Nic Showalter | What do I wear to be photographed?

Dressing for Outdoor Family, Senior or Individual Portraits


First, choose a color theme that simplifies the look of your  portrait. Too many busy patterns and colors are distracting especially in group portraits. While all the clothing does not have to match, the colors should be harmonious. Coordinate the clothing for all subjects in a group portrait so that one person will not dominate the scene. A family group should choose clothing that blends with each member’s attire as well as with the background, rather than creating conflicting focal points that distract from the group as a whole. Color coordination lends harmony to the portrait.


As a background, the outdoors is very busy. It is important to choose only one or two theme colors, with your subjects wearing shades of those colors.  While blues are excellent all year, white, ivory, khaki and salmon are great against lush green foliage. Burgundy, brown, tan and gray are nice late in the season. Avoid all greens, as they clash with Mother Nature. The simplicity of two colors help separate family from the scenery. Busy backgrounds and busy clothes result in hard to find faces.


The human eye is naturally drawn to areas in a photograph that are of high contrast. Skin oftentimes is lighter than the background and so your portrait will look best when your face is not competing with uncovered arms or legs. Therefore, wear shirts with sleeves and long pants. The idea is to cover as much skin as possible so that your face is not competing for attention with anything else.


Dark clothing tends to minimize body size, and light tones tend to emphasize body size.


Shoes and socks are often overlooked as a significant aspect of portrait clothing. They should compliment, not contrast. Carefully consider your apparel from head to toe as a variety of full length and close up poses may be taken.