What To Wear For A Photo Shoot
Outfit selections for an upcoming photo shoot can add a lot of stress to a day that should be fun. Whether it's an engagement shoot, family session, or branding shoot, here's my best tips to help you look and feel your best.
There's a lot to consider when deciding what to wear for your photo shoot, and the clothes you wear can make or break your entire photo gallery. You want to look polished and confident and you want your clothing to work for you in all the right ways. Let me tell you, it is a terrible feeling when you receive your photo gallery and hate your outfit. Outfit regret is real, but it's also avoidable!
You want to look amazing, but most of all, you want to feel amazing, because if you don't feel incredible- it's going to show in your photos!
While I have my list that I go through with all of my photo shoot clients, I also reached out to five local photographers to include some of their insight & expertise on outfits as well. Not surprisingly some of the top questions they're are asked before a session is about what the client should or shouldn't wear, and this guide will help answer all of those photo shoot outfit questions!
Photo by Sarah Beau Creative
You want your imagery to be timeless, apply that same logic when selecting your outfits! - Sarah Beau, Sarah Beau Creative
The goal of any photo shoot is create a picture that is seamless and cohesive and to tell a story about who you are and/or what you do.
Here I have outlined the process and steps I go through when selecting the wardrobe for either a professionally styled shoot or for my personal styling clients. These steps will help you narrow down your wardrobe to ensure your beauty shines from the inside out and avoid any outfit related regret.
The very first step to selecting the perfect wardrobe for your photoshoot is to plan ahead! Start one to two weeks before your session to give yourself time to try on different outfit combinations, doing this will ease a lot of the stress that often comes with an upcoming shoot. Plus, if you find that you need to purchase anything, you will have the time to do so without feeling additional pressure.
Tip: Try on every potential outfit to ensure that it fits properly, and that you love the way you look and feel in it. Be sure to check for any pulling fabric, stains, and wrinkles.
Also, take a mirror selfie in your outfit. Seeing the outfit in a selfie will give you a good idea of how it will translate in a professional photograph.
The worst is not planning out ahead of time...but trying on and packing the night before to make sure everything is feeling good, will help a lot the next day. - Jacky Boulloigne, Detoured Creative
Photo 1 by Jill Miller Photo for Detoured Creative and Photo 2 by Detoured Creative
Consider your location
The location will help you determine the overall feel of your photos. Do you want a cozy at home feel? Urban and cool? Airy and outdoors? Farmhouse chic? Dark and moody? Upscale glam?
If you're not sure what you like, start by looking at the galleries from different photographers on Instagram or Pinterest- bookmark (or save) the images you love, then go back and see what they have in common. From the lighting, to the outfits, to the location, this will give you a good sense of what you like. (Little side note- this will also help you decide which photographer to book because you know that their style is exactly what you want to achieve)
Once you have settled on your location, you can determine what style and colours of outfits you should wear.
Tip: Working with the colours and overall feel of the location ensures that your photos will be frame-worthy. For example, If you want a cozy, casual feel, perhaps shoot at home or in a show home. Keep your outfit casual and comfortable and use a similar colour pallet as the space that you'll be in.
Select your outfit first
When it comes to couples, families or team photo shoots, I always start with the woman's/bosses outfit first. Why? Two reasons- you need to have one outfit to work around, this is the anchor look, and typically, this outfit is the toughest to select. Secondly, with couples and families, when it comes down to it, the woman is the most important *wink*
Photo by Captured in Amber Photography
I generally recommend that the person planning the shoot or booking it chooses their outfit first (they generally are the parent that cares the most and is less likely to think about themselves first). If they build off everyone else's outfit and leave themselves last they often wear something they are not that excited about. - Amber Stallard, Captured in Amber Photography
When deciding on what you'll wear, it's important to know what you feel amazing in and what works great for your body (what styles show off your favorite areas?).
You need to feel: Comfortable. Confident. Beautiful.
If you aren't feeling those three things, it'll show in the photos because you'll be thinking about your outfit, adjusting, pulling, and likely feel insecure. When you are feeling comfortable, confident and beautiful, you'll stand straighter, smile with your eyes, be relaxed and present, and be able to enjoy yourself...without even thinking about it!
Tip: Start with what you already own! Take a look at your closet and pull out the items you feel the best in- what do you have that makes you feel confident, sexy and powerful, and consider using that!
Ensuring that we are creating a cohesive photo where we feel confident & comfortable, the colour palette you go with is important!
Again, select colours that work with the location or venue that you choose, but also consider what you plan to do with the photos if you print them so that they work nicely in that space.
Let's also consider what colours you feel best in!
What colours do you wear most often? If you don't ever wear white, neutrals, or tans, let's stay away from that colour palette. I love to wear white and feel like I photograph really well in it, so I often use it in my shoots. Some people love to wear blue because it makes their eyes pop. Some love pink. We want to integrate those colours into your photos because you already know that you love them and it's a true representation of your style.
