Updated: Sep 6
Whether you are getting ready for family vacation portraits, newborn, or an engagement session, everyone is thinking about outfit coordination. I’ve got some great tips and suggestions for how to put outfits together to help create the crisp, clean and classic look you are going for. My portraiture is timeless, so let’s have your look match that image.
General Outfit Coordination Guidelines:
One of the most important things to keep your images timeless and beautiful is that we don't want anymore of that thing where everyone wears the same outfit. 1992 was 30 years ago, so let's break out of that rut. I like clean lines and classic colors and these are the building blocks of outfits that will always look intentional, coordinated, and flattering.
First, let’s talk about patterns and colors. A lot of pattern designs can take away from what you really want to look at in the photo, which are the faces. Instead of choosing a lot of patterns, go for one maybe two, but focus more on colors. A simple muted color choice can let you focus on who is in the picture and give a minimalist look. This also applies to clothes that have characters and branding on them. Let’s stay away from them altogether. Remember, if you're planning on hanging these portraits in a specific place in your home, we'll want to coordinate outfits and location with the style of that room. Check out the Investment page on my website to get an idea of the products I offer that you can add to your home.
Most importantly, you want your outfit to FIT and FLATTER your body type. Think about where the waist falls, the shape of the neckline, if it's tailored enough, etc. We don't want something that's too big and baggy, but we also don't want clothing that it tight and pinching. There are so many aspects that go into properly fitting clothing, and it can be overwhelming. Men almost always look great in a henley, a sweater, or a casual linen button down. Kids do well in dresses or pants and a button down/sweater. Women have more possibilities, and because our bodies are all so different, it's hard to say. Sometimes a more structured option is needed, sometimes draping and flowing fabrics work well. Sometimes we need sleeves and volume, sometimes long, open necklines are the best. Please reach out if you're overwhelmed and need a hand, I'm always happy to assist!
Next, don’t be afraid of texture and layers. I'd take a textured linen or knit shirt over a crisp cotton one any day. Not only does texture add depth and mood to a photo, it also works much better with the light. Solid colors are generally not great, especially is they are completely void of texture. Additionally, add some layers and special pieces. If you have that favorite scarf you wear all the time, or your child has a pair of shoes they never take off, let’s plan around that and include them. By including items special to you, it makes your art more personal and adds interest to the photograph.
Looking to integrate something special but not sure how to? Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered.
For outdoor sessions, the outfit recommendations will vary based on season and location. Generally, you'll want to pick a color scheme that goes with your location and the vibe you're going for.
Spring and summer portraits work best with neutral and pastels. Flowing dresses and fabrics are always great, but shorts in a soft color and a loose beachy shirt are also lovely. My favorite top for men is a Henley style or a button down - not a polo.
Fall portraits handle natural earth tones and more structured silhouettes (or loose, baggy ones) better, and you can introduce darker jewel tones and blacks more easily. I'm a fan of fall neutrals like the cream-toned sweaters in the family session below, it feels so cozy. Black is popular in the fall, but be sure you're never wearing solid black. You'll always need a texture of some sort, whether it's a billowing sweater that' also knit, or some distressing on your jeans, or a belt or jewelry to break it up, texture will catch the light and add visual interest to keep you from turning into a black blob.
Studio Portraits on White
Newborn, Baby, and certain Family Sessions are photographed in the studio on a bright white backdrop. These are my signature style and they're my absolute favorite. I mean, hello timeless and clean!
This style can handle colors that range from cream to muted tones to bright pastel tones as you can see in the gallery. For newborn babies, cream and neutral tones are my go-to because they are just so innocent and comfortable and really lets you feel that cuddle. Other colors like soft blues, greens, and pinks are common and look fantastic.
Studio Portraits on Dark Colors
Holiday portraits, and some of the fine art style family and newborn portraits are photographed on darker backdrops in the studio. Clothing for these is very different than the white images above, but it isn't too difficult to dress for. Generally, you're going to want a mid-dark toned color, and you're going to want some either texture and pattern or an eye-catching fit (like a deep V neckline and a beautifully structured silhouette).
All of the clothing featured here (except the men's clothing) is in my client wardrobe and available for you to wear - how easy is that! For you men, bring him in a charcoal grey or darker sweater or Henley. If you want to go more formal, bring a sport coat or blazer.
A little taste of my own family portraits:
We invest in family portraits when we travel and that means we have lots of fun portraits and outfits from a variety of locations. Here are a few of the outfits I've put together for our family in the past year (YES, you can wear bathing suits for beach photos, and YES I know I'm not an earth/fall toned girl, but it was Arizona).
Things to Avoid
The options for outfits are endless, but there are a few standard things to avoid.
Solid white and solid black are almost always no-no's unless we've talked about it. Remember, instead of solid colors, opt for textured colors instead. Knits, patterns, ruffles, pleats, linens, boning, laces, eyelet's, anything that adds visual interest and new places for light to catch will makes whites and blacks more bearable for the camera.
Most of all, don't combine solid white and black together . . . I don't even know what to type about it, just don't do it!
Additionally, avoid ill-fitting clothing unless we've talked about clipping it or pinning it for you. Unflattering clothing can't be edited and I promise that you'll hate it for forever.
This is controversial, but avoid trendy items. Portraiture with me is an investment, and what you don't want to do is to invest your time, money, and emotions into portraits only to hate them in a year because those chunky loafers and flare jeans went back out of style. There are tons of ways to incorporate fun clothing while keeping it timeless, so please let me know anything you definitely want to include and we'll work together to make sure your outfit options work now and in the future.
Where to Shop
If you're looking for something local, these are my favorite places to check:
JCrew for men, women, and kids. Either at the Mall, the Outlets, or online.
Banana Republic too - this is an all around favorite of mine.
Eddie Bauer has some great, timeless, men's options and works best for tall men.
H&M generally has nice women and kids options, and their baby stuff is the best!
Don't be afraid to shop your favorite brands on Poshmark if you have about a week! They usually ship quickly and have lots of fun options.
My Favorite Sustainable Brands:
Reformation is my all time favorite, I have a bunch of dresses in the client wardrobe, and you should definitely check out Postmark filtered for your size, there are a lot of new or barely worn styles that aren't available on the website anymore.
If you're looking for trendy, whimsical options, Thought is a UK company that's