Watch the video for an expanded explanation of the following few tips when deciding what to wear for your next photoshoot, or read the transcript below. Click here to view the sample outfit gallery used in the video.

What to Wear for Your Portrait Session

At a Glance:

  1. Determine your color palette.
  2. Throw a pattern up in there.
  3. Determine trendy versus classic.
  4. Don’t forget the details (accessories).
  5. Clothing is only part of the success of a photoshoot…show up ready to have fun and connect with the people you love most. The rest will come!

Read the Transcript:

Hi, I’m Jessica Roark, owner here at epagaFOTO, and if you are watching this vlog, chances are good that you have just booked a portrait session with us and are asking the question: what should I wear and how can I prepare for my shoot? Which we get a lot. The reason I’m making this is to hopefully give you some visual inspiration and help you plan for your upcoming photo shoot.

So without further ado, I’m going to show you examples of anywhere from newborn sessions to engagement sessions to family sessions inside the home and outside of the home. I think the rules apply to them all.

1. Determine your color palette.

[0:36] I want to start with this great session that we did inside this home. Now, the first question I want you guys to ask yourself is, what colors are you naturally drawn to? The way you can determine that is to look around your home, see what colors you painted, your wall, what patterns you have as a wallpaper, what is kind of the stylistic vibe of your family or you as a couple or so forth.

This house is obviously very white, on white, on white. So we had the client match the decor. I would say that’s a great idea. No matter who you are or where we’re shooting: think about the colors that you’re naturally drawn to, and wear clothing in that color scheme so that when we do photograph your family or your portrait session, those photos will look great displayed in your home. I always recommend with pregnant moms, with newborn babies, with those intimate first day photos doing very light and airy within the home, even if your house isn’t white. I think it’s a very timeless, beautiful, innocent way to photograph newborn sessions and expectant mothers or just light and airy colors for inside of the home. That’s in general.

I will say that for everything I’m going to tell you today, there’s an exception to all of the rules. So, again, this seemed to work really, really well. I’ve done a lot of home sessions with people wearing lighter colors and felt like that was very successful.

[2:21] This next session was also in someone’s home. You’ll notice again, a lot of whites–dad is wearing kind of a light chambray. I would say white light blue, light gray are all just very palatable colors, colors that work across the board. Obviously, they had a little newborn baby girl. So we did incorporate a little bit of this pale pink into their home session. But I think from a general starting point, those kind of light colors can be ivory, white light, blue light.

[2:56] Moving on. OK, so this is a family session that we did not indoors, but more outside their home. And when we looked at the color palette in their home, they had a lot more of the brown tones, navy blues, a lot of patterns like Oriental rugs and stuff in their home. So what I love that this family did is they incorporated color, but in a way that mixed and matched really, really well.

2. Throw a pattern up in there.

One way to do this is to hop on to your favorite store, let’s say it’s Madewell. Look at their color palette and what is going on there, and you start kind of seeing how different patterns work well together and that inspires you to purchase a pattern and work from there. That pattern can be for yourself. It can be for your spouse. It can be for your kids.

Obviously, you don’t want too many patterns. You want to have a couple of people, like in this case, mom and dad are not in a pattern and the kids are. But the nice thing about this color palette is that no matter who I mixed together within this family, the photo worked together. The family matched. Here’s the mom with all of her kids–that works really well. Mom with her daughter–this works really well. So that’s kind of the goal. We want to be able to have the freedom to mix and match people in a way that seems really cohesive.

[4:19] This is another family right outside their house. The clothing should not steal the attention in most cases. So here we don’t really notice their clothing as much as we do their beautiful faces and the expressions and the connection. But when you do look closer, you see the dad has a subtle print, baby has a solid print, and mom and son have a solid. So again, when I mix the family partners together, we get a really nice combination of colors that works really well.

[5:01] OK, now we move on to Erin and Chance. These guys glammed it up a little bit. That’s the next thing I would say is define the tone of your shoot. So if you are more about glam, want to make a statement, want to dress it up, then I think that’s something for us to discuss so that we can pick a location that’s going to work well with that look. Here, we went to Stockhill Grill and made these beautiful photos on the staircase.

This couple also got into a much more casual outfit later. I do think that for engagement sessions that’s a great way to go about it, to have a dressier outfit; something that you can kind of glam it up with or dress it up with and then something that’s a little bit more casual for a more natural setting. So here we are at Stockhill, really made some beautiful photos here. Your job is to show up in the outfits and my job is to choose the locations that are going to highlight you, your look and your outfits the best.

