Tips On What To Wear For Portrait Photos

Photo by Parker Burchfield on Unsplash

The choice of clothes for your portrait subjects should be an important aspect of your photo shoots. Telling your models what to wear can be a touchy subject, but you shouldn’t avoid it because the wrong clothes can easily affect your portraits and make them less professional.

In this article, we’ll discuss the basic dressing rules which will help you understand what colors and cuts can make your models look their best!

1. Do Clothes Really Make The Portrait?

While clothes aren’t the most important factor in portraiture, you should be aware that they are as important as the other parameters such as lighting, location and posing. Even if everything else is chosen perfectly, poorly selected clothing can take away from an otherwise amazing portrait.

The well-chosen clothes should flatter the subjects and help make them look their best. At the same time, clothes shouldn’t be overly flashy since the main subjects of your portraits should be people, not clothes themselves – unless you’re shooting fashion photography!

2. What Colors, Cuts And Makeup To Choose

Picking the colors of clothes for your models shouldn’t be too complicated. Solid colors are always a good and safe choice and the same goes for muted tones that are a bit subdued – such tones can fit any kind of subject.  Of course, if your model wants to make a certain statement, you can pick more vibrant colors or more avant-garde color combinations. Such unusual options work great when it comes to portraits of artists.

When it comes to picking the right cut of clothes, be aware that the majority of people don’t look like models and their clothes should match their body type.

It’s usually a good idea to choose tops with sleeves at least to the elbow, long pants for men and ladies or a skirt below the knee for ladies. Your models will probably look their best in dark socks and dark footwear unless you’re shooting an informal outdoorsy session.

3. More Specific Clothing Options For Portraits

Now we’re going to cover a few more specific scenarios where the typical dressing rules might not apply:

Group Sessions And Family Photos

Shooting group portraits is often very stressful (everyone has to strike the right pose!) and choosing the adequate clothes can be a little tricky as well.

As a rule of thumb, you should choose 1 to 3 colors for your group portrait, ones with similar tones that go nicely together. Then you should have everyone in the group pick the clothes within the chosen color palette.  For instance, grayish green, navy, and burgundy go well together and the same goes for tan, olive green, and denim color. You shouldn’t mix soft with vibrant colors if you want to achieve a balanced look and sense of visual unity.

Keeping a group dressed in similar colors focuses the attention to the faces and individuals that make up the portrait. On the other hand, dissimilar clashing colors in groups tend to be more distracting.

Maternity Sessions

When it comes to maternity sessions, the goal is to show off the beautiful baby bump – everything else is secondary!

Maternity portraits look stunning on a solid black or white backdrop, with a mom-to-be wearing the matching clothes – black from head to toe or a flowing white outfit. Another great option is a simple black or white button-down top in which the bottom area can be unbuttoned to expose the baby bump.

In case a father-to-be is also attending the session, he should wear a similar outfit – simple white or black clothes are the best options!

Clothes For Babies

You don’t have to worry much about clothes for newborns since they probably look their best in their natural element – naked!

Of course, if you still want to dress them up, solid pastel colors are a great choice. Parents should feel free to bring any kind of prop that they want to be included in the shot, but the colors of these props should be as neutral as possible.

If you often shoot newborns, it can be really useful to buy some props (hats, toys, stools and so on) that look rather subtle and professional.

Clothes For Kids

Portrait sessions with toddlers and older kids can be either fun and unconventional or stylish in a classic way – it’s up to parents and to kids themselves to decide

The choice of clothes for children should match the overall mood of photos – solid colors work best for posed studio sessions, while silly color combinations and patterns might be a great option for outdoorsy shoots. Accessories such as hats, sunglasses, boots, blankets, and jackets are great additional details that can emphasize the personality and quirkiness of the kid you’re photographing.

Practical Clothing Suggestions For Your Portrait Photography

To sum it all up, check out this list and make sure that clothes of your clients meet the most important criteria:

  • Dark clothes will make people look more slender – this can be very useful
  • Light clothes can look beautifully fresh and they ideal for children and fit adults
  • Prints and patterns are usually not a good choice
  • Ask you clients not to wear too many accessories
  • Pay attention to glasses especially if you’re shooting with a flash
  • Make up, hair & nails matter a lot – hire a stylist if you client wants to look impeccable
photo by shamim nakhaei
Photo by Shamim Nakhaei

No matter who is your client, always remember that it’s your job to help people look their best in the portraits you take!

If you want to learn more about portraiture and clothing for portraits, feel free to check out the following links!

Further Resources:

  1. 4 Reasons Why You Should Use Props In Portraiture
  2. Bite Size Tips – Capturing Classic Portraiture Compositions
  3. The Difference Between Environmental Portrait And Portraiture
  4. Clothing Suggestions For Your Portrait Photography Session
  5. What To Wear For Portraits
  6. What Wardrobe Is Best for My Headshot

About Author

Jasenka is a photographer with a background in web design. You can find out more about her on her website, see some of her newest images at 500px or get to know her better here.

Capturing clothes for babies is the most difficult task I face while covering the baby photoshoot. Thank you very much for sharing the detailed article.
It gonna help me in capturing professional photos.

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