Thursday, September 29, 2011

Family Portrait Photographer - What to Wear

A frequent question I get asked by my clients is, "what should my  family wear for our portrait session?"  It's a great question because while  I want to capture the personality of the family I also hope that everyone's clothing works together, not against each other.  There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to one's wardrobe.  But here are some general tips and advice that can help make your portraits  more visually appealing and cohesive.

The goal of any group shot is to direct the viewer's attention to the subjects' faces. No one family member should stand out or distract from the other family members. To accomplish this, it's important to put some thought into coordinating outfits. This doesn’t mean everyone has to wear identical outfits (which would be cheesy). Rather, the idea is to make sure one family member doesn't show up wearing shorts and a tank top when everyone else wears khakis and long-sleeved button down shirts.
  1. Coordinate outfits. Everybody in the portrait should wear items that compliment each other in style and color. It is not necessary for clothes to match, but they must make sense together. For example, if one person wears a suit and tie and another wears shorts and a t-shirt, the portrait may look unbalanced and poorly planned.
  2. Stick to solids and subtle patterns when possible. Bold stripes, large designs, logos, and polka dots stand out and tend to draw attention from the portrait's subjects. An eclectic mix of patterns can clash and reduce the quality of a portrait.
  3. Dress in timeless clothing for your family portrait. Let your age, not your clothes, date the portrait.
  4. Wear appropriate shoes and socks. Many family portraits are full-body shots, so if Mom wears sneakers with her dress she'll probably feel silly. If anyone plans to change clothes, bring shoes and socks to go with each outfit.
  5. Wear colors that translates well in photography. Color is critical when taking group shots. Avoid wearing very intense, bright colors.  This means that cousin Beth shouldn't be wearing her favorite neon pink blouse and fluorescent green mini skirt. Instead, have family members wear clothing with neutral tones, such as blues and browns.  Also, be careful not to mix light and dark tones together. Doing so creates visual confusion, as one subject appears to pop out of the photo while the other recedes.  Dark colors like navy blue, black and earth tones look especially nice outdoors. White clothing can get lost against a white background. Bright shades of yellow, red, orange and pink can alter skin tones and aren't ideal for photographs.
  6. Clean and iron all clothing before the portrait. If your clothes wrinkle easily, change just before the sitting. Bring wrinkle release spray and a detergent pen to the portrait site for last-minute emergencies.
Again, use this as a guideline not a hard and fast rule.  In the end, your family's personality, interaction and emotion will ultimately make the portrait.  The following photos are great examples of this.  

Mitchel Wu Photography - Capturing Life, Love and Laughter.  
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