What To Wear For Your Portrait Session
“Do have a think about what you’re wearing in advance. Without too much preparation we managed to roughly coordinate, which really helped the shots. A bit of pre-thought on that part really helps.” Jessica
What to wear for your portrait session?
Whatever makes you feel good is the easy answer!
In a nutshell:
- The best advice is to choose clothes that you feel comfortable in, and that are simple and neutral as possible.
- Choose clothes without an illustration, text or logo on.
- For adults, one plain colour is best – although bear in mind that plain black or white clothes don’t photograph that well.
- Mums, choose clothes with a bit of texture for the most flattering effect.
- For children, stripes or spots are ok, but they can be a bit distracting if the colours are bold. If you’d rather have something vibrant, go for it!
- You can also change outfits partway through the session if you’d like – when we head outdoors can be a great time to do this. Bear in mind your child’s willingness to change clothes, though – if your baby really doesn’t like being changed, it’s better to minimise the number of outfit changes.
- Take your watches off beforehand, to give skin a chance to relax and any watch marks to disappear. Watches can be quite distracting in close-ups of you holding your baby. The same goes for hairbands on wrists.
I’m very happy to offer advice based on my experience – if you have a selection of clothes ready, I can recommend which will work best.
Below are some more detailed suggestions. Nothing’s cast in stone, so if something doesn’t feel right for you and your family, by all means ignore it and do your own thing!
If we’re taking a group shot and you’re all wearing the same colour, it’ll look a bit staged – a mix of colours can look more natural.
Bear in mind that if one of you is wearing a bright colour, the viewer’s eye will be drawn straight to that outfit in a photograph – I recommend that if anyone’s wearing a bright colour, it’s your child! Otherwise try to keep to more neutral colours – or to all be wearing something quite bright and eye-catching.
Blues, whites and denim can be a good colour combination:
Different shades and patterns with the same colour can work well, and is a great option if your family shares a similar colour palette of clothes:
Here’s an example where a family gave a nod to soft, gentle colours:
Wearing bright colours can bring a pop of colour to the portraits, especially if it’s a grey day.
Brightly coloured wellies, scarves or jackets can work wonders to brighten our British weather!
Mums, leave your enormous coat at home – try to choose one that’s not too bulky as they’re not very flattering in photographs.
Try to each wear a coat with a similar thickness – it can look a bit odd if one parent has a lightweight jacket and the other’s in a thick quilted coat, or if one parent doesn’t wear a coat at all when the other’s all wrapped up:
Umbrellas can be lots of fun for portrait sessions – choose one with a pale colour (black umbrellas will cast dark shadows on your faces) and ideally without any text on it:
Clothing tips for dads
A plain cotton shirt (avoid choosing one that’s too much like office-wear) or a polo shirt with chinos or jeans is a great combination. Bear in mind that white shirts can look very formal, so a pale colour tends to work best.
Avoid text or graphics on your clothes.
If you’re conscious of carrying a little extra weight, avoid tops that are too fitted – a thick T-shirt or shirt works well.
Lightweight cotton T-shirts don’t photograph well – if it’s a hot day, you’re better off in a polo shirt.
Shorts are also best avoided unless it’s a scorching day, as they can be quite distracting in photographs and affect where a photograph can be cropped.
Clothing tips for mums
Choose clothes with texture, and layering up works really well too.
A simple top (just avoid plain black or plain white, unless the fabric is textured) and jeans or casual trousers work well.
I suggest avoiding sleeveless tops (especially if you have a baby and might throw them up in the air), and tops that will expose your bra straps.
Shorts and ripped jeans are best avoided as knees can become distracting and can affect the crop of a photograph.
Have something to tie your hair back (or clip your fringe) in case it’s a windy day.
Bear in mind that solid black can be quite intense in a photograph. If, like me, you wear a lot of black, pick something out that has texture and layers.
Parents-to-be: what to wear
To best show off your bump, choose a snug top that clings to the contours of your bump.
An open shirt also works well if you’d like a photograph of your skin but would prefer to keep your top on.
If you’d like a photograph in your underwear or nude, I’m very happy to take those too. Choose simple and soft underwear that doesn’t dig in.