3. Determine trendy versus classic.

[6:26] Here we went to a park and this couple was super trendy. This is the next question: how trendy do you want to get? I love a good trend and I take enough photos of me and my family that I’m happy to pull trends into my photos. If you are the type of person who gets your photo taken once every five years, you might want to consider sticking to something classic.

Classic is going to be blacks, whites, navies, grays–just more solid. I feel like patterns tend to change with the trends. Keep that in mind as you’re planning for the success of your shoot. I love that these guys threw on this trendy outfit and their sweet little dog has matching outfits with them, too. They’re obviously very beautiful. The nice thing about a neutral color palette with the denim and the white is we can throw down like a blanket behind them and they match. They work well with that.

We also photographed them in a rose garden, and so we were able to have these pop of pink flowers behind them and that worked as well. So it’s just nice to have a color palette that can work across the board.

[7:18] Next: OK, so I love that this gal was wearing this pretty bright and vibrant patterned dress. Obviously to do that, we had to make sure that her fiancé was not wearing another bright, vibrant, patterned shirt. So he kept it really cool, really kept it simple. And then I, as the photographer, chose a background that was not going to compete with what she was wearing as well. Again, that’s in my court. You guys just show up wearing something that you look and feel good in. I will do my part to choose the location accordingly.

[7:58] This sweet family is at the Rose Garden over at Loose Park. When they showed up, I was like, oh my gosh, they are so cute. We’ve got these two little girls in their matching dresses. Dad has this sweet little patterned swordfish shirt. And then mom is rocking this beautiful green dress. I wanted to make sure on my end that I wasn’t going to put too much color in the background. So I chose a spot that was mostly greens and whites to work really well with what they were already wearing, so there was quite a bit of color involved there. I really love how that ended up looking. Again, the point of photos is not to take away the attention on what you’re wearing, but mostly to point towards the actual subjects and the interactions that are happening between them. I can switch in dad and little girl, dad and mom and everything works cohesively.

[9:01] OK, so now we have Jamesia and Dwayne, and they are wearing a really colorful outfit. So I chose a colorful area at the Rose Garden to kind of mix in some of these colors. And I absolutely love how it looks. She took a risk with this bold patterned top and this mustard yellow skirt. I think it works really, really well. Probably slightly more on the trendy side. But yellow–I just love it.

I love how this worked out. The gold in her hair highlighted the gold in her dress. Again, those are the things that are my job, not so much yours, but those are things that are on my mind as I’m creating photos.

[9:49] Here we have one more engagement session. This is their casual outfit, pretty normal. He’s got the gray shirt, jeans, she’s in the white shirt. I wanted to highlight that she changed into a pretty bold pink dress and I loved it. Again, it’s one of those things where sometimes I will recommend to people that they do not go bold with their colors. But then again, I love a picture like that. I think every rule can be broken in that case. I wanted to show this photo just to say, you know what, sometimes your outfits truly don’t even matter because we do some cool silhouette of some sort and the outfits aren’t even really a part of the picture.

[10:35] One more family. I loved his little salmon pants–this little boy. It’s a pop of color, but it didn’t distract too much from everything else. Everybody else is pretty muted and neutral. Love his chambray shirt. Little girl has this cute little pattern on. Mom’s rocking those white jeans like a boss. But again, I can throw different family members together, and it all works pretty cohesively.

4. Don’t forget the details (accessories).

The last thing I would say is to not forget about some of the details. Details are going to be your accessories. What kind of earrings do you want to be wearing in the case that your hair blows and your earrings are visible? Do you want to accessorize with a necklace or with a stack of bracelets?

The big thing for men is not to forget about the need to wear a belt if you need a belt. Socks that are not just white socks and please, no tennis shoes. So if you are a man like 10 years or older, I would highly recommend leaving those tennis shoes at home and grabbing a pair of loafers or going out and buying a pair of shoes that can complete an outfit because sneakers are really tough. They’re tough. I’m going to probably drop them out of every photo.

But accessories can really pull together an outfit. So use it as an excuse to go out and buy something new, but be intentional about those things. And I think everything pulled all together will be great.

5. Have fun!

Feel free to reach out to your photographer. We always recommend–if you have time to throw down the outfits that you’re thinking about wearing– take a picture and text it or email it to us.

We’re happy always to give you some feedback or to give you the thumbs up. So go have fun, get some shopping done and we can’t wait to photograph your next session.