Lens to Life

The Best Clothing for Portraits

We are often asked ‘What is the best thing to wear for a portrait session?’  Obviously the most important thing is that you feel comfortable in what you’re wearing, that way you will be more relaxed and this will show in the images taken.  However to get the best photos possible, especially if it is a group being photographed, we offer the following tips.  Please check out the list below of what we suggest you wear and why.

  • wear solid coloured clothing so that all faces can be seen 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 colours 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 🙁
  • choose 1-3 colours for your group portrait, ones with similar tones that go nicely together and have everyone work within that colour 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 colours 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 jewellery 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 hair cuts 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.

An example of when things are not working so well: 


Note the many different patterns and colours.  You find your eyes being drawn to the clothing and away from the people’s faces.

An example of a good colour pallet:


The one thing which we would note in the image above, is that maybe it would be
better if the lady wore long sleeves, as your eyes are drawn to her being the lightest object.

Some more good examples.