Photo by Heima Photography
If you prefer a light, natural feel to your photos, choose a light palette of whites, neutrals, textures, subtle patterns, soft florals or a simple stripe. If you prefer a moodier feel with more depth, choose a palette mixing in medium to darker pieces, balanced with neutrals and textures, subtle patterns, soft florals or a stripe. -Breanne Heidrich, Heima Photography
Now black. Who doesn't love to wear black?! However, this has two sides to the coin- sure, black can be slimming, but black photographs very flat, which means it takes away detail and shape. That said, if you wear black every single day, let's use it, but in the right way. Let's make it work for you, rather than against you!
Here's how to make black work for you:
Wearing a black top with a coloured or patterned item over (cardigan, blazer, airy kimono, jacket, or a scarf) is a great way to keep your silhouette looking sleek and trim, but you're still bringing in some colour.
Same as above, just vice versa : wear a coloured or patterned top with a black item layered over.
Tip: Using textures like lace, knits, silk or leather photograph beautifully no matter what the colour is. Textured materials add depth and dimension, rather than looking flat and dull.
Photo by Detoured Creative
If my client doesn't wear much colour we find other ways to incorporate it with what we have in our environment! - Jacky Boulloigne, Detoured Creative
Pattern is a great detail to incorporate in your photos! There used to be a time where pattern wasn't recommended, but it is a great way to add interest, personality and dimension. Similar to what we've already talked about, if there is a specific pattern you love and wear often (polka dots, florals, plaid, etc), feel free to utilize it in your photos.
If the shoot is for more than one person, keep the patterned pieces to just one or two- we don't want the 90's look where everyone is in the same outfit. The goal isn't to be matchy-matchy, it's to be coordinated and cohesive. So feel free to have one person wearing a plaid shirt, and maybe another wearing plaid or striped pant or shorts. Or if you want to wear your favorite floral blouse, maybe your spouse, child or colleague can wear a subtle stripe.
If pattern isn't your thing, using different textures is another easy way to add interest to a photo. As mentioned in the previous section, think about using knits, touches of lace, silk or leather.
Layering your clothing acts in a similar way to pattern and texture where it adds a beautiful element to your photos. It makes adding in colour or texture a lot easier, and when done correctly, it is very flattering.
So what's the right way to layer? There's a couple things to consider:
Light weight materials will help ensure that you aren't creating a sausage effect. You don't want to look like you're stuffed in there and unable to move.
Two to three layers max. Think of a pretty cami and a blazer, cardigan or jacket. A t-shirt and an open button-up shirt overtop. A tee and a hoodie is a great casual look (and my favorite for kids).
Keep your layers slim and streamlined rather than using too much volume. When you layer volume on volume, you're creating more volume. This doesn't mean you need to go tight, just don't do a loose top with a loose jacket and loose pants. Instead, go for a slimmer fitting top tucked in (even if just slightly tucked) with a looser fitting item layered over (ie. a kimono or cardigan).
Scarves are an easy and effective way to layer! Make sure the scarf is season-specific (a big wintery scarf will look out of place if it's clearly spring time), and that the colours work with your palette.
Tip: Layering allows you to easily switch up your look by removing or swapping an item. This will give you great variety in your final photo gallery!
Photo by Sarah Beau Creative
A great thing at brand sessions is layered outfits, such as incorporating a jacket or anything that can add function to the outfit and variety for shots! - Sarah Beau, Sarah Beau Creative
Accessories & Props
Accessories are used to complete an outfit and add polish. Props are used to not only add a personal touch, but also give you something to hold on to or adds movement to a photo.
Jewelry for women is always an easy, pretty way to polish off an outfit. If you don't typically wear jewelry, even a simple, basic chain or delicate earring can go a long way. If you love jewelry, feel free to layer up two delicate necklaces and a drop earring. Keep in mind that you don't want your jewelry to steal the show, so maintaining the cohesive mindset will help guide the way!
Photo by Sarah Beau Creative
Accessories can include a small handbag to hold or tuck under your arm, a jacket or sweater to drape over your shoulder or hold in your hand, a belt, hats... Anything that A) works with the overall vibe of the shoot and B) is true to your style (if you love hats, bring a couple!).
Let's also not forget about the use of props. Things like books, flowers, a laptop, or food and/or drinks. If you are a charcuterie and wine lover, bring it along. If you have a deep love for Oreos and milk- use it! Anything that you do in your everyday or work life, bring it along.
Shoes are often a forgotten detail until right before you head out the door. Select your outfit from head to toe and ensure that the shoes mesh with your outfit. You don't want the colour or condition of your shoes to be the focus of the photo, so make sure they're clean and create a cohesive look.
If kids are involved, bring some suckers or other treats that A) they'll love, B) will distract them, and C) still look cute in a photo (things like yogurt tubes or other messy snacks may not be the best). You can also bring a favorite stuffie to help them feel at ease, and will be a great memory of that item.
Photo by Captured in Amber Photography
Accessories and props are a great way to incorporate who you are, and what your life is like to create a truly unique and authentic photo.
