There’s no one size fits all response to the topic of what to wear to your photo shoot. It depends on the look you are going for, your personal styles and preferences and location of the shoot. But, after years of experience, there are some basic guidelines I can provide to help you look your best at your photo session.
- Take it up a notch. Spend a little extra time on your hair, your make-up, ironing your clothes… wear something that makes you look and feel great! It doesn’t have to be fancy (unless that’s the look you are going for), just polished.
- We’re solid: In general solid colors are best. Logos, text or brand names on clothing is quite distracting so stay solid. Mix textures and use layers to add interest.
- Bigger isn’t better.Wearing baggy or loose clothes may hide your “imperfections” but it will also do something much worse – make you look bigger than you are! Select clothing that fits your shape and flatters the smallest parts of your body. Don’t worry about fitting into a specific size – it’s the fit that matters most.
- It’s in the eyes. They say the eyes are the window to the soul…how apropos for a photo! Wear colors closest to your face that will bring out the color of your eyes.
- Sleeveless in San Diego: 95% of the time I will steer clients away from sleeveless tops for headshot sessions. Viewers’ eyes are drawn to the lightest object in photos, so with the way headshot photos are cropped the tops of your arms call for attention. You can have great arms and still not like they way the photos turn out with sleeveless or cap sleeve shirts. If you are taking photos where the entire arm is showing (and you love your arms), by all means, show them off!
- Me and my crew: This is for the men: please leave the white sport, micro and quarter socks in the drawer and wear your crew or calf length dark socks to your session. And a quick note on shoes: sneakers are eyesores (unless they are classic styles like Vans or Converse) so select shoes that will blend with your outfits.
- Breaking the rules: Every now and then it’s fun to break the rules. Go big with pattern, throw on a graphic tee in an urban setting or put on a sleeveless maxi dress on the beach.
- Accessorize: Use hats, hair accessories, sunglasses, jewelry (necklaces, bracelets, rings, earrings), vests, belts, socks/tights, leg warmers, gloves and shoes to tie in accent colors and add interest.
- You’ve got it: Ensure you like the way you look by (a) taking a selfie and doing a wardrobe/make-up check before heading out, (b) bringing a change (or two) of clothes, or (c) texting a pic of your clothes to your photographer.
- Rule #1: When selecting clothes for a group, always select the same color range for everybody in the photo. In other works, all wear light colors, all wear dark colors, all wear brights, mid-tones, jewel-tones…get the picture? Start with the most restricted person, i.e. if your group has a fair-haired, pale skinned, blue eyed girl, she would get washed out with anything too dark or too light. She will look best in the light to mid-tone blues or yellow. Select light or mid-tones, then pick the color (in this example, blue or yellow), and lastly, identify complementary colors to coordinate with her.
- Mix or match? This subject falls under personal preference. When everybody matches, you get a uniform consistent look. On the flip side, people all tend to blend together and there’s not a lot of personality shown in the photo. Choosing a color palette of 3-4 coordinating colors will allow people to choose colors that look good on them while still looking like a cohesive group. Check out this blog post on help with coordinating colors.
- Coordinate through accessories. Use hats, hair accessories, sunglasses, jewelry (necklaces, bracelets, rings), vests, belts, socks/tights, and shoes to tie in accent colors and coordinate with the group.
- Be in season. Pay attention to the season – don’t dress one person in a sweater and another in a sleeveless top for the sake of coordinating. It just looks awkward.
- Be an individual in a group: Even though you are part of a group, it’s also important to shine in your own right. Read the recommendations for individuals above.
There’s one thing you should know about your make-up: the camera will not capture it in the same way as you see it in real life. Having too much make-up, not enough, or the wrong type of make-up can really affect the outcome of your images. It is recommended that you hire a professional makeup artist with experience in photoshoot make-up, but if you are not comfortable with that or it’s not in the budget, follow these tips for a picture perfect look!
- Exfoliate and hydrate (moisturize) your skin the night before your session. And, remember to drink a lot of water in the days leading up to the session so your skin looks healthy.
- The day of your session, wash and moisturize your face with a non-SPF moisturizer. Any makeup products with SPF will show up shiny in photos and who wants a shiny face?
- Use a non-shimmery foundation primer. It will fill in any fine lines and create a smooth surface to apply your makeup onto.
- Apply a full coverage, matte foundation (no SPF) in the color that matches your neck. In order to get just the right shade, you may need to mix more than one foundation color. And to get full coverage, you may need more than one layer of make-up. If you’re concerned about looking too pale, go to tip 4!
- Contour and highlight your face. Contour with a darker color under your cheekbones, on the sides of your nose and around the hairline. Highlight with a light color on the tops of your cheekbones, the inner corners of your eyes, along the top length of your nose and optionally on your cupid’s bow.
- Set your make-up with a yellow tinted powder (you may use translucent powder if it isn’t shimmery). The yellow tint also helps reduce redness in your skin.
- Avoid shimmery, sparkly, or glittery make-up unless in your eye-shadow otherwise it will reflect light.
- Eyes: use an eyeliner on the top and bottom lids (black works great on the top lash line, use any color or eyeshadow on the bottom); wear multiple layers of mascara (false lashes, or fiber mascara works great too); pay close attention to your eyebrows as well.
- Wear a little more make-up than you normally wear, paying close attention to your cheeks and lips.
- Set your make-up with a setting spray. This will help it last through the shoot and until you are ready to remove it!
One more tip: bring your make-up with you to your session for touch-ups or to add more where needed.
Where are you? The type of location you select for your session can help guide you on what you wear. For example, you probably wouldn’t want to wear high heels to the beach or to a grassy park. Below are some color palettes to help you find the right colors for your session. In general, you want to match or go lighter than the colors in your location if you want a more monochromatic look; go with bold colors to stand out; or wear darker colors for contrast.
Beach blues are my favorite colors on the beach. Pair with a white, khaki or royal blue bottom and accessorize with coral or yellow.
An alternative color scheme for the beach is nautical colors (red, white, blue and yellow). Add reds for pops of color or stick with a subtle color palette.
Dry grass field, Balboa Park or Rustic Backdrop: Use a simple neutral palette for a soft, romantic look.
Green Settings – Parks or Fields: Jewel tones usually look great on everybody, the colors compliment each other and they help you stand out in a natural green setting without being too bright.
Holidays: Fall into fall colors, don the Merry and Bright colors of the holidays, or try on a winter grey palette. These classic color palettes look great in almost any setting and are perfect to celebrate the season.
All American: It’s hard to go wrong with a classic red, white and blue color palette. Have fun with pattern, texture and accessories.