By: David Hamilton
June 30, 2021
My biggest challenge over the years has always been choosing the right clothes, especially when I knew that I was going to be photographed.
Everyone always wants it to be perfect regardless of whether you’re the one in the photos or looking at them a decade later. Maybe this is the exact reason I prefer to be behind the lens rather than in front of it most days!
It seems that the question lies with “How can I dress myself without being filled with regret for years to come?”
Well, let’s start with three basics.
What’s the first thing you do before you get dressed to go to work? Check the weather!
Think about what is going to best suit you in the temperature and weather (regardless of whether the session is indoors or outdoors). You need to be comfortable! If you’re not, I promise that it will show at some point throughout your session. Don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting swimwear or a winter jacket (unless that’s what you’re going for) but get creative!
For example, on this chilly yet sunny winter afternoon, we had a beautiful couple that was well-prepared for the weather. They both chose clean and textured sweaters that were able to balance out the cold while also looking fashionable. The texture turned out to be wonderful when it came to the close-up shots during their engagement shoot!
I’d strongly suggest staying away from clothing that could show dirt or sweat, especially for an outdoor shoot. Anything that can fit in this category will allow you to get just a bit more out of the time you have. When you have kids, going this route will save you plenty of time and money if they decide to start playing with that mud puddle you’ve been keeping an eye on since you arrived.
Footwear definitely shouldn’t be overlooked either. It may not appear in most of the photos but it could still determine the outcome of your whole session. If you’re not prepared and wanted to walk into a field, walk out onto some rocks in a river, or climb a tree, you’re likely going to get hurt in sandals.
Now that you’ve considered what’s going to surround you, think about the colors you want to wear and how they will look against your background and alongside any other friends or family.
Don’t go overboard, keeping it simple can make for some of the most beautiful pictures! Unless of course this is for your holiday card and ugly Christmas sweaters are a requirement. Make sure you stand out though, you and anyone else there are the subjects at all times (most likely), so you want to make sure that you don’t blend in with, for example, the trees behind you. So yes, ghillie suits are also out.
Matching is also a term that is often used when it comes to taking photos with others. One thing to note is there is a VERY significant different between matching and coordinating. Make sure that when you and anyone else being photographed are choosing your clothes, you’re not choosing the same thing unless it’s intentional. If you do, you may not be blending in with the background but instead you will be blending in with each other. The most beautiful family photos out there are ones where each individual is unique, well-dressed, and also fits in with everything else in the frame.
The style of clothing can be vastly different depending on the type of shoot as well. In maternity shoots, you will often see flowy dresses, somewhat loose clothing, and very light colors on the mother. Comfort and beauty can be equally balanced and it makes for the best photographs. Babies often go shirtless or in a diaper and even those come out incredibly cute. In the Fall or Spring you’ll often see sweaters because they’re both flattering and comfortable. As you can see on the right, it not only looks great but it also makes the picture feel warm and cozy, which perfectly fits this couple’s style (something we will take a deeper look at).
I know you’re probably wondering how to handle the massive struggle of choosing just one outfit. It’s a hard decision with even more stress if you’re paying good money for these photos. Well, one question that may be critical to ask is making sure you have the option to change outfits during the session. It may chomp away at your allotted time but in longer sessions it may be worth it to assure you have options.
If your photographer isn’t willing to accommodate wardrobe changes, bring some alternative accessories! A change of shoes, a hat, a special necklace, or even a belt or scarf could make a world of difference. It’ll give them a reason to get some beautiful close-ups with smaller items and it could drastically change the final photos. Make sure to let them know if something has sentimental value. Sometimes photos may last longer than the items themselves!
The last thing you will want to see in your photos is someone other than yourself. Every single person has their own unique style and yours needs to be incorporated regardless of what anyone tells you.
Give some good thought to this question: How would you describe yourself or your sense of style?
Vibrant? Make it pop! Wear bright or unique colors.
Classic? Wear a suit or a nice button-up with nice pants.
Neutral? Consider some muted colors or darker colors that go well together.
Don’t go crazy spending money on clothes if they don’t fit your style either! Many people are working within a budget and get creative. I’ve seen someone get married in a $12 button-up shirt from Kohl’s and another wearing a Rolex. If there is a look you’re going for be sure to exhaust all of your options to find compromise before forcing yourself to splurge or go without. With so many online retailers like Amazon, Target, and Old Navy, sales are left and right most days and if not you can almost always find a knock-off that will suffice for a few hours. Every piece does not have to be perfect!
Make sure you dig through your closet too. You’ll never know what you’ll find! Your photographer may be able to help along the way as well. Some will often learn about your style and offer suggestions with consideration for what other clients have done in the past. This will also help your photographer plan to make sure your style is emphasized by theirs.
Use every resource you’ve got if you’ve got the time to do so and I promise you will be happy with the results.
For more information and in-depth resources, read this wonderful article published by Click Magazine that will likely answer countless questions and offers insights from other photographers!