Mixing prints works well when we stay in the same color tones!

Clothing choices should reflect the clients personalities!

A similar pop of color bonds a group together!

Bright colors work! Don’t be fooled into thinking you need muted tones!

Shoes matter!

The best thing a client wears is a smile!

One question every portrait client asks is, “What do I wear to my photo shoot?”

It’s a great question and the answer will change depending on what type of shoot the client is preparing for. For this post, let’s talk about portraits in general. In another post we’ll tackle fashion, headshots, and boudoir!

If your client doesn’t ask, go ahead and bring up the subject. Why? The honest answer is, no matter how amazing a photographer is, clothing can make or break the portrait. Guiding our clients is part of our job!


A good portrait will be about the people in the photo, not about what they’re wearing.

I know, you’re thinking, “Wait! What? I thought you were going to teach me what clothes I should recommend my client wears, and now you’re saying it’s not about what they’re wearing? Are you nuts!!?”  Well yes. A little, but I digress. Sometimes the clothes can say things about your client that they may not have considered. Graphic tees often have text on them that can and will define the photo. This can work for or against your vision. People are drawn to the written word and faces in photographs. I’d rather the people in my photos aren’t competing with their shirts for attention. But if it’s a kid with a shirt that says, “AWESOME!” on it, I’m game!

As the photographer, it’s your responsibility to guide your client toward the right choices to achieve the look you’re aiming for.

We  want the clothing on our clients to represent who they are; the portrait  we create with them is a reflection of their best selves. In the preplanning stage for the shoot, I like to ask my clients for cell phone pics of the outfits they’ve chosen. If the colors don’t work well with their skin tones, I’ll recommend colors that do. It’s important to work with your client to choose clothing that fits their body type and skin tones.


Color choices matter!

I’ve seen so many guides that tell clients to wear only muted tones, and just as many that say to wear bright colors in order to stand out from the background. Really, either work. The important factor is that the tonal range stays constant if you have more than one client in the photo. We don’t want everyone in pastels and then Great-Grandma Edna is in her gold jumpsuit and red converse. Edna’s going to stand out. If your clients are people that normally wear bright colors, by all means, then they should all wear bright colors. I have an entire Pinterest board dedicated to color palettes that work. Click here for Color Ideas! Feel free to share! As long as everyone stays in the same range, they’re golden! (Like Edna)


Never, never mix prints!

Never mix prints. Have you heard that before? Don’t believe it! You can go to my Pinterest board for some good examples and ideas on how to effectively mix prints to add interest and a sense of style to your shoot. Click here for Mixing Prints! Do I love Pinterest? A bit, yeah.

Finding out more about our clients is another great start to helping them come up with good wardrobe choices.

Some great questions are, “What’s your favorite feature?” and “What’s your least favorite feature?” Let’s use these answers to play with the wardrobe! Wear neutrals and darker clothing near the areas we want to fade into the background, and add some POP with accent colors to have our best features stand out! Asking shows the client you care, and it’s as important to you as it is to them to look great in their portraits. Many clients take issue with their upper arms. This is easily fixed with wearing clothing with at least ¾ sleeves.


What about shoes? Do they matter?

Heck yes, they matter! Do they have to be new and shiny and perfect? Nope! Remember, what we’re going for is a total cohesive outfit that shows the client’s personality. I do try to steer clients away from bright white shoes with jeans. They white draws attention, and unless we’re selling the shoes, there’s no reason we ever want them to be the focal point. If the client is wearing dark pants, then they must wear dark shoes AND dark socks!

Anything else?

Absolutely! As the photographer, you should always bring safety pins, a tape roller, bobby pins, a comb, clean hairbrush, hairspray, wet wipes, paper towels, lens wipes and a good two sided tape. I keep these in a kit I bring with me to every shoot. Sometimes pinning a shirt behind the client at the waist will make such a huge improvement in the overall shot, and all it takes is a tiny piece of metal. Your client may have pets, and their pet’s hair came along for the ride. Get rid of it before the shoot, not after.

Remind the client to bring everything ironed. It’s also a good idea to recommend the client bring at least a second outfit.

In the end, regardless of how many guidelines you give your client, they will show up in what they felt was their best outfit. Keep your comments positive, because, after all, the best thing they can wear during the shoot is a happy smile!