Breaking All the Rules | A Clothing Guide For Portraits

You’ve all heard the phrase “rules are meant to be broken.” I don’t know who said that first, but it probably was someone that was instructed to wear matching striped sweaters with his sister for the family photo session.
While it’s true that there are certain guidelines to acknowledge while choosing clothes and accessories for your session, keep in mind that these rules might need to be re-introduced in a fresh new way.

“Matching is best.”
Coordination, yes – matching, not so much. What you’re looking for is a pattern of color that flows evenly between all members of your family, subtly tying everyone together. Pick a core color, an accent or coordinating color, and let each personality shine brightly with a mashup of variations of shade and style and even patterns. Contrasting colors are even a go as long as they compliment one another (hello, coral and navy or mint and golden yellow). And yes, I am fully aware of the contradiction present in that previous sentence 🙂 But it’s true. Contrast is very different than clashing. Be colorful, not garish. Oh, and white t-shirts and jeans? They are a thing of the past, and that’s a very good thing.LauraKathrynPhotography_family_photography_children_portraits (6)

“Neon and bold are fun.”
Not for your skin tone, they aren’t. Reserve the “hot” shades for accessories that are further away from your skin, especially your face and neck (like shoes or a belt) The brighter the shade of color, the more it can potentially reflect against your skin in all the wrong ways. Plus, it can distract from the most important element of the session : you. Keep the tones of whatever colors you choose soft and subtle, with pops of color. Also, be aware of your surroundings. Are you posing in front of a red barn? Think twice about picking red as your primary color without some quieter shades to soften things up.LauraKathrynPhotography_Maternity_portraits_pregnancy_photography (3)

“Layers looks too fussy.”
No, they add texture. And texture adds interest in all the right places. This is pairing heavy knit sweaters with crochet lace and corduroys and leathers and tweeds and cottons. Get the picture? (pun intended) Sometimes simple is all you need, but don’t be afraid to add layers and pieces with interesting details (like bows, buttons, ruffles, etc.) That way, you can shed an outer piece of clothing and have a slight variation to your session without having to change your entire wardrobe.

“Shoes don’t matter.”
Yup, they do. Unless you’ve signed a contract in blood that states the photographer shall not photograph you from the knee down, a full length photo is bound to happen, and your sneakers aren’t going to look pretty with that dress. Keep it comfortable if you’re going to be walking or playing (i.e. lifestyle shoot), but appropriate to the style  (and season) of your session. And unless you’re going for a Huck Finn look, some type of shoe is almost always the best idea.

“Tighter clothing makes my body look better.”
Clothes that FIT make your body look its most attractive. There’s a difference. Super tight apparel can be distracting no matter what your body type is. We want the photos to be about the love and emotion inside the frame, not the physical aspects of the photograph. So loosen up. Literally. And you’ll move with more ease and confidence if you’re not  constantly struggling with a shirt that is making you self-conscience. Find clothing that you can comfortably sit, squat, reach, kneel, and lie in.

“Clothing is incredibly important to a photo session’s success.”
I just spent 30 minutes writing a blog post about clothing, so obviously it has some importance. But put into the right perspective, it really isn’t the main deal. I mean, c’mon – if you have kids, you know something is bound to happen within the first 5 minutes of your session that will most likely ruin a carefully planned wardrobe. Someone’s going to fall in mud, spit up, poop – you know I speak truth. Or Aunt Marty is going to show up in a garish purple sweater that she insists looked red inside the dressing room.
So keep the guidelines in mind – it’s always wise to have some sort of direction when planning what to wear. But at the end of the day (or the session) your smiles and your hugs are what is going to be amazing. A good outfit will only serve to enhance all the things you hold dear.LauraKathrynPhotography_family_photography_children_portraits (3)Find more tips and tricks to your best session ever with this previous post, Eight Things Your Photographer Wants To Tell You.


  1. cottagemom says:

    Your article was super fun to read and so well thought out. This is a great go-to for planning a family shoot. You have so much talent! Loved all the pics!!!!

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