Nov 29, 2007

What to Wear to your Photo Shoot

Marchet Butler offers advice on what to wear for your your Milton, Alpharetta, or Roswell GA photo shoot

Picking the right clothes is one of my most frequently asked questions. Here are three simple methods for deciding what to wear to your Alpharetta, Milton, or Roswell photography session. (This is basic advice for family and group photo shoots, but much of the advice can be applied to individual shoots as well.)

Method One | Use One Central Piece

Step 1: Keep in mind where you will be displaying your portraits

Think about the areas in your home you will be hanging your finished portraits. The family room? Bedrooms? Going up the stairs? Use the décor in that area inspire you as to the style and color of your outfits. Now you are ready to start.

Step 2: Choose clothing for one person first

You can get a great look by building your clothing around one person's outfit that goes well with your décor style. It's usually best to start with the person in the group who has the least amount of clothes or who is hardest to pick an outfit for. Look through their closet for a great piece you want them to wear for the photos. You might also consider buying an outfit for that person and going from there. In the above example, mom wanted to wear this great patterned top with a jacket and jeans.

Step 3: Build the rest of the group's outfits based on the first person

Now that you've got one person's clothing done, you can build the rest of the group's outfits. For this family, I helped choose colors for the kids' and the dad's outfit based on the greens, whites, and blues in the mom's shirt. Notice that mixing solids with patterns and prints is okay!

Method Two | Pick a Color Scheme

Another method is to pick a color scheme for your group clothing. As in method one, keep in mind what rooms you will be displaying your portraits in. If you want to hang your portrait above your mantle in the living room, look at the colors in that room to inspire your outfits.

Option 1: Neutrals like jeans, grays, browns, blacks, creams, etc. are always a great way to start building your family photo shoot's outfit. This season, you can easily pair your neutrals with leather, animal prints, metallic accents, and fur.

Option 2: A pop of color mixed with neutrals helps your portraits have more personality and flair. This is one of my favorite ways to build on option 1. The pop of color could be a scarf, a pair of shoes, a tie, belt, or necklace -- or all of the above -- on top of neutral colors.

Option 3: Deep, rich jewel tones like ruby reds, royal blues & purples, emerald greens, teals, burnt oranges & yellows are great in fall and winter seasons. These may easily be mixed as long as you stick within the same intensity of color. For example, it would be inappropriate to put one person in a light blue shirt when others are wearing deep jewel-toned shirts. That poor guy in the light blue shirt would stick out like a sore thumb!

Option 4: Bright, vibrant colors like reds, oranges, greens, and blues are happy and eye-catching in any portrait. You can mix and match colors as long as you stick with the same general color intensity.

Option 5: Monochromatic color schemes (shades of the same color) are a classic way to make your group look cohesive. Be aware that the "white shirts and khakis" option is dated, so even if you go with a monochromatic color scheme, you are going to want to mix it up with different pieces so each person looks a little bit different.

Method Three | Go with a Theme

I'm not suggesting you dress up for your photo shoot like you are going to a costume party, but a well-chosen theme can inspire accessories, hairstyles, props, and the general look of clothing in a shoot.

Season-conscious photos like fun chunky sweaters and winter hats with personalities can really set the scene for a shoot, especially if you are planning on mailing holiday cards this winter. Also, remember that you don't always have to get your family photos taken in the fall (or whenever you generally have them taken). I plan on having our family photos taken twice a year -- during the spring and during the fall so we aren't wearing the same type of clothing in every portrait.

Your shoot location can inform the type of clothing you wear. If you are shooting at an urban back lot, you may want to go for a contemporary look. Shooting at a historic site with a lot of texture? Consider something less flashy and more neutral or monochromatic. Feel free to ask me about what sort of location and attire would be appropriate for your Alpharetta or Roswell family photography session.

Vintage-inspired looks like Victorian, 40s, or 20s are trending now. Do you already have a vintage hat or prop? You'd be surprised how one piece can transform the look of an outfit. I love how this authentic 40s hat transforms any boy into a little Frank Sinatra.

Final tips to remember when choosing what to wear

Stick to one style
Make sure everyone in the group is wearing one style of clothing such as classy (formal wear, suits, dresses, etc.), casual (shorts, t-shirts, sandals, etc.), or contemporary (a mixture of classy and casual--like a dressy top with jeans and heels).

Avoid shirts that are totally white or very light pastel
Shirts that are totally white (unless paired with a vest or jacket) tend to get washed out in a photograph, especially when outdoors. Avoiding pastels is just my own preference. I don't think pastels are especially complimentary in my style of photography.

Keep patterns to a minimum 
Smaller patterns on part of an outfit look fine, but keep it to one or two people in your group. Patterns should compliment each other, not draw attention away from the main subject of the photo, you! Colors don't have to match, but they do need to go together. Clothing from the same color pallette or based on colors in one outfit tend to create a cohesive look without feeling too "matchy." I love fun and vibrant colors; they help the portraits "pop" off the screen or print, but remember, the emphasis of the photos should be on your faces, not your clothing.

Think about shades of black and white
Since your images will include images in black and white, you will want to think about how your outfits would appear in those shades. This is an especially important rule! Remember to keep intensity of colors similar. Don't let someone wear a light-colored top when everyone else is wearing dark-colored top.

Keep in mind where you are going to be shooting
Are you going to be indoors or outdoors? Is the area paved, muddy, rocky, or grassy? What kind of colors would look best in that setting? If you will be outside, it's a good idea to wear clothes you would be comfortable sitting on the ground in.

Bring accessories and props that pull together the outfit 
Using props and accessories is a good way to get different looks out of a single outfit. Think about things that characterize you and your personality: scarves, shoes, items from your line of work, hobbies, and interests. Watches tend to be distracting in photos, so if you usually wear a watch, leave it in your car.

Maintain fingernails and toes
Often, we will take photos of details like hand-holding, rings, and family feet! Remember to clean and trim nails for these shots. For feet, if you have matching shoes or shoes in the same shade, that's a plus. Of course, I love bare feet too if the whether is warm or if we are inside.

Empty pockets
Take keys, phones, wallets, and change out of pockets. I've made this mistake before and had to Photoshop out the pocket bulges. I hope to never do that again (grin).

Take off glasses (if you want)
If you wear glasses, you can choose to wear them or go without them in the photo shoot. I favor going without--and don't worry, I'll edit out any redness around the nose where the glasses usually sit. My least favorite kind of glasses are ones with transition lenses. No matter what the lighting situation, transition lenses do not look good. If you have an alternate pair of glasses, contacts, or can go without, I would suggest doing so for our photo shoot.

When you book me as your Alpharetta, Milton, or Roswell family photographer, you are always welcome to an over-the-phone consult about what to wear to the shoot. I've often help finalize outfit choices in person. Looking for more? Another great page about clothing choices is at Koren Reyes Photography with more examples and photos about clothing choices. I'm also a fan of Polyvore's trend list.


  1. Hi Marchet,
    Thanks for the shout-out and the link to my site!
    I really appreciate the credit.
    Koren Reyes

  2. Koren -- You're welcome! You really have a great resource. I've had many of my clients use this page (and I'm sure yours) to prepare for their shoot.

  3. Thank you for the great advice! It really helped although my significant other is dragging his feet when it comes to fashion. : )

    Thanks again!!