Clothing choices are so important for our team to create great images.
The goal of great portraits is to subconsciously have the eye drawn to the faces in the images and one tool we use to achieve this is proper clothing. We do have rules that we have found, through our years of experience, make the best images.
- NO PATTERN, STRIPES OR CONTRASTING DESIGN
- SLEEVE LENGTH - Ladies, aim for 3/4 or long sleeves. Guys, short sleeves are okay if they are close to elbow length. The skin on your upper arm competes with your face. Remember, our goal is to feature your face. FYI: Layering with jackets and cardigans is a great option.
- SIMILAR SHADES OF COLOR - For example, all pastels or all jewel tones. Avoid light and dark together. This creates contrast which draws the eye away from the faces and creates confusion.
- BOTTOMS MATTER - Our style features close up and full length artistic images, standing and sitting, so skirts may or may not be appropriate depending on the comfort level of sitting on the ground without revealing too much (girls watch out for short shorts also). Too much thigh skin showing is not usually very attractive. Men take note of sock color as they will show when you sit.
- DON'T FORGET YOUR FEET - They will be in the picture. We often photograph bare feet, but will charge extra to retouch chipped toenail polish. We love kids to be barefoot, weather permitting or in the studio, so let us know if that is an issue. Generally white tennis shoes stand out, so make sure you love them if you choose to wear them.
- THE WHITE RULE - Please avoid completely for family sessions. We strongly advise against choosing bright white. It is such a strong color and very attention grabbing. CAUTION: any small bits of white jump out -- camisoles, undershirts, socks. While there are some exceptions to this rule, there are a lot of conditions so please consult us if you feel this is the color you want to work with.
Super Secrets to Portrait Clothing – a little explanation of the JP Clothing Tips (Rules)
While our clothes are an expression of who we are, the wrong clothing selection in a portrait will keep the viewer from seeing the subject. A successful portrait most definitely contains correct clothing selection. Just think how much time, effort, money, and careers are spent on clothing selection for movies in Hollywood, let alone the appearances and quick snapshots surrounding them. Sometimes it is easier to approach the subject from “What Not to Wear”. We aren’t saying we want everyone in a family portrait to wear identical costumes, like I mentioned before, clothing is an expression of personality and that helps us as photographers to tell your story. Therefore, lets focus first on the don’ts so we are left with the most choices of what to wear. Learning our rules of portrait clothing will then allow us to be creative with the expressions. The general basis of the rules is to eliminate distractions, any general item that pulls attention away from the subject has earned a no. Also, there are some generally unflattering items when photographed, and we know that no matter how great of shape someone is in, they always want to look the best possible.
No stripes, wild patterns, loud florals, bright plaids, contrasting graphics.
First, the distractions, does an item in the outfit jump out at you? My personal tip is to hang the outfit on a door across the room and squint your eyes, the whole thing should blend. If one thing or another jumps out, that is where your eye will go in the portrait, and we would like the viewers eyes to see the people, not their stripes.
Blend all pieces in an outfit
Another common mistake is to forget the blending thing. When your pants are really dark and your shirt is really light. Across the room, with your eyes squinted, you are drawn to the line between the shirt and pants, right? In your portrait we will design or select the set somewhat based on what you are wearing so your face is drawing the attention, not your clothes. The contrasting parts of clothing present a problem because we will have to choose to coordinate with the light part or the dark part of the outfit and the other will compete with seeing you. It is imperative that all people in the family blend also, select an overall shade (light, medium, or dark) and adhere to it with all items.
Accessorize with care
This is not just for the ladies, men’s shoes are often the biggest mistake. By now I hope most people have realized that we don’t do the sit in front of a boring background, only capture from the waist up – church picture. So, it might be helpful to mention that to your husband that many of the images will include feet. That means that the dirty, not so white anymore tennis shoes will be super distracting in a medium to darker color scheme. On that note, it is less costly to purchase cheap dark socks, then to pay for artwork of turning white socks dark. White socks and undershirts (this includes camis) pop out in pictures, remember to hang them with the outfit across the room when you do the squint test. Also, note that chipped nail polish is not a cheap artwork charge to fix. Please don’t misunderstand this one, we love accessories, just make sure they blend with the color scheme.
The "No White" rule
This is a hot topic and falls under both the distracting and unflattering category. It is often misunderstood, so let me start with what would make a great portrait selecting white and this may help everyone understand why the rule was created. For example a great white portrait would follow “hi-key” rules, meaning the subjects faces would be the darkest part of the portrait. Every portion of the outfits and the set would need to be significantly lighter than the subjects complexions. Indoors, an all white set would need to be created and while I mentioned earlier that we are not the church picture people, we are also not the mall picture people so the plain white background isn’t our style, we would need texture, but all in white of course. That is doable, but you would have to wear ALL white or shades there of. Outside, is a little more complicated, look around. Even if you do find a field full of white flowers there are often darker trees or grasses. When white is photographed it often takes on a neon like feature that draws attention to it, and therefore away from your face, which is why even parts of it in portraits can be very distracting. And we haven’t even touched on the flattery of white, or lack there of. Most of us know that darker colors minimize, therefore… You get the picture.
Long sleeves, please
The skin on your upper arms is relatively close to your face, and sometimes a lighter tone. Either way, showing it in a portrait competes with the attention of the eye to your face. Most men’s shirts, even short sleeves come close to the elbow, those are okay. Women’s short sleeves or sleeveless are no-no’s left uncovered. Layering is great so if you love a sleeveless dress, wear a blending cardigan or jacket on top. Also, keep in mind, in a group portrait, lots of bare arms and legs all over will distract from the faces. Again, we will photograph full length images, so keep in mind how much leg skin you are wanting to feature.
Form and Function
That would bring me to function. We use our posing expertise to help you look your best. We appreciate it if your outfits allow for sitting on chairs, couches and on the ground. It is usually best to avoid short shorts, or miniskirts. Ladies, also watch out for how much cleavage you are comfortable revealing, maybe adding a cami would be good. While too tight may not allow the function of the best posing, too loose can be bad too. Baggy clothing leads the eye to fill in the space, so form fitting clothes are often more flattering (not tight, just fitted). Those selections also allow for a little discrete artwork if needed.