If I’m taking photographs of both of you, and Dad has also put on some sympathy pregnancy weight, gently suggest something that’s not totally skin tight! A cotton shirt works well. See the section on ‘Tips for dads’ for more suggestions.
If you’re conscious of carrying baby weight, a loose fitting cotton top works well, or a shirt. Texture and layers are your friends!
Many new mums are not yet wearing their rings again yet – if you usually wear an engagement or wedding ring, don’t worry if they don’t fit yet, that’s part of the story! If it’s borderline, though, it’s worth giving the rings a try as you might miss having them in close-up shots where your baby is holding your fingers:
Have a few changes of clothes to hand as your baby’s unlikely to make it through the whole session in the same outfit!
Plain white or pale babygros or vests work really well – the simpler, the better really.
A babygro without feet works really well for photographing their tiny toes.
Collars can often flap open and cover a bit of your baby’s face so it’s best to avoid them.
If you have any special outfits (a cardigan knitted by Granny, for example), we can also incorporate those.
If your newborn likes being swaddled, we can absolutely do that.
And if you’d like any photographs where your baby’s not wearing anything (other than their nappy!) just let me know. It does make for adorable photographs.
Avoid graphics or illustrations, as these really affect where a photograph can be cropped. A repeating pattern doesn’t matter as much, but a big animal can be quite distracting.
Newborn outfits can look cute, but bear in mind that part of what we’re capturing is that special newborn phase. Dressing them in trousers and shirts or dresses doesn’t emphasise their newness as well as a babygro does!
Why swaddle newborns?
Babies – what to wear
Even if your baby is already wearing clothes, consider onesies as part of the mix – they really show how young and tiny your baby still is!
For day clothes, choose simple clothes with plain colours – and ideally not too fitted if your baby is in nappies, or the clothes will bunch around the nappy. Pure Baby have some great options.
If your baby’s wearing a dress, it’s great if it has a matching nappy cover. Marie Chantal have gorgeous dresses, if you’re shopping for a new outfit.
A sweet playsuit or romper can be a better option, as then we can relax completely about nappies – they won’t show!
Oliver Baby have some great options for baby boys – a slight nod to a vintage look, but with a contemporary twist. Oliver Baby have some smart options that are well worth a look at.
Check that the outfits you’ve chosen still fit your baby. It’s amazing how quickly they grow, or how something you imagine will fit actually balloons around them. With dungarees, it’s much better to have a slightly too tight pair than slightly too big.
Choose similar colours for siblings. If one child’s wearing a bright colour, your eye will go straight to that child in a photograph.
Please resist the urge to put siblings in T-shirts with “sibling text” on them. Writing doesn’t work well in portraits – if a child leans over, you’ll only be able to see part of the word. What would otherwise have been a beautiful photograph becomes distracting because the word is partly hidden. You don’t need to spell out the relationship between siblings with their clothing – let the camera show their relationship instead!
Little girls: what to wear
If you choose a dress, do have some trousers or leggings ready too. If your daughter’s in nappies and feels like sitting down, dresses can show more nappy than intended so it’s handy to have an alternative.
With tights, coloured ones are best for outdoors, as muddy knees really show up on white tights.
Choose clothes that your daughter likes wearing – if she’s a little tom boy, go with that!
At the risk of repeating myself, it’s best to avoid any illustrations or text on the outfits – a gentle pattern is ok, but simple and neutral clothes work best.
Have some clips to hand in case your daughter’s hair has a wild day and you want to tame it a little!
Little boys: clothing suggestions
Avoid clothes that have a big graphic on the front like a dinosaur or tractor.
Stripes, checks and spots are ok but if you can avoid them, so much the better!
The aim is for the clothes to not be distracting in the photographs – we want all attention on your little one.
Jeans work really well, and this is definitely the moment for those cute little trainers.
If your child loves dressing up in a particular outfit, we can absolutely incorporate that into the photographs!
The more your child enjoys the experience, the more their character will come through.
If getting your child out of a fancy dress outfit can be a challenge, I’d suggest starting the session in “normal” clothes, and getting the fancy dress clothes out partway through.
“Our children look so beautiful in the photos playing with their favourite toys – there is an amazing one of my little daughter dressed like Cinderella on a colourful carpet, it looks so magical.” Irena