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“What should I wear?”

One of the more common questions photographers hear when booking or discussing a portrait session.

Here are a number of suggestions that I find work well:

Bring in different options of clothing. This way you will have different ‘looks’ from a number of shots. Don’t wear very bright or light colors, both of which draw the eyes to the clothes instead of the people wearing them. Beware of bold stripes, checks and other prints as these will distract away from the people as well and don’t always look good in a photograph. Dark colours tend to slenderize the subject, especially when the background is a darker colour.

For a family shoot, don’t dress in matching outfits. Do wear colours that go well together. Decide whether the basic tone of clothing is going to be warm-toned (browns etc.) or cool-toned (blues/grays/blacks etc.), always remembering that the mood of the of the portrait should be followed by all the individuals in the portrait. For example, if one person is wearing a dark suit, another is wearing a pullover, and another is wearing a silk blouse, the overall result will be drastically reduced – even if they are all in the same color tone. It’s best if everyone dresses either casually or dressy. The choice is up to you, but it must be consistent!

If you dress formally on a day to day basis or are comfortable dressing that way and want to convey that image, then by all means, dress to impress. But if you and your family are more accustomed to wearing jeans vs button up shirts and a suit, then please dress this way. Both you and your family will be more comfortable and it will show in the photos. Short sleeved shirts will show more flesh in a photo and can be distracting. If possible wear a long sleeved shirt.

One suggestion to feel relaxed is to bring your own props and accessories that have special meaning for you, such as a favorite stuffed animal for a child or even the family dog. Someone that loves music may bring a guitar, or a chess player may want to have their favourite board in the shoot.
People who wear eyeglasses often ask if they should wear their glasses in a family portrait. The answer: it depends. The lenses in the glasses can cause glare in a photograph, so you can try borrowing a pair of try-on frames from a local optical shop. However, some people are not used to looking around with their glasses off and will have a squint in most photos.