So you, your husband and your children are looking forward to proper family portraits taken by a professional photographer in his studio. So far, so great, but what to wear? Should you all be dressed smartly, go for casual wear or even formal dress? Should you wear bright or dark colours, or perhaps play it safe with white?


Choosing the right clothes for your family portraits can be a dilemma, especially since the outfits you wear can make a big difference to the look and feel of the pictures.

In this article, fashion guru and freelance blogger Lloyd Wells discusses lessons learned with London photography specialist Boggio Studios – to try to help you understand what’s best to wear for your portraits.

The clothes you wear can make or break your pictures

What you wear in a portrait photography session is just as important as the poses you strike and the lighting provided. It’s important that you and your family, and not the garments you wear, are the main focus of attention. Your outfit should flatter but not be too prominent. Attention grabbing clothing draw the eye away from the people in the portrait – remember that it’s not a fashion photograph, it’s a family portrait. When choosing an outfit, try to cover any flabby or wrinkled arms, make sure large tummies are not exaggerated in a tight T-shirt and don’t wear trousers that are too tight, or too baggy.

Your photographer can help you avoid wearing the wrong kind of clothing to make sure that what would otherwise be a great portrait is not spoilt by what you wear.

Trust your photographer to know best

You’ve chosen your headshot photographer because he is an experienced professional with many happy clients who probably love the quality of his portrait photography. Trust his judgment when it comes to deciding what works visually – it’s his job!

Any photographer worth his salt will happily make time to meet with you a few days before the shoot to offer you advice and tips on clothing, hair and make-up. Ideally, your Family Photographer wants you to be happy with the results. He or she will want to make sure that everyone is looking their best for the shoot. This will help guarantee that you and your family will be extremely pleased with the photos. It’s also a great opportunity for you to get to know your photographer better.

One photographer I know had this to say:

A question I’m asked frequently in my portraiture classes is ‘what should we wear?’ People sometimes have peculiar and misguided ideas of what they should or shouldn’t wear for their portraits. They often arrive at the studio with a bag of some really weird clothing choices that have me shaking my head in disbelief. What were they thinking? So, a few days before a portrait session I try to help by making a few suggestions.

Top tips on what to wear

  1. Wear solid coloured clothing, not patterns that can be visually distracting.
  1. Wear muted or subdued colour tones that complement the overall picture rather than draw attention to individual garments.
  1. Choose similar colour tones for the top and bottom halves of your outfit (either both dark, or both light).
  1. Select one to three colours for your group portrait, and make sure that they all have similar tones that go well together, then dress everyone within that colour range. For example: light colours – tan or khaki, together with light olive green and light blue; or dark tones – navy blue with dark green and burgundy.
  1. It’s a good idea to wear a top with sleeves that are at least elbow length – it’s way more flattering!
  1. Stick to the tried and tested: Men should wear Trousers and the ladies should wear a skirt below the knee.
  1. Footwear and socks should always be dark coloured.

Make-up, hair and accessories

It’s a common misconception that you should go to town with make-up and hair if you’re having your photo taken. But if you’re not careful, this can go badly wrong. Here are some tips to bear in mind:

  1. Apply your make-up as you normally would, and according to the old mantra: it’s best to use less rather than more. Don’t think that heavy make-up and dark eye-liner will achieve a better result – nothing could be further from the truth!
  1. Wear your hair as you usually do while choosing an outfit according to our suggestions above. For best results, you should be totally at ease and feel comfortable with your whole appearance.
  1. If you’ve decided to have a new hairdo or haircut for the portrait session, do this a couple of weeks before so that you’ve had time to get used to the restyle.
  1. It’s not a good idea to overdo the jewellery. Keep it simple and remember that less is more.

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