What to Wear to My Family or Senior Photo Session?

A Nashville Family Photographer’s 8 Most ImportANT Tips For Your Photoshoot Wardrobe

As a photographer, I love it when my clients ask the question, “What should I wear?” It seems like it wouldn’t matter what someone wears to their family or senior portrait session, but in reality, clothing plays a major part in the overall outcome of your photos.

For example, if you find yourself drawn to bright, airy family portraits - it is quite likely the subjects are also wearing mostly lighter-colored clothing. Wearing all dark clothing to your photo session will result in a darker, moodier image. To help you accomplish your ideal look for your upcoming photo session, I’ve come up with a master list of my favorite photo session outfit ideas and tips.

What is a color palette? 

A palette is a range of colors used by a particular artist or in a particular picture. Make choosing the colors for your photo session wardrobe your first order of business. Clothing color plays a very important role in a photo’s composition. You will want to stick to 3-4 complimentary colors to use for a family portrait so that the eye can flow across the picture. Senior’s have more flexibility to play with color and pattern, as they are the singular object of the portrait.

Muted or neutral colors create a foundation 

When choosing which colors to use, it’s always wise to choose more muted tones. Muted colors are colors that are more subdued, less bright, and soft. We often find good examples of muted colors in nature. For example, you could find the inspiration for your wardrobe’s color palette in a southwestern landscape, a beach scene or a field of wildflowers.

Neutral colors help bring that calm, dreamy look to your photo session. The focus of your family photo session should be the faces of your family, not your brother’s neon-orange jersey. I always suggest keeping your color palette on the lighter side. Add at least one light color into your color palette like cream, sand, pale yellow or soft pink - to help keep your images bright.

Add a POp of color with accessories

At this point, hopefully you aren’t totally afraid of using color in your wardrobe. Using a brighter color can add a lot of dimension and life to a photo when used sparingly. To add a fun pop of color to your images - try a pair of colorful heels, bold lipstick or a bright belt or tie. Bright colors, are like adding habanero to your salsa; a little goes a long way.

Coordinate instead of matching

Matching outfits for photos sessions was huge in the 90s. Although a “matching” photo shoot can be fun for in certain situations, often the pictures end up looking dated or even comical. Coordinating colors (or colors that work well together) will look classy and create a unified feel without the unwanted “twinning and winning” effect.

Sometimes picking a statement piece can help you build your look. Let’s say your are putting together your wardrobe for your holiday family session and you know for sure you want to wear your silver sequined dress. Build the rest of your family’s look around your impressive gown; play-down the other outfits (think solids in colors like muted grays, blues and yellows and softer textures) and perhaps sparkly silver shoes for your little girl that coordinate well with your dress.

Location, location, location!

If your senior portraits are scheduled to take place in downtown Nashville; a pair of stilettos or stylish booties will work much better than sandals (though please bring some comfortable shoes to actually walk down Broadway in!) If you are going to be taking photos at a more rustic location like a farm or in a pretty field - flannel, lace, soft floral-patterned dresses and denim are always great options.

Avoid matching your color palette too closely with your location - for instance, avoid wearing all bright green if your shoot is taking place in the middle of the summer in a bright green field. If you must wear green, limit the amount of green to an accessory or one of the more minor colors within your outfit.

Highlight your best asset

What is your most attractive feature? If you have gorgeous long locks, deep condition that mane the night before and let your hair fly free in your photos. Do you love your top half but prefer more coverage on the bottom? If so, try a well-fitted, eye-catching shirt paired with a more a-line skirt or structured pants in a solid color. Draw attention to the features you want to emphasize and play-down the areas you’d rather not draw attention to.

The key is choosing clothing that fits your body, while creating a balanced look. Clothing that is too loose or shapeless, generally does not work well for photos. When in doubt, ask your photographer! I love it when a client texts me a pic of an outfit and asks for advice. Often, I can see right away what is going to work for them and the location.

Keep clothing simple, ClEAN, PRESSED and without logos

Generally you do not want logos to be the focal point of the photo. Logos do not work well in images because they draw the eye to the logo instead of to the lovely faces of the subjects.

On a side note, don’t forget to remove or tuck in your tags! In fact, remove anything that would automatically need photoshopped out - for example, stains on clothing, logos, rips and tears. Your photographer may not be able to effectively remove the problem area during post-session editing or they might require an extra fee due to excessive, unexpected editing time.

Mix solids and patterns/TEXTURES

Patterns add nice texture to a photo - but use sparingly. Try adding one eye-catching pattern to your family’s photo session wardrobe such as your little girl’s polka-dotted dress and then add a few minimal patterns such as a lace skirt, a cable-knit sweater, a herringbone tie or a plaid shirt collar worn under a solid sweater.

Patterns can be combined, but only one pattern should stand out as the ‘star’ and any others should be quite subtle. Overall, you want to wear clothing to your photoshoot that makes you feel confident and attractive so that you can just relax and have fun during your session. When in doubt, always run any wardrobe ideas by your photographer. Often, little tweaks are all that is needed in order to perfect your vision for your photo session wardrobe!