Preparing for a Portrait Shoot
(C) Mimika Cooney 2005

Simplicity is key. As the saying goes ”less is more” and this is true when it comes to designing an appropriate outfit.

Solid colours are best. Navy and black are very slimming, denim and white look great in an outdoor environment, and softer earthy colours are more natural on the eye in studio shots. Preferable colours to wear (depending on your complexion of course) would be rust, brown, navy, green and pastel colours. Bright red for adults should be avoided unless of course you want to be the centre of attention! Red does work well for children is they are photographed in an outdoor environment.

Darker clothing (such as black or navy) minimizes body size and is very slimming where light tones tend to do the opposite.

White or light pastel clothing look best in portraits taken against a white or light background. Blues, white, ivory, khaki and salmon are lovely outdoors against green foliage. Burgundy, brown, tan and grey are nice in late autumn. Kids photographed outdoors during Autumn look fabulous dressed in a single colour like for example green against the bright orange fallen leaves.

Avoid large or bold patterns, wording, checks, strips, dots and spots as they draw attention away from the face, as this is the most important part of the photo. Teenagers tend to want to show off their branded or labelled clothing but any obvious brand names will date the photo in years to come and are quite distracting. Try to steer clothing decisions away from branded items by suggesting (subtly of course) a simpler alternative.

Elbow length or long sleeve dresses and shirts are recommended as they give a more finished look, although short sleeves are acceptable for toddlers and small children.

Co-ordinate your outfit from head to toe by selecting appropriate shoes in case they get in the shots. Children look best photographed with bare feet as shoes tend to make their little feet look much bigger.

Necklines are also important. A “V neck” or scoop neck is best if you have a short neck short and want to make it look longer and your face fuller. A polo neck or high-necked shirt is more flattering if your neck is longer and your face slender, they also tend to draw attention up towards your face.

If you are having a group or family portrait taken dress everyone in the same style of clothing but not necessarily the same colour. Its best not to mix casual and formal attire in the same shot as formal clothing results in more formal poses. If you would like a more relaxed portrait or if you select an outdoor location, choose more casual and comfortable clothing (denim works a treat).

Keep the tonal range of clothing within the group the same and don’t mix light and dark clothes together. If you really want some sort of pattern save it for your accessories like scarves, belts and neckties.

Family or Group Portraits: a great tip in deciding what to wear…
Strip your bed until you only have a white sheet. Place all the outfits that your family members have chosen to wear and place them in the way they would be worn on the bed. Make yourself a cup of tea. After you’ve had a change in focus go back to your bed and look to see if there are any outfits that jump out at you as being distracting or a mismatch. Look for colours that complement and place them together. The whole ”picture” should be pleasing to the eye.

Any haircuts, colours or perms are better done several days before the portrait. Have some make-up and hair grooming materials handy for touch ups e.g. translucent powder, lip gloss, mascara and natural coloured blusher.

Children are at their best usually mid-morning so schedule a time when they will be happy and well rested. Please do bring along a few favourite small toys so that they feel secure. It is best not to offer food or drink during the portrait session as it will distract their attention.

Mums and Dads please be quietly supportive of your little gems as if we’re both calling for their attention they won’t know where to look. It works really well when parents stand behind the photographer so young children look in the direction of the camera.

If you have to postpone your portrait session, please give us as much notice as possible (24 hours at the minimum).

Most importantly enjoy yourself! We want your photos to be a true reflection of you.