So you’ve booked a family or engagement session (hooray!!) and now you’re tasked with the difficult decision…. “what the heck are we going to wear?!” I am often asked for tips on what to wear for upcoming photo sessions – whether it’s a couple planning their engagement session or a family preparing for their first session with little one(s)! Having now been photographing couples and families throughout New York and Connecticut for the last decade, I am soooo happy to help guide you in the right direction when it comes to preparing for your portrait session – especially now as we head into fall, the busiest time of year for portrait sessions here in WNY! And today I’m sharing 5 things to think about when choosing what to wear for your upcoming portrait session.
5 Tips For Choosing What To Wear For Your Upcoming Family or Engagement Session
Post & Images by Dawn M Gibson Photography
1) Consider the season & location of your photo session
Aside from dressing appropriately for the temperature and weather conditions of the day, it’s also helpful to consider the color palette of the season and also the location you’ll be in for taking photos.
For example, I highly recommend choosing colors that will compliment and not compete too much with your surroundings. For this reason, moody, dark, earthy or rich colors work great for fall, especially when including colorful foliage (think emerald green, dark blues, dark reds, rusty orange, mustard yellow, etc). Winter is also a great time to mix in the moodier colors (like deep reds and those stunning greens!), especially in contrast with fresh fallen snow and lush pine trees. In spring, softer colors (like pastel pinks and blues) accentuate the romantic feeling given by soft cherry blossoms and blooming tulips. And in summer, pretty much everything goes – soft colors, rich colors, and even bold, vibrant & playful colors. And if you’re looking to keep things classic with a greater emphasis on what’s most important in the photos anyhow (your interactions of course!), then you can never, ever go wrong with dreamy neutral colors and tones of brown, beige, cream, black, white or grey.
Aside from season, I also suggest you think about the location of your session when choosing your outfit. For example, if you’re in the woods (mostly earthy greens and browns), this will be very different from a beach setting (mostly blue water and beige sand), which will be very different from an urban setting (which could be red brick, grey concrete, or any variety of colors in between). And in urban settings, since the backdrops are endless, I might even suggest we go somewhere that will compliment your attire, which will make for an even more appealing visual image. Win, win for all!
2) Coordinate, but do not match exactly.
I, personally, am not a fan of everyone wearing the same thing in portraits and am always going to recommend people come coordinating but not wearing the same thing. This is because if everyone is wearing (for example) jeans and a white t-shirt, it may make it hard to distinguish one person’s body from another. But also, from a visual standpoint, it makes a rather flat looking image, without any subtle hints at each individual’s unique style and personality.
Instead, I always recommend couples and families select outfits that compliment and coordinate with one another. If you start by selecting one person’s definite outfit choice, and go off that for pulling everyone elses’ outfits, this will make things even easier for the decision making process. This is exactly what long-time client, Holly (owner/designer of handmade clothing of Nelly Lou), does when selecting the outfits for her and her family’s portrait sessions:
I’m normally all about being super matchy-matchy with my daughter. But when it comes to our family photos, I prefer for us to coordinate with each other, not match exactly. I usually start with one piece - whether it be for my outfit or my daughters, that I know that I definitely want in the photos. Then I pick out the rest of our outfits so that the colors compliment each other but not match exactly. I then like to tie it all together with little details. For example, this year we all wore shades of brown for our shoes, and my daughter and I each had ruffles on our outfit. – Holly
3) Make sure you are comfortable in what you’re wearing.
This is a big one that many people over look. If you ran out to buy something new just for your session, and thought in the dressing room “this looks great when I stand just like this,” I know in your head you’re also thinking “I’ll just be sure to stand like this the whole time.” If either of the above are true, I’m going to suggest right now you scrap that outfit or item as an option. If you don’t feel confident in your outfit when you are sitting or standing or moving all around, then chances are you’re going to be self-conscious about how you look during the session and that is the last thing we want. Similarly, if you constantly have to fix a shirt or pull up your sleeves, or cover your bra straps, then you might want to scrap that option as well. I want your mind to be fully present and engaged with your love(d) ones, since our goal of your session always is to create beautiful photos that capture your connections and natural interactions. So choose something you can put on and forget about, so you can be 100% focused on each other!
4) Dress in a style that is true to you – in other words, be yourself!
I know often there is this feeling like “oh, I need to wear a fancy dress for our session,” or “wow, jumpsuits are so in right now I should really wear this for our session.” But the truth is, when you wear what you would usually wear or better yet, what you WANT to wear (and not just what “everyone” else is wearing or saying you should wear), you’re adding an extra special layer of authenticity to your photos. AND you’re going to feel so much more like yourself in front of the camera, too. So if you wear crazy floral prints all the time… girl, bring that in to your photos and wear a floral print. Or if you’re a jeans and a t-shirt type of couple, who’s to say you can’t just wear jeans and a t-shirt to your session? I’d rather have you both looking good and feeling most in your element than to see you all dolled up when neither of you dress that way. On the flipside, if you do dress up all the time and want to be dressy for your session, that's perfect, too! You do you all day long!
5) Consider the details from head to toe!
Little details do make a difference, too. Do your shoes somehow coordinate or match? Do you reaaaaaalllly need to wear the baseball hat for this photo session? Will the long necklace you’re wearing really add anything to the photo or will it just keep moving all around and potentially bug you later if it didn’t stay in the center of your chest? And do you really want to have that fitbit or watch in the photos later on? Whatever you decide, again: always do you. But be sure to think about them ahead of your session, too! And ladies, in case you do forget, don’t worry I’ll always be on the look-out to make sure hair ties are removed from your wrist! ;-)
Lastly, not so much an actual tip but a suggestion for all my clients: When in doubt – send it out!
I’m more than happy to give you my feedback on your outfit options/selections ahead of our session! It gives me an idea of what you’re thinking and may even inspire me to take you to an alternate location that would compliment your outfit selection even more! But most of all, getting feedback from me is guaranteed to put your mind at east having another persons’ opinion! So feel free to shoot me a text or email with your outfits and I will always be more than happy to give you my honest feedback!!
If you’re still with me, thank you soooo much for taking the time to review these tips and suggestions. I hope I’ve covered any questions you may have and look so forward to photographing you and your loved one(s) soon!!