What Should I Wear For Portraits?

It’s a question I get fairly often: What should I wear for taking portraits?  It’s not quite as easy a question as you might think.  So I’ve decided to sit down for a few minutes and write down the response I tell those who ask me this question.

What Should You Wear for a Portrait?

To be perfectly honest, there are no set rules for what to wear.  There are, however, some good guidelines to help you decide what you should wear for a portrait shoot.

Choosing Colors

One of the easiest starting points in deciding what to wear is to choose colors.  I am not a fan of everyone wearing the same exact color.  While you may like that idea, there is nothing wrong with choosing colors from the opposite sides of the color wheel (complementary colors).  If you want to wear the same color, you might want to consider choosing colors that are adjacent to each other (harmonious colors).  Most people have a pretty good idea of what color combinations work for them.  If that’s the case for you, then go with your instincts.  For those of you who may not have a clue about complementary or harmonious colors, I’ve found this easy-to-use online tool: Color Scheme Designer 3.  It allows you to get a general idea about different color combinations at the click of a mouse.

Avoid Patterns and Logos

Logos are not good because they can date very quickly.  Busy and high contrast patterns create too much visual noise and distract from you as the main subject on the photo.  Skinny stripes should also be avoided as cameras and screens don’t like them.  If you must wear a pattern, try to limit it to just one piece of clothing (for example, combine a solid colored bottom with a patterned top or vice versa).

Wear Denim

If you’re not much of a fashionista and prefer jeans, then please wear them.  There is nothing wrong with wearing jeans for a portrait.  Jeans have been around since the 1850’s and, in most cases, are timeless.  Combine them with a smart top and some accessories, and you’re sorted in no time!  Please avoid wearing more than one piece of denim clothing…Unless you like the 80’s look.

Dress for the Same Season

For family portraits (or any group photograph) make sure you’re dressed for the same season.  It looks odd if one person is wearing a jacket and the other person is wearing shorts and a t-shirt; unless that’s exactly the effect you’re after.

Think Layers

Layered clothing works really well.  It’s the easiest way to get varied looks from your portrait session without having to worry about finding a place to change.  Wear a jacket and a top underneath, or wear two tops one under the other.  Throw in a hat and a scarf and you’ve got many different looks!


Bring your kids’ favorite toys, wear or bring scarves, necklaces, earrings – whatever you love, anything that’s unique to you, your family, your kids.  For children’s portraits, please bring a couple of their favorite toys (or have them at the ready if the portrait session is taking place at your home).  Not only are they a great prop for your kids portraits, but it will also make it easier for me to gain your kid’s trust before the session (show me a kid that wouldn’t want to talk about his or her favorite toys!)

Allow Your Child to Wear PJs

Don’t try to push your kids into wearing more formal clothing; in fact, casual works much, much better for both their moods and the final output.  If they want to wear their pajamas, then let them!  You won’t get anything good out of them if you force them into that pretty outfit you had prepared.  After all, in photographing your child you want to capture their personality and how they are at this moment in time – and it’s those unique shots you will come to treasure as they grow up.  Also please remember that we may sit on the pavement or roll in the grass and do some crazy stuff, so choose your child’s outfit accordingly: you don’t want to ruin a very expensive one.  Just saying!  (Remember, dirt is good!)

It’s All About YOU!

Wear something you feel comfortable in, something that makes you feel gorgeous and confident.  If you do not normally wear little dresses and high heels – it’s probably not a good idea to wear them on the day of your portrait session.  And remember: if you must wear something that I said you shouldn’t – then by all means wear it!  It’s your portrait session and you should have fun with it!

Still Not Sure What to Wear?

If you’re still stuck, and can’t choose between several outfits or not sure whether your colors will work – bring them along (or have them ready if the session is taking place in your home), or take some snaps and email me the pictures – and I’ll help you choose the ones that will work best in photographs.  And finally, think about your walls…Are you planning to order a large framed print to put on your wall?  What is that room’s color scheme?  Can you find clothing you can wear on the day of your photography session that would complement your interior?  Or are you redecorating soon?  If you have an interior designer working with you, talk with them to see what ideas they may have.  Or if you would like for me to speak to them before your photography session, I’d be happy to do that so we can style your shoot accordingly.  If you don’t have an interior decorator, don’t worry, just talk to me about what you’d like and together we can work out the best solution.