How to curate the best outfits for your photo session

golden hour family session motherhood
mommy and me motherhood session golden hour

As a photographer, I’m asked a lot of questions about my job and what it entails, so on and so forth. I think one of the most commonly asked questions I get is what on earth should I wear to my family session? I get it, we’ve come a long way from those all black shirt and denim days of the 90’s and early 00’s, times have changed right? Don’t worry, I always give my clients a wardrobe guide with some of my favorite brands and styles to choose from, as well as open communication all the way up until our session date. I figured this is something a lot of people worry about for their photos and what better way to address it than a post here. This advice can be applied to couples, families, branding, you name it.

The first thing I always say to my clients is that you chose me for a reason. Something about my photography connected for you and you wanted to work with me. Awesome! So much of my style revolves around the time of day I shoot, the locations I choose, and the outfits I encourage my clients to wear. The outfits you choose should reflect your style, your energy, and most of all feel authentic to you and who you are. I feel most comfortable and confident in certain colors and fits of clothing, and I’m sure that’s true for you too. However, not all items you own in your closet should be in a framed enlargement for years to come. Here are some ground rules and considerations for choosing your outfits.

The Basics: Keep it simple

I love a good band shirt; I own so many and I feel super comfortable in them. However, I know that my family photos wouldn’t look super awesome with a huge Smashing Pumpkins logo distracting the eye from what really matters: me and my loves. So first guideline is keep is simple. Avoid those distracting elements like logos, words, graphics, etc. The goal is to have your clothing compliment your skin tone, environment you’re shooting in, and season. If you are, for instance, shooting in a forest with heavy greens in the background, I strongly suggest you avoid colors that clash with green, or evoke a certain holiday for instance. If you’re going for a monochromatic look, awesome! Just keep in mind your location and the time of year, as all of those colors could change depending on the season.

Colors and Textures to Consider

Colors I always encourage: neutrals, creams, whites, beige, tan, etc. these are universally flattering shades for all skin tones and work with every background and environment. As pictured in this gallery, you can see how the tones all work harmoniously to allow the eye to fully enjoy the energy between each subject.

Muted earth tones such as greens, tans, browns, & oranges, for example are all complimentary colors and work together to create a balance we see in nature. Below is a great example of earth tones working for multiple skin tones.

The fabric you decide to wear is also important! If you’re in the forest, going for an earthy look, natural fibers like cotton, linen, etc look right at home, while silks and satins can elevate for a more sophisticated look, both would look fantastic in that setting. Polyester, or super tight lycra for instance, would look out of place and unusual (unless you’re going for a very editorial look, then that’s a whole other ball game!).

Patterns & Prints

Listen, I’m not trying to get you to look like you just escaped a cult in an all white outfits, trust! It’s important that you look like yourself in these photos. However, not every color and pattern looks good together, so often it’s really important to keep your outfits clean and simple and let the connection be the focus.

Just as important as colors are patterns. If you are wearing a patterned dress for instance, I would suggest you keep your partner and kiddos in solid, patternless clothes. This way, neither pattern is competing for attention. Similarly avoid overly matching outfits, and instead opt for complimenting choices that work together to create a visual narrative that allows your energy and connection to be the focus. Below is a great example of wardrobe choices that include pattern, earth tones, and solids.

What to avoid when choosing your outfits for your session

When choosing your outfits for any kind of photo shoot or session, especially if you’re booking with me, whose editing style focuses on very earthy, ethereal, romantic aesthetics, I always say to avoid the following colors.

  • Neon Colors
  • Bright reds (holidays are okay!)
  • Bright primary colors
  • Bold pinks
  • Yellows (for my melanin-challenged clients)

That’s not to say that you won’t love a good pop of color! Below are some of my favorite photos of an engagement shoot I did in Sleepy Hollow on the Hudson River, NY where my gorgeous client wore a pink dress. In person, this dress was super vibrant and bright! I loved it in person, but with my editing style, it needed some muting down.

I hope this is a no-brainer, but please no athletic wear, leave the track suit and sneakers for the gym.

Just remember that these photos are an investment, and hopefully something you’ll enjoy for years to come, so it’s best to plan your outfits ahead of time and with your photographer’s editing style in mind.

Here are some of my favorite clothing brands to consider when investing in your wardrobe. If you are shopping on budget, remember that these are only some brands that I love consistently, and you can easily find similar styles and with a similar aesthetic for less at stores like Amazon, Target, Old Navy, etc.

Joyfolie

Rylee & Cru

Quincy Mae

Baltic Born

Lulus

Trust the process, communicate with your photographer, and most of all, find something that feels most like you. Did I miss any great clothing stores in my list? Let me know in a comment below!

xo

What to Wear for Your Photo Session

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Kathleen Whittemore

Wardrobe Guide

April 12, 2022

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