So....You Have Booked The Family Portrait! Now What?

March 12, 2014  •  Leave a Comment


The Clothes You Choose Can Make Or Break The Portrait!

What you are wearing in a portrait is an important detail that can be overlooked if not discussed. Poorly selected clothing can really take away from an otherwise really great portrait.  

The reason why photographers make suggestions to clients on what to wear is;

  • to make the people the main subjects
  • to flatter the subjects and help make them look their best

Poorly chosen clothing, can result in just the opposite of all those things; 

  • Clothing that stands out so much you hardly even notice the people
  • Arms, legs or tummies that look less than flattered and people that are unhappy with the end results
  • Clothing that takes so much attention and draws your eye around that it becomes more about the clothes and a fashion photo that it does a portrait of the people in them

So what IS the best thing for people to wear?

  • Wear solid colored clothing so that we see all of your faces and no one person stands out. If you wear stripes or flowers, you will stand out from the rest of your group.
  • Choose muted tones that are a bit subdued so that you are the subject not your clothes and you don’t stand out from the group. Bright colors project (especially reds, oranges, and yellows), which also makes you look larger.
  • Choose similar tones for your top and bottom (both dark or both light) so that one doesn’t look bigger than the other.  White top, dark pants will make your top look bigger.  White pants, dark top will make your butt look bigger.
  • Try to stay away from everyone all wearing white shirts.
  • Choose 1-3 colors for your group portrait, ones with similar tones that go nicely together and have everyone work within that color palette. For example: dark green, navy, and burgundy – all dark jewel tones.  OR tan, a lighter olive green, and denims – all lighter, softer tones.  So that we see the people first and your portrait looks stunning. Wedding group photos look so good because they’re all wearing the same colors and the people stand out!
  • Choose a top with sleeves at least to the elbow  because your arms take up more skin area than your face and will draw attention and it may also make your arms look larger
  • Choose long pants for men/ladies or a skirt below the knee for ladies so that your legs don’t take attention from your faces, and you will be able to sit and bend without showing too much leg
  • Choose dark socks and footwear (unless it’s a barefoot photo on the beach) because white just sticks out like a sore thumb and that’s all you’ll notice in your portrait
  • Keep jewelry simple and minimalistic because too much draws attention from your face
  • Do your hair the way you’d normally do it while wearing these clothes – no fancy up dos with jeans, no pony tails with evening gowns, etc. This is common sense, or so you’d think, but I’ve had ladies go to the hair salon and get fancy up dos then show up in jeans and a t-shirt.  It just simply doesn’t make sense cause you wouldn’t normally do that to put on jeans and go to the park for a BBQ or something. So tell them “it is because your portrait will be more timeless and represent more closely who you are, not just what you look like.”
  • If getting a haircut or new hairdo, make your appointment at least 2 weeks prior to your portrait session – again this seems like a no brainer but you’d be surprised! Fresh haircuts rarely look their best the same or next day. Ladies need time to practice working it, men need it to grow out just a little. Allow some time to live with your new look before your portrait session.

Following are examples of clothing that really does not and does work well in the photo;

Here is a group portrait from a wedding, not planned so they were wearing what they were wearing. However, it illustrates a wide variety of colors, patterns and styles and is just all over the place. Your attention is more drawn to the clothing than the people’s faces. portrait-clothing-001

Example below has too many colors and patterns and is a real distraction. This post is really helpful if you're not sure what to wear for family photos! By Laci Davis Photography.

In this example the clothing is coordinated and much better. Only suggestion would have been for the woman to have worn 3/4 length sleeves or even short sleeve. Notice how much attention her arms get?  For her that’s fine, but for someone self-conscious about their arms or their weight, this will make their arms look larger.


Here are 2 more examples where the colors of the clothing blend together and are not a distraction. portrait-clothing-006

Pinterest is a great place to get ideas from. I have started a “Pin Board” for suggestions and examples of what would look good for family portrait color schemes. For more information, go to; 

Thanks for reading my blog!



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