Many people ask me what to wear to their portrait session.  Fortunately, or unfortunately, there is not a simple answer to this question!  Different sessions call for different styles and color pallets.  Let me show you what I mean…

Maternity sessions are a prime example.  It’s easy to go with the basic which is black.  Simple black is great, because the eye automatically files it as a basic color that doesn’t grab attention.  Therefore the attention is put on your face, your hands, your eyes, skin tone… for traditional mamas who want to show some belly but want to keep it basic and classy my first suggestion is usually a black tank top or shawl and either dark jeans or black pants.  But there are more than one way to look at this!  What if you want to show your personality?  You could go with the same idea but choose a bright color, like pink or orange.  Dark jeans still look great with this, or you can go all out like my client here did.  It lends a light, happy mood to the photos and shooting outdoor took it to the next level.  If you want to go more modest and not show the belly you can choose clothes that drape nicely and enhance your shape.  All of these are right because they show who each woman is while still allowing them to show off their beautiful maternal shape.

Wardrobe ideas for maternity sessions

Children’s portraits offer an incredible range of possibilities!  The same basic rules apply when it comes to colors.  White is often chosen instead of black for children as a basic color that doesn’t distract from the child.  One thing to keep in mind is that children learn early on to express themselves through wardrobe.  It’s my opinion that the most important thing about dressing a child for a session is making sure the clothing doesn’t distract them and allowing them to express who they are, even if it involves bright purple ruffles!  As you can see, from more traditional to fun to casual, these kids all look adorable and most importantly they look authentic.  When you have multiple kids in the shot you can allow as much or as little independence as you want.  Although it’s cute and appropriate for many occasions, they absolutely don’t have to be wearing jeans and white shirts.  The example below allowed each child their own unique style while sticking to a basic color pallet that allowed them all to look related in the shot.  The major things to avoid are clothes that distract or don’t fit well and subtle patterns like plaid and small stripes, as they sometimes confuse the camera and turn out as the focus of the picture.

Examples of children's outfits for portrait sessions

Babies look better the less clothing they have on.  This is something that is not immediately obvious, since there are so many cute baby outfits on the market!  But the truth is, babies change so quickly that they rarely fit their clothes perfectly, and until they are walking their little bodies tend to get hidden by bulky or misaligned outfits.  This is especially true for babies who are not yet sitting up on their own.  As a result, I usually suggest that parents come prepared for some naked or “just diaper” shots as well as bringing one or two favorite outfits.  If grandma sewed a dress for your daughter, or you have a dress that used to be yours, it’s absolutely fine to do a couple photographs in that.  If your son has a little baseball had from dad’s favorite team, bring it!  Christening gown?  Sure!  But in addition to these novelty and nostalgia shots it’s always a good idea to have a fresh onesie, diaper or diaper cover and capture photographs of your baby in his or her full glory!

Babies are cutest without clothes

Teens and Senior Portraits are fabulously flexible.  Above all others, teens need the freedom to express themselves through their clothes.  Luckily, the prime purpose of a teen or senior portrait is to capture the unique qualities of an individual as they grow into the person they want to become.  Unlike babies, clothes accent teens bodies and personas.  Striped arm warmers say something very different than a button-up dress shirt.  I’ve yet to have a teen show up in something that I had a hard time photographing.  I encourage teens to choose a couple options and include something very bold or “Them” as well as something that’s more neutral.  I still caution against small patterns, but love bold colors, stripes, and accessories for these shoots as well as formal and casual looks.

Examples of the range of outfits that work for senior portraits

I hope this gives you some ideas for your session!  Just remember, the most important thing is to feel good in what you are wearing, because wearing something that feels inauthentic results in photos where you look like you feel inauthentic… and what’s the point of a portrait other than to capture you or your child as you are!

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