How wardrobe can make or break your photos

Every morning, we all get up and get dressed for the day.

Some of us may stand at our closets and ponder what to wear, trying on a million different things. Some others may just quickly grab the first thing they see.  (That would be me.) Some of us love this process, and some of us loathe it. But all of us participate in this daily act of styling ourselves.

As a photographer, I'm guiding my clients to  understand that sometimes the art of styling my clients can elevate their pictures. It really can. Shirts. Dresses. Coats. Hats. Shoes. Glasses.  Knowing this, takes the photos to the next level. Also, knowing how attire can affect your storytelling will highlight your creativity and unique voice.

You don’t need to be a fashionista.
You don’t need to have champagne taste.
You don’t need to be an ‘it’ girl.
You just need to put some thought and care into it. Doing so will honestly take your photos from blah to RAH!

Some dos and some don’ts (but more dos)

There are definitely some rules to using fashion to it’s greatest potential in photographs. Let’s start with some YESSES.

YES to timeless and classic. This includes:

  • simple dresses

  • button downs

  • baby rompers

  • pea coats

  • khakis

  • v-necks

  • cardigans

  • ballet flats

  • brown knee high boots

  • scarves

  • blazers

  • fedoras

YES to trendy items. But keep them small, like accents if you will. And if possible, keep them timeless, too — like animal prints, military-inspired pieces, sequins, wrap dresses, patterned clothing, little black dresses, etc. If you have a child who is totally into the trends of the year, try to steer him/her into choosing a trendy accessory item, like a headband, scarf, or hat, so you can remove it at some point in the session and get a few classic pics, too!

YES to mixing it up with different patterns — checks, plaids, stripes are all okay! Keep them on a smaller scale if you are trying to style a group. You don’t want loud patterns to take attention away from anyone but play with the large scaled patterns if you are trying to make a funky, loud, and colorful portrait of an individual!

YES to keeping it real. I have never gone out and bought something special for a shoot and I tell my clients they don’t need to either. I can guarantee you that there is already something in your closet that will work perfectly. Keeping it comfy is key, too. Anything stiff and too formal will translate so in the picture, especially for kids. Keep the dresses and boys clothes in soft cottons or flannels. Not only will they be more relaxed in these types of items, but these materials photograph better, too. They don’t get wrinkled or look too starchy, know what I mean?

Okay! So now we are onto the NOS. I hate to be negative, but some of these nos can really break a picture. There are not many rules here, but the ones I have picked I consider important to follow.

NO logo wording on clothing. No “GAP,” “Old Navy,” or “POLO” splashed in huge letters across a shirt. Sorry, but this is never okay. When shopping for your family, just stay away from this trend all together and you will never have this issue.When meeting my clients for their consultation meeting I always bring this one up. It can truly ruin a great photograph. Your eye will go straight to those words, therefore deeming them the most important part of the picture!

NO to little newborn babies in starchy, frilly, or detailed outfits. And no jeans! Babies don’t wear jeans. These outfits make baby drown in the material and they can easily get lost in the photo. Keep babies in a simple onesie or soft cotton rompers. Also, make sure that all of baby’s clothes fit perfectly. I stress this to my newborn parents. Sometimes I even suggest sizing down in their onesie if they have just grown into that next size because usually that new size is still too big on them.

NO to matchy-matchy. Just no. A group of people in all the exact same outfit is boring, strange, and very 1995. Right? I don’t think this needs much more explanation.

Accessories = good

Accessories give your photographs that needed punch! They lend pops of color, personality, and interest. Everybody wears them well and they work for all ages. Here are some ideas and what they can do for your photograph:

Hats: Hats frame the face, protect the eyes from squinting in full sun, and overall are just fun, fun, fun! You can also use them to strengthen and/or tell your story better,  

Belts, socks, scarves and jewelry, jackets: All these things are going to give pops of color, and work to completing the outfit. They can be unexpected bits of fun, too, like crazy and colorful knee socks on a girl. Striped belts make a boring khaki and polo outfit more interesting. Shiny necklaces give an image a little glimmer and can be a good prop to give to someone who doesn’t know what to do with their hands.

Shoes: I photograph in homes a lot, so I actually am a big proponent of no shoes. To me, they don’t look right in the setting of home sweet home. Who hangs out on their bed or couch with their shoes on? Not anybody I know! But shoes in other settings can really help support a story. Patterned or colorful rain boots for a rainy day, cowboy boots to pair with a feminine dress for that awesome prairie girl look, motorcycle boots to amp up a street casual look, boating shoes to lend that extra dose of prettiness or like here, absolutely amazing kid shoes… the possibilities are endless!

Glasses: I love all things glasses: sunglasses, reading glasses, movie glasses, weird glasses. Glasses can be so fun to work with. Big sunglasses are so fun on a little one and on a sunny day can help eliminate squinting and raccoon eyes from harsh shadows. Tortoise eyeglasses can make a library story way more interesting or be the perfect thing to pair with a school day theme shoot or a really preppy session. No movie picture is complete without the free 3-D frames that are handed out. And weird and silly glasses can make for some exciting shots, too!

Tips and tricks

The following few ideas can make some of the ideas listed above even that much better! I am sure there are a thousand more out there that I am not thinking of, but here are a few I keep in my back pocket when photographing my kids or clients:

  • Any long sleeved shirt looks way cooler if the sleeves are rolled. Want to make it even better than that? Add a bracelet or watch at the wrist.

  • Need an instant face framer? Pop those collars! I personally love that look and am forever tugging my kids and husband’s collars up. The poor souls.

  • Got some cool shoes that deserve a better spotlight or want to highlight bare piggies? Roll the cuffs!

  • Tuck in shirts on the little ones to give waists shape and to give the outfits a more finished, neat look.

  • Are you confused to what colours to wear? Look around your home and notice the colors there. Is your house light and airy? Then you should go with softer colors so the photographs blend in beautifully with their surroundings. Same idea for somebody who loves brighter and bolder colors in their house. Here is a client who had the right idea!

  • For little ones, a little girl in dresses and skirts should have some sort of undergarment covering up diapers and underwear.

Hope you are enjoying the little tips and tricks to dress for your photo shoot! If you have any questions don't hesitate to get in touch!