Dressing for Your Portrait Session

The art of portrait photography is to capture not only your best view, or facial expressiont, but also your  personality and mood. It is a person's eyes and face that tell the story of their personality. So, the goal of wardrobe in a portrait is to flatter the subject, and influence the mood.

To that end, the clothes should be relatively subdued. Colors should be muted rather than bright and loud, and solid colors are usually better than prints. Keep in mind that the clothes help to set the mood or feeling of the portrait, so it's best to avoid the 'latest', 'greatest', "in" styles in favor of more timeless standards.

Light Colors vs. Dark Colors

Light tones in clothing, bright and cheery though they are, are not necessary for a portrait to have a bright and cheery look. It is also true that dark clothing will not necessarily present a somber mood. Again, it is the eyes and facial expression that dominate and tell the story.

In photographic portraiture, the fact that light colors diminish shadows produces the result that the figure appears slightly fuller. Also, very light or white clothes can tend to wash out your skin tone. The opposite is true with dark toned clothes: they intensify shadows, have a slightly slimming effect, and skin tones appear deeper.

Sleeves and Necklines

Here are a couple more tips about dressing for your portrait: loose fitting, long sleeves will draw attention away from your arms. If you feel your arms are too big, or you have blotchy skin or band-aids on your arms, wear longer, loose fitting sleeves. An open, scoop or V-neck shirt or blouse will add the appearance of length to your neck, where a crew or turtleneck will give the appearance of a shorter neck.

Coordinating Colors for Couples, Families and Groups

The best photographs have a balance of color harmony, so when choosing colors, make sure that they are similar or matching in tone and hue. A family taking portraits at the beach might choose denim jeans and cream colored shirts, blouses or sweaters for everyone.  A family photographed in studio might choose black pants and/or skirts with burgundy shirts, blouses or sweaters. Someone wearing a brigher, darker, or different color that the others will pull the viewer's eye to their outfit instead of the group as a whole.

Jewelry And Accessories

Keep it simple is the best advice here. Remember, the part played by accessories and jewelry, the same as with clothing, is simply to flatter the subject, not steal attention from the subject: you. Unless an accessory or piece of jewelry is essential to the look or feel you want in the portrait, or is something you wear all the time, or has special meaning to you, leave it out. On the other hand, if something is important to you such as your great aunt's locket, or great granddad's walking stick, or plays an integral part of your life such as a stethoscope, or a canoe paddle, talk with your photographer about how to include it in some of your portraits.

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