Every time I’m planning a session with multiple subjects, whether it’s a family photo shoot with three, four or five people or a two-subject engagement shoot, I always get the same question: What do we wear? Written in between the lines, the question is always married with a little bit of panic and nervousness.
First off—relax! If anything, use this as an excuse to go shopping. If shopping isn’t in your budget right now—don’t sweat it. I guarantee you that you have bits and pieces of perfect photo shoot outfits hanging right in front of you; sometimes you just need to think outside of the box.
If those jeans or that dress is feeling a little snug before the shoot, opt for another outfit. The camera can be unforgiving at times—even with editing software—so do your best to control the situation from the get-go. From head to toe, you should feel completely comfortable in your outfit choice.
One Pattern Rule
He’s wearing his favorite plaid shirt and you’re wearing stripes? Pump the breaks! I suggest trying to adopt the one pattern rule. For every five people in your shoot, there should only be one pattern. If his plaid shirt is a combination of yellow, blue and gray, you now have a great pallet to work from for a complementing solid color. You want to walk on the wild side and wear a red tank-top with a leopard print sweater? Have the other subjects where black, gray, brown or tan, pulling out the colors found in the leopard print pattern itself.
I like something above my belt to match something below my belt. If I’m wearing a black dress with tan wedges, I’ll tie it all together by wearing a tan dangling necklace and natural hemp bracelet. If there are other subjects in the photo and you’re wearing a neutral color, have your necklace or headband match the shirt of someone else.
If your shoot is in the winter take this great opportunity to accessorize with winter wear (aka my favorite thing about winter in New England). The knit and/or fur makeup of hats, head wraps, scarves and mittens can really add a lot of texture and depth to a photograph.
Dress Seasonally Together
If he’s wearing long sleeves and jeans, don’t wear a tank top with shorts. Photo shoots should capture the essence of who you are on a day-to-day basis, so wear what you normally would wear during the season of your shoot. Don’t overthink it!
(In the Fall and Winter) Like an Onion: Layer, layer, layer!
Whether it’s an undershirt or cardigan sweater, layers are great and add a lot of color and depth to a photo. If you’re layering with a sweater or jacket, lose it part way through your shoot for a fresh look.
Heals and Outfit Changes
Have a killer pair of pumps you’re just dying to show off? As a 5’1” shorty myself, I’m totally on team heals. In that same thought though, I also know that not all pairs are comfortable and practical for walking afar. If you do choose to wear heals, I would highly recommend bringing a pair of flip flops with you for a fast and easy slip-on, slip-off shoe change.
In my longer shoots (90 minutes plus) I gladly welcome (and recommend) an outfit change. It gives you a variety of looks to choose from and allows you to show off your many personality traits and facets. In outfit changes, I always recommend that one of your looks is laid back and casual while the other is slightly dressier.
Shades and Tones
The easiest can't-fail option. If you're really stuck on what to wear as a group, coordinate with everyone and decide on one color and all wear various shades of that color. For purposes of this example, let's use blue: Sky blue, baby blue, navy blue, royal blue, etc. Another can't fail option is to choose a tonal family of colors and to have everyone work within that color palette. For example: dark green, navy blue, and burgundy are all dark jewel tones. Another popular option is earthy tones such tans, olive green, browns, slate gray, etc.
Bra straps! They will forever go down in my editing books as my most hated item. We all need a little support, so I’m not telling you to free-boob here! …Just suggesting that you’re aware of this when picking out your undergarments :)
A lot to think about, I know. So, the overall key to a successful photo shoot outfit? Communicate and coordinate! Work well ahead of time so you don’t feel rushed the night before your scheduled shoot. One of my favorite parts of my job is creative directing, so feel free to use me as a sound board... Bounce your looks and ideas off of me. This is supposed to be fun, so relax!