What to wear for your portrait session

I am always asked what I should wear to our portrait session.  The first thing I ask is, ‘what were your plans for the pictures’.   Were they to hang in your living room or den? If you will be hanging these photos in your house you want to make sure the colors of your clothes go with the color scheme of your home.

Family Portrait


If the session is at a location then you need to think of the background what colours will be prominent.  If it is in the fall there will be lots of yellows, oranges and browns so bright pink or blue would not look great.



Once you book your session, start thinking of the clothes right away.  You may think you know exactly what you and/or your family will wear but when the time comes it may not fit or you realized at the last minute it needs dry cleaned.


Clothes that do not attract attention in a portrait are the ultimate goal.


Avoid short sleeves and short pants.  When arms and legs are exposed to the camera there will be more flesh in the photograph in those areas than on the face, itself.  White shirts and/or blouses under a dark jacket are perfect.  A scarf loosely tied around the neck also helps to frame a face beautifully when a collarless blouse or sweater is worn. Neckties should definitely be toned-down in color and with a minimum of pattern.


Clothing should not be too tight or too loose. It is a good idea for clothing below the waistline to be darker than the clothing above. Otherwise, even light jeans worn below a darker top could easily attract attention to the lower part of the body and away from the face.


The most flattering neckline for anyone is something that comes up close to the neck. A wide-open neckline tends to thicken the neck in a photograph. On the other hand, a neckline that comes up to the base of the neck like a turtleneck or a v-neck top is the most flattering. It tends to slim down the person and frames the face beautifully.


Your clothing should be simple and coordinated. Select your clothes to blend the bodies together if your are doing a group session.  Dark colours tend to blend bodies and make you appear slimmer while lighter clothes tend to do the opposite.


Avoid loud or busy patterns and large logos.  Solid colors are best.


SONY DSCDecide whether the basic tone of the clothing will be warm-toned (browns, etc.) or cool-toned (blues/grays/blacks, etc.). If you would like to have everyone wearing one colour shirts, such as white shirts, that is up to you,  it’s your portrait however try to think outside the box a little and think about  picking a couple of colors and choose clothes that will fit in this color scheme.

For colour schemes check out this place and have fun.  http://colorschemedesigner.com

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.  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.  Jeans are the timeless choice and they’re great for fun, casual pictures because they are flattering and don’t show wrinkles or panty lines.  Lighter shirts on top give the pictures a more casual and bright look.  Pastels are also usually appealing because they enhance natural skin tones.  Black or other dark shirts on top give the portraits a more serious and thoughtful feel (not to mention that black is slimming).  Everyone should have color-coordinated outfits (Not a uniform necessarily, but there should be a theme).


For the children, choose outfits that fit well without a lot of “growing room”. Jeans / khaki’s and white or black tops are always very nice for a family portrait.


Hair Styles

Your hair style should be simple and preferably be off the face.


Avoid hair falling down onto the sides of the face (currently very much in style) create distracting shadows. Bangs that come down too low onto the face will keep light from getting into the subject’s eyes, the very most important part of the face.



Try to blend your eye makeup so that there are no sharp demarcation lines between colors. Please avoid white above or below the eyes. It does not photograph well at all. Too much color above and below the eyes attracts attention to itself so don’t overdo it. It actually takes attention away from the eyes, rather than attracting the viewer to the eyes. Try blending your foundation at the jawline, so that there is no demarcation between the face and the neck.  Check this website for more tips on makeup for pictures http://www.cosmopolitan.com/style-beauty/beauty/advice/g1591/makeup-to-look-good-in-pictures/


Have a necklace for the kids to play with or hats to hide behind. Not only can accessories add a whole lot to your outfit but they can be fun to use in photos. Have your husband wear a tie so you can run your hand down it.  Have your son wear a bowtie so he can straighten it and bam what a great shot.