When we (everyone, not just professional photographers) look at photographs, our eyes go to the lightest part of the photo.
When a photo is a portrait of a person (or a group of people), the photographer wants your eyes to go to the face(s).
So, a photographer taking a portrait is going to want your face(s) to be the lightest part of the photo.
This means no white or very light colored blouses or shirts. Even for business portraits, men should select a shirt with at least some color; i.e, blue oxford cloth will be better than white. People of color should consider deep colors like black and strong primary colors.
When picking clothes, remember that simple is good. Go for the classic, avoiding trends that will make your photo look dated in six months.
Avoid clothing with pictures, writing or large logos unless the pictures, writing or large logos relate specifically to the photos. In other words, no Budweiser tee shirt unless this photo is for a magazine story about binge drinking among teens; no Disney shirts unless this family portrait is in front of Cinderella’s Castle.
Loud colors, busy patterns, bold stripes, big plaids, tank tops, mini skirts, and clothes that are baggy–or too tight–all call attention to the clothes, not the wearer. So wear them with care. No short shorts past grade school.
Many photographers take portraits from above your eye level to hide double chins or wrinkled necks, and to minimize extra pounds. However, from this angle exposed cleavage is only enhanced. So women, please avoid low necklines. If you aren’t happy about your arms, neck, etc., wear a mock turtleneck or long sleeves.
Avoid any sudden (and potentially unflattering) changes immediately before the portrait– no tanning booth visit or haircut the week before your portrait.
What colors work best? Generally speaking, darker clothing will be more slimming than very light colors, but the best color for you is based on your own skin, eye and hair coloring.
You probably know which color you look best in, which outfit consistently brings you compliments. Avoid the temptation to go out and buy something new; instead go with the proven winner. If you are color blind or not sure what works best, ask a friend for help.
If you are having a group portrait taken (a family portrait for example), most likely you’ll want to coordinate everyone’s clothing. You might decide to wear matching outfits (e.g., navy mock turtlenecks with khaki pants), or you might be more subtle, coordinating clothes around a common color theme (jeans and jean skirts for grown-up, jean overalls for toddlers) and tops that go well together in a small range of colors (maybe a mix of chambray and navy?)
Don’t forget to consider your shoes and socks. Group portraits are often full-length, and you may not be able to hide your feet.
Wrinkles are difficult to remove effectively in photoshop, so if you’ve picked an outfit that wrinkles easily, iron it and then don’t put it on until the last minute.
A word about glasses: Folks who wear glasses only part of the time are encouraged to remove them as glasses catch all sorts of reflections which aren’t easily removed in photoshop. Remember to remove them 15 or so minutes before the session to give any little marks on the bridge of your nose time to go away. If you plan to wear glasses and yours auto-darken in sunlight, bring another pair that doesn’t. Or don’t wear them at all. If you must wear glasses, your optometrist might be able to lend you a pair of empty frames that match your own.
About ladies’ hair: Often our hair looks “big” immediately after it is washed and styled, so if you wash and style your hair on the day of a portrait, do it early in the day to give it time to settle. If you don’t usually wash your hair every day, wash your hair on the day before the shoot and just restyle that morning. (Stylists will tell you that day-old hair holds a style better than just-washed hair.)
Men who tend to have five o’clock shadows should plan a quick shave before the photo.
If you have a lazy eye, ears that always stick out in photos, or another feature you don’t like, be sure to mention it to the photographer. We can often pose you in a manner that eliminates or minimizes certain features.
And very important, get a good night’s sleep the night before to avoid bags or circles around your eyes.
More important than even your clothes, however, is to bring a great attitude to the portrait session. If your body language says “nervous,” the best-looking outfit in the world is not going to save the shoot. And, the session will take longer as the photographer tries to loosen you up and elicit a smile. If you are totally relaxed and your eyes and smile are genuinely friendly, your portrait will be friendly and the session can end sooner!
Many families choose to dress alike, but you don’t have to if you’ll simply work around a color theme. We’ve collected pictures on pinterest to illustrated on you can dress as individuals but still blend together nicely. Please look here.
Postscript: Following these simple guidelines should ensure that your photo doesn’t end up on AwkwardFamilyPhotos.com