Jessica Hughes Photography | What to Wear for Portrait Sessions

What to Wear for Portrait Sessions

More than any other question, clients always ask what they should wear to their family session. Coordinating your outfits can be a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be! Here are some tips to help you with styling.

If you’re stuck, ask for help!

Many stores offer free styling assistance (J Crew and Nordstrom are two great options that have clothes for the whole family). On a budget?  Stores like Old Navy and Target offer coordinating styles for all ages that won't cost a fortune.  I also love helping my clients choose their outfits. Just text or email me photos of different possibilities and we can solve the puzzle together!

GENERAL TIPS

START WITH ONE PERSON.

It’s way easier to visualize the whole puzzle once you know what one piece looks like! Try starting with mom or daughter, since women’s clothing tends to have more colors and prints.

COMPLEMENT, DON’T MATCH.

The day of all white shirts and khaki pants are long past! We want colors that generally complement each other: so for instance, soft colors (light blue, gray, blush) or warm colors (brown, orange, burgundy), If you want colorful images, then you should choose a more vivid color scheme for your outfits!

STICK TO ONE OUTFIT.

Don’t make things more complicated than they need to be! All you need for an awesome family session is one outfit for everyone. Changing outfits will take time away from your shoot and can put your kids in a grumpy mood.  Feel free to pack changes in case of emergency, but don't stress yourself out trying to plan multiple outfits.  We'll be wandering around from spot to spot during your session, and the variety of poses, interactions, and backdrops will add interest without any need for wardrobe changes!

CONSIDER YOUR HOME DECOR.

If you’re planning to hang your images in your living room that’s decorated in all white, you probably don’t want your clothing to be dark. If you’re hanging them in a colorful nursery, then wear vivid outfits.

PLAN FOR THE WEATHER.

Nothing is worse than being miserably uncomfortable in a perfect outfit. If you’re planning an outdoor session in November, think about coats, gloves, and hats. In the summer, dress in layers that you can easily take off if you get too hot.

DON’T FORGET SHOES!

These are often the forgotten last element, but they can really make or break your outfits! If you can’t find shoes you love, consider going barefoot (just bring walking shoes to get from point A to point B). Steer away from athletic shoes and bright white sneakers.

TRY ON YOUR CLOTHES WELL IN ADVANCE!

Check your outfits from all possible angles in the mirror, not just the one you like best. Try sitting, squatting, leaning forward, etc. The kids’ clothes should work well in motion so that we can play during your session (think flying, tickling, and hanging upside down).

LET THE KIDS HAVE INPUT.

If your daughter hates wearing dresses, don’t force her to wear one for picture day. If your son thinks that bowtie is uncomfortable, ditch it. Happy kids make for happy photos!

OVERALL TIPS

 

SAY YES TO:

COMFORT

Above all, if you feel good, you will look good! Choose clothing that gives you freedom of movement, keeps you warm/cool, and won’t require a lot of maintenance throughout your session.

TEXTURE

Add some visual interest to your images with unique fabrics. Some examples: lace, cable knits, tweed, herringbone, chambray, faux fur, wool

PATTERNS

Don’t be scared of patterns and prints! They can work great in moderation. Try one statement piece (for instance, a colorful floral dress for mom) and one subtle pattern (maybe tiny polka dots for baby girl), and then keep the rest of the family more simple.

LAYERS AND ACCESSORIES

These are the quickest way to take your outfits from average to amazing! Think scarves, blazers, cardigans, belts, jewelry, fun socks, and hats.

FITTED CLOTHING

We don’t want your clothing to be too baggy or too tight. Properly fitted clothing looks put together and will show your shape. For women, your upper half and lower half should be balanced: so for instance, blousy shirt + skinny pants, or tight shirt + flowing skirt.

CLASSIC CHOICES

Try to steer away from current trends, since they’ll date your photos 10 years from now.

SAY NO TO:

FORMAL CLOTHES

Let your clothing match your surroundings. A tuxedo or formal dress will look out of place in the woods.

BRIGHT WHITE

If you love white, try off-white or ivory instead.  It will warm up your skin tones!

NEON COLORS

These create skin tone/color cast issues.

LOGOS & TEXT

Words will draw attention away from your faces, and almost never lay flat to show up correctly in photos.

TRANSITION LENSES

If you wear glasses every day, please wear them in your shoot! However, lens glare and shaded lenses will keep your eyes from being seen. You can have anti-reflective coating added to your lenses or wear just the frames.

ATHLETIC SHOES

Self-explanatory!

HOLIDAY COLORS

Unless you're coming for a holiday mini session, you may want to consider skipping holiday-themed colors.  Even if you’re planning to use these images for your holiday cards, steer away from holiday-specific clothing and let your card design incorporate those instead. That way you’ll be able to enjoy your images year-round!

SHORT-SLEEVED T-SHIRTS

Button-down or structured shirts generally look better in photos. If you have your heart set on a t-shirt, try layering a blazer on top.

TINY PLAID & COMPLICATED PATTERNS

These don’t always translate well in-camera.

CHEAT SHEET

MOM

SAY YES TO:

maxi dresses, fitted tops tucked into long skirts, a-line dresses/coats, skinny jeans, cardigans, blazers, scarves, ankle boots, riding boots, fitted tunics

SAY NO TO:

strapless/sleeveless (unless you love your arms), low-cut shirts, baggy clothes, clothing so tight you can't bend or sit down on the ground

DAD

SAY YES TO:

blazers, chino pants/shorts, button-downs with sleeves rolled up to elbows, sweaters layered over collared shirts, dark wash jeans, leather shoes/boots

SAY NO TO:

athletic wear, baggy shorts/pants, athletic sneakers, white t-shirts

GIRLS

SAY YES TO:

everything listed for mom, plus these optional fun accessories: headbands, hats, bows, rainboots

SAY NO TO:

visible diaper/underwear (try shorts for under dresses), neon, athletic shoes or character shoes


BOYS

SAY YES TO:

everything listed for dad, plus these fun optional accessories: suspenders, bowtie, caps, high-top sneakers

SAY NO TO:

tank tops, neon, visible diaper, athletic shoes or character shoes (Disney, etc.)

 

Favorite brands for children’s clothing:

  • Gymboree
  • J Crew
  • Zara
  • Janie & Jack
  • Hanna Andersson
  • Old Navy
  • Target

SAMPLE COLOR PALETTES

If you’re overwhelmed by all of the advice I just gave you, here are some sample color palettes that you can use as a starting point. I based all of these sets off of two or three colors, then filled in the rest with neutral materials like denim and khaki.  

Spring/Summer

Fall/Winter

 

Finally, here are a bunch of examples of real clients who have rocked their outfits! I may be biased, but I think I have some of the most stylish clients around! Love them!! :)