What to wear is the number one thing that people (read: women...it's almost always us girls) stress out about when they decide to get professional photos done. I have friends who go into full panic mode every year and spend hours and hours on Pinterest trying to figure out how to make everyone “flow” without being “matchy matchy”. It's so hard to know what you a) Can actually get someone else (read: spouse/partner/child) to wear and b) Will not make you cringe when looking the photos ten years from now. I get it! I’ve been there, too! Oh, how I've been there. The advantage that I have now is that I've seen lots of people dress for pictures and I've got a really good understanding of what works for images that are best for my style of photography.
There are a few things that I would say if you were looking for some guidance in this area. Feel free to take it or completely ignore it. It’s just my two-cents about some things that I’ve noticed work well and not well with my style of photography. I'm guessing that if you have booked me, you like my style and are hoping for bright, glowy, vibrant, fun, warm, joyful images such as the ones that I work to create! If you are more drawn to dark and moody images, that's cool! However, keep in mind that a totally different set of rules (and a different photographer) apply :)
So, here we go!
1. Bland is good. As in pastels and neutrals. I know: So blah! But think about it...should the focus be on what you/your partner/family are wearing...or on their sweet faces and the personalities that shine through? You don’t want the clothing to be a distraction or take your eye away from what really matters…the people inside the clothes. So, connected to that...
2. Bright is bad. Bright orange, bright green, bright red…bright anything. They cast color on the face and that’s hard to edit out and not very attractive. There will be an orange cast to your kid’s skin of he wears bright orange. And, again, it takes the eye away from what really matters.
3. Consider the patterns. Too many can be problematic. Again, they draw the eye away from what is important and create visual confusion, like the patterns are fighting with one another (which might make an interesting video game, but is not what you want in your pictures).
4. Baggy is rarely attractive. Neither is too tight. Those are Rules #1 and #2 of "What Not to Wear". Size doesn't matter...but fit really does.
5. Be comfortable but step it up. You want to be able to move around and not be miserable...but still put together. Not sweatpants and t-shirt comfortable. More like favorite-outfit-when-I-want-to-look-really-nice-comfortable. I love yoga pants too...but they don't make for pretty pictures. Jeans are great and often what we feel like is most "us", but consider stepping it up a level to a nice dress, shirt, or jacket. Everyone takes selfies when they are dressed up to attend a wedding, right? It might not be our everyday wear, but is it our "I look great wear"?
6. Dresses. Dresses on girls and women always look good and always create a lovely mood, so even if you and yours aren’t “dress girls”, you may want to consider it. Whether it is long and flow or short and sassy, a dress adds a polished element to the image every time!
7. When in doubt, go white! If someone is really pale and under harsh lights, white can be really bad. Like ghost bad. But, in natural sunlight with even a touch of color, white is beautiful!!! There is a reason why brides wear it on wedding days! It makes us glow!
8. Avoid the black hole. I love black. I looooove black! It's slimming, it's classic, it's edgy! I love dark colors in general. BUT...in images, dark outfits can really detract from that bright, light, joyful, warm style that I try to achieve.
9. Don’t forget the accessories…especially if it’s a little something that makes you YOU.
10. The most important thing is that everyone feels good about how they look in what they are wearing. When we make an effort to look good…when we leave the house thinking, “I look GOOD!”, that shows up in the pictures. We stand differently and smile differently when we are confident. Wear something that gives you (or your spouse/partner/kids) that feeling.
Now that we have a few suggestions in mind, let's see them in action!
Meet the Callas!
Say hello to Sarah, Tish, Jeremy, and Lauren (from left to right). Aren't they the cutest??? This sweet family was so fun and game in offering to help me put some of these ideas into visual form so that you can see the difference clothing makes to the picture! Let's take a look!
Obviously, this family would look adorable in anything and they look super-cute even in shorts and t-shirts. This would be a sweet picture to post on FB or Insta, but is it the sort of picture you want after spending the time and money on professional photography? The clothes are comfortable and lighter in color, which is great, but probably too casual for the sorts of images you want to create.
Again, they are sooo cute...but there is a A LOT going on here. The lighter colors on Jeremy look great, but the clothes are very casual. More importantly, though, there is Just. So. Much. Color. Your eyes right away go to what they are wearing, rather than to their faces. Not our goal.
Tish and Jeremy look really nice here! Jeremy has pants on instead of shorts, so it's a little more polished looking and his shirt is light in color, which helps with the bright look. Tish's dress is simple and neutral and fits perfectly (isn't she gorgeous???) and the girls have on dresses and rompers and so are a bit dressed up and not overly casual. But Lauren's romper is a bit dark for the kind of style that may have drawn you to my work and there is a lot of visual confusion between the strong patterns in her outfit and in Sarah's. Again, here, your eyes might be distracted by the outfits and focus there first, rather than on the people in them.
Everyone looks great here (I'm loving Tish's dress, especially!), but the picture seems kind of dark, right? It's the same edit and same exposure as the others, but the dark clothing really makes a difference to the look of the picture and is more suited to the dark and moody style of editing than to the style I shoot in (and which was probably one of the reasons you booked a session with me).
Now we're getting somewhere! Not a lot of prints to compete for attention (just Tish's super cute top), and the girls look really glowy and gorgeous in white! There is a bit of color drawing our eye to Jeremy's shirt, though, and while everyone looks comfortable and cute in jeans, I think we can do better...
Ok now we're onto something! Jeremy and Sarah give the picture a lighter look in pastels, neutrals, and whites, and there is only one pattern here so no pattern-fighting going on! While Tish's and Lauren's dresses are colorful, they work nicely together with the separation between them of Jeremy and don't overpower the eye. They look comfortable but also really nicely put-together and gorgeous! This would be a great choice for a photo session, especially if we changed it just a bit and had perhaps only one person in a pop of color. Definitely really good, but...
#GOALS. Here we've got light colors that compliment but don't distract the eye, great fit in the clothing, and a really put-together look! While it may be dressier than we'd ordinarily go, they look absolutely amazing and your eye goes right to their gorgeous faces because the clothing enhances rather than distracts. And let's not forget those great accessories!
The overall tone is everything I try to capture in photography...bright, vibrant, warm, and joyful.
So pick your favorite! In all of these, we have the same super cute family, the same background, the same settings, the same editing...so...which picture do you think is the most beautiful? The one you'd want to hang in your house and share with everyone you know on social media? That, friend, is the answer of what to wear to your session :)