Hair and Makeup
Whether you typically do your hair and makeup on a daily basis or not, these elements are a must for photos. It doesn't need to be a lot, we want you to look like you, but ensuring your complexion looks great, you have some colour in your cheeks, and your eyes look awake and pop- a little makeup goes a long way.
If you're comfortable doing your own hair, that's great! Whether you go all out with curls, do a simple straight look with a flat iron, or say you know how to do a killer braid, putting in that effort will ensure you're camera ready!
If you opt to have your hair and/or makeup done professionally, talk to the artist about what your daily routine is and that you still want to look like you! Bringing along photos of makeup looks or hairstyles you want, always gives the artist a really clear idea of what you want to achieve. This also helps remove some stress from your day, and makes it more of special treat as well!
Photo by Heima Photography
An often forgotten detail that Amber Stallard from Captured in Amber Photography reminded me of is to make sure your hands (and possibly feet) and nails are clean and recently trimmed. Your hands are almost always going to be a part of the photo, and chances are there will be some closeups! So make sure you moisturize, and keep those nails looking nice!
Kids & Spouses
When it comes to spouses and children, it seems to work best when you select 2 or 3 options for them to select from, and try to work in one or two of their favorites. This helps them feel like they have some control over what they're wearing.
With kids specifically, if you force them into something they don't want to wear, it will be a terrible process getting ready for the shoot which isn't a good place to be. And believe me when I say that it's just not worth it.
Spouses tend to be a bit more easygoing, but it's important that they also feel comfortable, confident and amazing. If they aren't too opinionated about what they wear, suggest a few different combinations and let them make the final choice.
Photo by Heima Photography
Just do you!
Whether you're doing a shoot for your engagement, family photos, branding or team photos, the most important thing to remember is to do you! These photos should be a true reflection of who you are. Wear your favorite outfit, do your hair, let other's in the photos select their outfits as well. You want to look like you in your photos in an natural and authentic way.
Photo by Substance Photography
The best choice is wearing something you feel comfortable and fabulous in! - Lindsay & Jamie, Substance Photography
What to avoid :
There isn't a lot to avoid, but some details just don't photograph nicely. That said, there is always an exception to every rule! Here's a quick list of outfit details or items to avoid, as well as some exceptions to each:
- Clothing with large logos or words. Exceptions to the rule : If you are doing a shoot to advertise for the company, or the text on the clothing is a message that you want viewers to see (ie. if it's a quote, or on-brand word or phrase)
- Clothing that is too tight. When trying on your clothes ahead of time, make sure that the material is laying flat or draping nicely. If it's too tight across your shoulders, arms, bust, midsection, hips or thighs, your clothes will pull or ripple, which brings the attention right to that area. Also, this isn't something that can be easily photoshopped.
Exceptions to the rule : Unless you're modelling bathing suits, there aren't any exceptions to the too-tight rule.
- Very bright or very contrasting colours. Bright clothing tends to reflect and affect your skin tone and the items around you. Contrasting colours can be great, but can also create a very choppy effect. If you love black and white, use textures, patterns or layers to create flow, rather than harsh lines.
Exceptions to the rule : If you're doing a branding shoot and your brand is all about bright, fun colours.
- Big bold patterns. Big, bold patterns tend to take center stage and become the focus of a photo, but we want you to be the focus of the photo. Exception to the rule : If you are selling or modelling the item with the pattern.
One final tip!
Every photographer I talked to commented on the benefit of bringing a couple of options, this especially rings true for branding photography. However, when I book my family for a shoot I make sure that we all have 2 different outfits and take a break to change.
Whether you do a complete wardrobe change, bring a few different tops and accessories, or want a quick change with jackets or sweaters, having a few items on hand ensures you make the most of your session by giving yourself some variety to work with!
We always recommend bringing lots of wardrobe options to a shoot. That way we can help them choose the outfit that best suits the setting. - Lindsay and Jamie from Substance Photography
As you can see, there's a lot that comes in to play when selecting the outfits for your photo shoot. While it does require thought and intention, is shouldn't be overwhelming. Simply give yourself a couple weeks to prep and keep these tips close by to reference, and you'll have a photo shoot wardrobe that is amazing!
Remember : Select outfits that are comfortable, that you feel amazing in, and that are a true reflection of who you are!
If you're still feeling lost, stressed or overwhelmed, I'd love to chat with you! You can connect with me via email or Instagram, or for information on Photo Shoot Styling, click here to see the outline of styling services.
Photo by Substance Photography
You deserve to absolutely love the memories we will create in your session, and your outfit should be the last of your worries. - Breanne Heidrich, Heima Photography
Thank you to the incredibly talented photographers that took the time to answer my questions for this blog post on how to select your photo shoot outfits. In alphabetical order:
Captured in Amber Photography - Amber Stallard
Detoured Creative - Jacky Boulloigne
Heima Photography - Breanne Heidrich
Sarah Beau Creative - Sarah Beau
Substance Photography - Lindsay & Jamie