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What to Wear to a Portrait Photo Session


What to Wear Tips for Dressing Well for Your Portrait Session

What to wear to a portrait photo session can be an incredibly stressful decision-making process.  The pressure to look effortlessly coordinated, as well as chic, can make your head spin. It’s hard enough to pick out what to wear yourself,  let alone the whole family. Finding a balance between style tips and your own personality is possible! Keep reading for style guidelines and tips to have you well dressed and able to focus on having a great photo session.

The color wheel is your friend.

An easy photo session style tip is to refer to the color wheel when picking your clothing palette. A color wheel can help you nail down what colors will look great together and which ones will clash. The last time you saw one may have been elementary school but nothing has changed about the colorful circle. Take a look at these options, curtesy of Brightside.me:


If you refer to the graphics above you will see that the colors are arranged in a circle. Sitting opposite of each color is a color that complements it, a complementary color. A familiar combination is red and green. They are opposites on the color wheel and when you put them side by side they POP! Color wheels range from very simple to extremely detailed and complex. A quick internet image search will put these helpful color guides at your fingertips.

When you discover all the nuances and variation of each color you can easily refer to its opposite and complementary color when deciding what route you want to go for your photo session style. Use the wheel to see a variety of colors in the same color family (blue, navy blue, cornflower blue, etc).  Maybe you want all the members of the family to pick the same color family but not the same shade.  A color wheel will help you nail down the different hues for each member of your family while easily seeing their compatibility.

Neutrals are also your friend and pair well with color and pattern. Neutral colors are beige tones, navy blue, black, white, and gray.

Choose a person to be the style center.

A photo session style tip that will help you find a starting point in deciding what to wear is picking a person to style the session around. Style mom first. Consider the color of her outfit and pick the others to complement hers in formality and color scheme.

Complement each others’ styles and colors.

An easy style tip for your portrait session is to avoid overly matching outfits. It’s a tempting prospect for a family to communicate to each other that what they will be wearing for a portrait will be one uniform style.  For example, a white shirt and jeans. It’s easy to say, “Okay everybody, be there and have on a white shirt and jeans.”  What may happen here is someone may show up in an off white shirt. In the finished portrait the poor soul in the off white shirt looks a little like a yellow tooth in a mouth full of super white teeth.  Another issue that may arise is that each shirt style can range from dressy to a t-shirt.

In most cases, when people follow guidelines and style suggestions to complement each other’s look through color schemes and pattern rather than trying to all wear the same color, the result will be a fantastic portrait that you can look back on with happiness.

Flatter your figure.

Women come in all beautiful shapes and sizes.  When you learn how to dress your figure it’s really amazing to see what the right cut and shape of the clothing can do for your form. This is quite obvious when you look back at photos of yourself.  It is worth asking yourself whether the outfit you have picked for the photo will flatter your form. Some clothing that looks great in person may not translate well in two dimensional terms. Patterns that are beautiful in person may be overwhelming and distracting in a portrait. Sleeves are flattering and forgiving.  Garments that fit your figure well will always be more attractive than something too billowy or too tight.

Style tips and rules don’t stop with the clothes.

While dressing for a photo session you may want to follow some guidelines concerning accessories.

Is your statement necklace going to be a beautiful, bright addition to your outfit or a distraction from your face?

If your photo session is outside, and with the possibility of lots of movement, will these accessories allow you to move the way you need to move to get a great photo?

Think practically. I like lip gloss. It looks great on, but if you have long hair you will inevitably have strands of long hair on your lips too as hair really seems to love lip gloss. Beautiful? Yes. Practical? No, not really.

Will your fabulous earrings be a shiny pull cord for your child that you will be holding?

Is that outfit appropriate for an outdoor session?

Are you comfortably dressed up or having to limit the ways you can sit and bend over due to your outfit?

These things will be factors you will want to consider. Confidence looks beautiful.  Don’t dress yourself in an outfit that will distract you from what is important, being present and fully engaged in taking a great photo session. So, look good, and most importantly – feel good.


Thank you for your time!

As always, thank you for reading my blog! I appreciate any comments and suggestions about the blog and welcome any examples of how these tips may have benefited you or someone you know! And, of course, feel free to ask any questions. For more photo session style tips please sign up for my monthly newsletter this month.  April will include a free downloadable style guide with tips to help you look and feel your best while having your portrait taken.

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