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Get The Most Out of Your Portraits: Part One, Clothing

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People almost always ask the same question when it comes to portraits—especially family portraits: “What do I wear?” Well, the answer to that question is never really cut and dry. And, in fact, the question actually inflates itself to something much more important: “What can I do to get the best pictures possible?”

Over the next few weeks, I will be detailing some tips to help you come to your portrait session relaxed and comfortable, and most importantly, ready to help create something special. In this post, we’re going to discuss clothing, which can has a bigger influence on your photographs than you might think! So, without further adieu, lets get started.

Picking Your Colors

Selecting the colors for you, you and your spouse, or you and your whole family, can seem a bit mysterious for some people. Here’s a few tips to make things easier.

1. Avoid extreme blacks and extreme whites. While excellent images can be captured in dark blacks and bright whites, the greatest versatility comes in colors that fall between that spectrum. For example, instead of white, try beige. Or instead of black, try dark grey.

2. Green is a no-go. If you’re shooting outside, avoid dominant use of the color green. When wearing green and shooting outside, it can be easy to get lost in the setting. In addition, light bouncing off the shirt will often leave a green glow on faces which is generally not desirable.

2. Avoid overt coordination. You know the pictures where the whole family is wearing white shirts and blue-jeans? While they have their place, and some great photographs have been taken with that style, these images have a tendency to miscommunication people’s personality and therefore lower the lasting quality of the images. We believe natural is best, so let aesthetic diversity flow and avoid too much blatant coordination.

3. Go for printed fabrics. For women, blouses and shirts with prints can be an excellent choice, and offer the opportunity to coordinate in more meaningful ways. For example, if you choose a shirt with a blue, green and brown print, have the other people in the portraits choose clothing that makes use of some of those colors as well. The results will be a subtle and pleasing coordination that doesn’t call so much attention to itself that you get lost in the image.

Stay Casual, Stay Comfortable

For most portrait sessions, casual is the way to go. Here are a few places this becomes especially important.

1. Couples. When it comes to natural interactions between couples, mirroring an ordinary situation goes a long way. This means don’t dress up like you’re going to the prom. Stay casual. Think about what you might wear on an afternoon date, or out to the movies.

2. Teenagers. Teenagers usually have their own style, which sometimes seems weird to us (and in 10 years, probably will to them also), but their fashion is often a big part of a teenager’s identity. If you want your pictures to be authentic, allow teenagers to use their own fashion sense to help design their outfit—but keep a close eye. If the fashion trend is too extreme, the photographs won’t age well.

3. Children. Don’t over-dress your children! Children are already going to be on guard. Usually they’re out of their element and somewhat nervous about the stranger with a giant camera. The photographer’s report with the child is extremely important in capturing great pictures of them. Keeping them comfortable and casual will help them to let go and have fun with the photographer. But most importantly, this will also mean more natural and longer-lasting photographs.

Keep Things Timeless.

Fashions change constantly. There’s no way around that. In 25 years, when you look back at these photos, you will undoubtedly see a difference in the fashion. But, by keeping things neutral—in a fashion sense, timeless—the photographs will age much better. If you choose your outfit based on all of the hottest trends in fashion, you run the risk of your photographs becoming a joke with time. Allow yourself to infuse some modern trends into your outfit, but keep the best of it timeless. Your photographs will age more gracefully and when you look back, you may know they era they came from, but at least they won’t make anyone laugh.