What on earth are we going to wear?
Not long after scheduling a professional photography session, this dreaded question arises. Undoubtedly, you know the basic portrait rules: that you can’t go wrong with solid colors; that you don’t want 40 photos of Aaron in his day-glo Sponge Bob shirt; and that huge bow on Violet’s heard will draw attention away from her sparkling hazel eyes. But where do you go from there? And what traditional portrait wardrobe rules are meant to be bent, if not entirely broken? And what about dressing the entire family? Worry no more – that’s where this guide enters the, ahem, picture. So sit back, enjoy a little light reading, and get inspired! The result will be fresh, classic, yet distinctly modern portraits that tell the story of your family.
Many simple wardrobe options result in the gorgeous and popular bare belly shots. Try a fitted tank top and low-waisted yoga pants (black looks especially sleek). I also like to use fabric wraps to add elegance to maternity shots. Be sure to avoid tightly-fitted elastic waistbands and socks for a few hours before your shoot to prevent indentations in your skin. Wristwatches are also best left off for the session.
For newborn sessions, two key wardrobe questions significantly affect your resulting images. First, what will the baby wear? And second, what will we wear? That’s right, mom and dad . . . you will be in some of the photos as well, even if you are just a “backdrop” to the star of the show.
Newborns are absolute perfection when they wear nothing at all. Shots with a bare bottomed baby in mom or dad’s arms are breathtaking. Long-sleeved black shirts for mom and dad provide a sophisticated, dramatic “backdrop.” For variety and some fun pops of color, I also like to use colorful swaddling blankets that give the images a personal touch. You may have other clothes to put on baby, but keep in mind that baby may get grouchy when there are too many clothing changes.
star of the show
A wildly-patterned pair of cargo pants and a hipster tee. Her funky hot pink tutu and cowboy boots. His “superhero” cape. Individual shots give your child a chance to show his or her personality through fashion. Without the concern of clashing or competing patterns that exist in a family shot, the possibilities are limitless! Look for clothing that is bold and colorful, with a lot of texture. Clothing that has texture like knitting, embroidery, dark faded denim, buttons, and ruffles, tend to photograph better and add more visual interest.
Flowing white shirts and khakis on the beach. Navy polos and yet more khakis all around. We’ve all seen those photos – heck, most of us have been in those photos; however, coordinated, but “not uniform,” looks for families create a much more pleasing photograph.
Moreover, coordinating a look is not as difficult as you may think. The cardinal rule for a family portrait wardrobe is simple: choose items for the group as if you were creating one outfit. If each person were to wear all your color choices, would the result be pleasing? For those who are hesitant to break away from the monochromatic madness, choose one simple patterned item (for example, a print dress for your daughter) and then select the rest of the family’s clothing from complimentary colors.
Wardrobe choices for sibling shots, like those for family images, should be complementary but far from “a matching uniform.” A tried and true formula for a boy/girl sibling duo includes a patterned dress or skirt for the girl, with the boy in a solid shirt pulled from that pattern. If the little girl is wearing a solid shirt with a patterned skirt, have the boy’s top match a different color in her skirt, so that their shirts don’t match precisely.
While many parents have the urge to put their boys or girls in the exact same outfit, mixing it up a bit —while still creating a pleasing overall combination — creates a considerably more interesting color palette and image.
putting it all together
Now that you know the basic wardrobe tips for various types of portrait sessions, how do you put it all together? Start by defining the style sensibility you want your portraits to reflect. Do you want to capture your typical style, or perhaps a more formal or casual version of that? Look at your furniture or a magazine spread that catches your eye. Get inspired! These preferences will reflect your own style and point you in the right direction for your wardrobe choices. Following these simple rules will result in elegant portraits that tell the story of your family.