Mix solids and patterns.
Tip from Chelsie Cannon: “Mix patterns and solids to give visual interest in photos. Throw on some layers, too! I always advise my clients to dress in different patterns. In this photo, mom chose a solid bright dress (which looks gorgeous), so I suggested she put different patterns on the rest of the family. I love that the sizes of the patterns are different: large stripes on dad, a small subtle print on baby boy’s shirt, and mom has a little embroidered detail on her dress. Then, the baby has on overalls to add a nice layer. It all works together perfectly!“
Tip from Meghan Doll: “Keep patterns to a minimum. Consider playing with textures instead. We want your family to be the star! The clothing should coordinate, not take over.”
Coordinate patterns and colors.
Tip from Jamie Rubeis: “I tell my clients to choose three or four colors to create a color palette for their photos, and then incorporate the colors throughout their wardrobe in varying patterns, solids, and layers.”
Use complementary colors.
Tip from Meg Loeks: “I gravitate towards rich, earthy colors complementing the natural elements around us. I often choose pieces that are timeless. Most of the clothing I purchase is from Zara, Gap Kids, H&M, consignment shops (gotta love vintage!), and of course handmade items from family and local shops. When choosing complementary colors, consider the colors in your location, too. For example, if you know there is going to be a lot of green foliage around you consider red for your subject’s clothing. Choosing to dress your subject in complementary colors is a great way to not only make your images visually pleasing but separate your subject from the background.”
Let hair move.
Tip from Allison Gipson: “I am a Hawaii portrait photographer so I prefer longer hair to be left down to showcase movement. I disclose to many a client that in the land of sunshine and rainbows we also have wind and breeze. Perfectly kept hair will not happen. I joke at all sessions, ‘Many famous people pay for expensive wind machines and Mother Nature is giving us one heck of a deal today!'”
Use Pinterest to guide clients.
Tip from Jamie Rubeis: “Create Pinterest style boards to give your clients examples of what to wear for photos that also help to complement your brand. If you like soft palettes, pin examples showcasing soft tones. If you like pops of bold colors, pin examples that fit that style. Don’t forget to pin lots of examples from your own work, too! I like to pin directly from vendor sites so that my style board also acts as a shopping marketplace.”
Send clients suggestions directly.
Tip from Jen Bilodeau: “I usually start by asking my clients about their personal style in my client questionnaire. Do they consider their style to be clean and classic, bohemian, hipster, neutral or vibrant? Once I have a better feel for their personal style, I often send clients links to dresses or other items that I think will work well for their session. I recognize that many of my clients are working within a budget and don’t want to spend a lot on their attire. I always direct them to inexpensive options that can be found at Target, H&M, Old Navy and Amazon. Amazon is actually a great source for session dresses. They have some great runway knock-offs and although the quality may not be amazing, it’s certainly good enough for our photo session! With the session in this photo I helped the client find the maternity dress on Amazon. We found the coordinating outfits for the little ones running in the background at Old Navy. Overall it was a very reasonable investment and it all came together perfectly!”
Hire a professional stylist to help.
Tip from Rebecca Wyatt: “When in doubt, consult a professional. Local boutiques are there to help when deciding what to wear for photos. Enlisting the help of a professional, even if you aim to work within the wardrobe you already own and don’t plan to purchase more than a piece or two, can take your styling to the next level.”
Want more great advice on what to wear for photos?
You don’t want to miss our free What to Wear Guide! It’s the ultimate style guide for photo shoots, containing everything you need to know about styling anyone so they look their best and feel great. Oh, and here are a few more dos and don’ts for your photo session wardrobe.