As with all things there are the old ways and the new ways when it comes to dressing for your photos.  But there are some hard and fast rules you should try to never break.  I will go over both the old and the new and the cardinal rules of dressing for your portraits.  

Family Photos


In the old photography world we were taught to wear nothing but solid, neutral not too bold colors.  In other words no reds, bright fuchsia’s, hot pinks etc.  In other words the rule was you didn’t want the outfit to distract from the face.  But with modern times photographs have become somewhat less posed and perfect and more representative of who we are which includes how we like to dress.  It’s part of our personal style.  So having fun with outfits can make your shoot come a little more alive.  So unless you are a traditionalist at heart feel free to have fun with it.


With that said though you still want it to look good and not be too chaotic.  So while keeping with your style a couple of things what will make the over all image look better when you have more than one person.  First try to stay in the same color family.  Choose one cohesive color or two complimentary colors for everyone.   An example might be navy and brown, black and white, pink and gray but try not to do more than two colors or it gets too confusing.  One important note on choosing colors for each person, if you have a baby or toddler they are tiny in the picture an although we put them in front to make them more of a priority it helps to put them in a lighter color than those around them.  That way they stand out from the group.  So even if you have chosen navy for the whole family you might consider white, or light gray for the baby.  Also, if you have a lot of people coming together you might want to consider a color that doesn’t have a lot of variations.  For example if you tell everyone to wear blue there are a LOT of different blues. 

I love Pantone for their color of the year and here’s a great example of what might happen without a little direction to your family.  If you have a lot of people and can’t look at their outfits together you might want to choose a color with little or no variation i.e. white or black.  Yes, it breaks the old rules but in this case it might be worth it.  If you notice the family at the top did a pretty good job.  The blues are either navy or the light blue.  And the little people are in white giving them more dominance in the picture.  We do struggle a little with Mom’s top and the stripes.  But overall the image works and is a nice family portrait which can be challenging with that many people. And YES their were a lot of head swaps. LOL!  

different colors photography portrait



One more note on choosing colors.  I don’t know that I have personally read this anywhere but in one case with a client she wore a beautiful red blouse that was very warm in tone and very bright.  It looked amazing on her.  So I was shocked to see when I got it into the computer for editing that it had produced a color cast on her face that was very unflattering.  It almost gave her skin an orange quality rather than the beautiful tan that we saw visually.  Camera sensors are funny things and they can read a situation very differently than our eyes.  Our eyes are very forgiving and our brains will try to make sense of things that hard data won’t fix for us.  So just be aware with strong colors in some cases it will create a color cast.  Reds and Greens in particular can be unflattering to the skin if they are very bright. 



Now on the the HARD and FAST RULES.  I try to tell my clients to NEVER wear plaids.  I know those seer sucker suits are adorable but they can cause some serious problems.  The first and most practical problem is it makes it almost impossible to do a head swap.  So for families with little people this can be super important if brother and sister just aren’t ever on the same page.  I can remember one of my photography interns calling me so frustrated with her family sessions because she couldn’t get the kids to behave. My response was “anytime you have kids under the age of five and more than one be prepared to do a head swap”.   I’m a mom.  I get it.  Your kids aren’t misbehaved.  They are kids! And we have to do everything we can to make them smile, laugh, giggle, sit still, fold their hands in their laps etc.  And that’s a lot to ask sometimes of a little person.  Then getting two or three of them to do it at the same time even tougher! Then throw in a Mom or Dad that at just the moment you get them to smile and do it, Mom looks down at them to make sure they are behaving.  It’s almost comical.  And if you don’t have a sense or humor and love it you shouldn’t be doing family portraits.  So with that said if you or your child is wearing plaid those lovely stripped lines BEND when you turn your body or head so trying to line up one headshot or body shot from one image to the next may become impossible if those lines don’t line up.  


And the last hard and fast rule is to avoid plaids, houndstooth (I know… I love them too) and thin stripes if possible.  The sensors in the camera just don’t like them.  They can create moiré patterns and can ruin a picture.  Here’s a little excerpt on moiré patterns. 

Avoiding Moiré Patterns

Have you ever seen a distracting pattern on a person’s shirt when watching television? This effect, known as a moiré pattern, is caused by geometric elements of the shirt conflicting with the image sensor.  In dSLRs, moiré patterns occur because the image sensors are arranged in a specific matrix pattern that can conflict with patterns on the subject. The patterns aren’t visible through the viewfinder, because you’re not looking at what the image sensor is picking up.

I hope my dentist will forgive me for posting this picture.  It was one of those quick, can I drop buy and get a quick headshot and we didn’t have time to talk but it been GREAT for showing clients what can happen. Thanks Leo! LOL!

example of moire pattern

It’s generally best to not to wear geometric patterns in clothing when being photographed.  

So hopefully that wasn’t too confusing and we are always willing to look at outfits you have picked out to help you in choosing the best combinations to make the most of your family portraits or other photo sessions.