What to wear for a photoshoot

July 07, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

First off, the answer to this question will depend upon your specific needs. If this is a fashion photoshoot or one that dictates a certain attire, like surfing, then what follows may not be as relevant. These are simply guidelines for you to consider when preparing for your shoot.


Light clothing can provide an awesome crisp look

If you would like to create a slimmer appearance, then it’s probably best to avoid white. That is unless the white is somewhat reduced, eg. white shirt worn under a dark jacket. On the plus side, white can look beautifully simple, fresh, and stylish. Keep in mind that photoshoots can get messy, particularly outdoor shoots, so I suggest a backup in case of accidental marks/stains.  933A0271_web933A0271_web


Darker clothes can be slimming

It’s well known that darker clothes can definitely provide a slimming effect. If the background is also dark they will blend which draws attention to the face - the most important part of the image. Keep in mind the context and environment of the photoshoot when deciding if to incorporate dark colors. Here in Los Angeles it’s mostly very sunny and the vibe is generally casual (especially at the beach!), so dark colors and blacks may not always be the best choice.  still_loony aka n_retouch_IMG_8694_webstill_loony aka n_retouch_IMG_8694_web


Go easy on the vibrant colors

Very bright colors can dominate an image and distract attention away from the face, which should be the main subject. On bright days these bold colors can pop even more. Of course, all of this might be fine if the goal of the shoot is to showcase some statement clothing or accessory. If you let me know in advance what you have then I can select backdrops that will best compliment your preference, ie. by color pairing or contrasting.  1X4A0893v2_web1X4A0893v2_web


Avoid heavy prints, patterns, and prominent logos

These will almost certainly become a distraction. In particular, small patterns in clothing can sometimes cause distortions to appear in the portrait. None of these are dealbreakers for a photoshoot, in fact I work with them all the time, but you should keep in mind how they will affect the viewers attention.  IMG_1130_webIMG_1130_web


Balance out the flesh

For more casual portraits, flesh can compete for attention with the face, which should be the primary focal point. The solution is to reduce exposed areas of skin and balance things out. This can be done simply with long sleeve clothing, pants/leg wear. Again, this isn’t a big deal at all so don’t feel like you have to eliminate your favorite short sleeved dress!  933A2888_web933A2888_web


Don’t overdo the accessories 

Accessories that scream for attention either due to quantity or size can distract attention away from what should be the primary focus - the face. Simple and minimal usually works best.  933A0103_web933A0103_web



It’s fine to wear glasses and 100% your choice. I recommend you go with the option that makes you feel the most comfortable and confident since that makes for the better images. If the shoot is outdoors and it’s sunny then you may need sunglasses to keep you from squinting even when I position you with the sun to your back. Keep in mind glass reflects and if we are using flash then I will position the light source in such a way as to hide or reduce the glare. That may limit the compositions but it usually isn’t an issue.  933A7052_web933A7052_web


Make Up, Hair & Nails

Typically, it’s best for hair styles to be simple and off the face, especially the eyes which are the most critical part of the image. Hair falling over the face can cause distracting shadows, which can be harsh and unflattering if the light is bright. If it’s an outdoor shoot then the wind can blow the hair all over the place, which can add energy for a cool luck or frustratingly block the eyes and cast shadows. If this might be an issue then I recommend you bring a hair tie or hat to keep hair off the face. Tip: If you bring a hair tie then don’t leave it on your wrist when not in use.

It can be a good idea to have your make up professionally applied for your photography session since it will have a positive effect on how you look and feel. I work with two local pros that clients always speak well of but if you have your preferred hair and make up stylist that’s fine with me! Make sure to allow plenty of time for makeup and/or hair before your scheduled session. In my experience it almost always takes longer than expected.

I recommend nails are be manicured and avoiding chipped nail polish.  IMG_2942_webIMG_2942_web


Necklines for a Portrait

Generally speaking a neckline that comes up close to the neck is the most flattering. More open necklines tend to make the neck look thicker in a photograph. Conversely, necklines that sit closer to the base of the neck can frame the face nicely while providing a slimming effect.  1X4A3243_YT_web1X4A3243_YT_web


Group and family portrait sessions

Most of the above guidelines still apply. The challenge here is to achieve a balanced composition where no-one dominates the scene. Usually the best way to do this is to keep clothing choices simple and coordinating wardrobe in advance.  As mentioned, avoid loud or busy patterns and large logos - unless of course you’re all on a team or something where that’s important. Solid colors are best.

Start by deciding if the basic tone of the clothing should be warm-toned (yellows/whites/browns, etc.) or cool-toned (blues/grays/blacks, etc.). The season, time of day, event, and location can all help inform this choice as well as guide your color palette. Keeping the palette simple and co-ordinated will focus the viewers attention on the faces and individuals who make up the portrait. Too much variety in colors or contrasting tones can become distracting. White tops with chinos or jeans is a classic simple, casual look. Jeans are especially enduring and great for fun, flattering, looks since they don’t show wrinkles and the wearer can feel more comfortable/relaxed. Pair with light color tops for a fresh, clean, minimalist look that pretty much everyone can assemble from their existing wardrobe. Pastels colors can often compliment skin tones while dark colors are typically slimming and often provide a more chic or contemplative look. For any kids, try to select clothes that fit well, ie. not be too snug or too baggy.

Overall, it’s important for everyone to feel comfortable and relaxed in their clothes so try not to push people into wearing something they don’t like. You want the vibe to remain positive for the best results and people are probably already anxious about have their picture taken - even though they will most likely have a fun time during the shoot! Ultimately we want capture those unique personalities and bring out the best in everyone.  1X4A3419v4_web1X4A3419v4_web


Young children

Kids tend to shun more formal clothing and most definitely do not care for them the way adults do. After all, they don’t have to get them dry cleaned or repaired! Photoshoots can be a very fun experience for young children but they can lose interest quickly. So, with these in mind where possible choose outfits that will allow them to showcase their personality and not their ability to throw a tantrum. Bright solid colors and/or silly themes always work well to convey playfulness. Consider cute hats, boots, scarves and other accessories that can be used as fun props to help create more natural ‘poses’. I find that a small bottle of bubbles can work wonders on photoshoots both for holding their attention and creating beautiful scenes.  IMG_1029_webIMG_1029_web


Teenagers/Young Adults

Teenagers/Young adults are constantly experimenting with looks and it’s important to give them leeway to express their own style. You can provide ideas and mention some of the key points made in this article but at the end of the day it’s best to keep the vibe positive.  933A1706_web933A1706_web


Professional Headshots

While many of the above guidelines also apply to professional headshots (eg. avoid logos, blacks for slimming, etc), here are some additional points to consider.


  • The neckline is particularly important for headshots since this composition features the upper half more prominently. Tops and dresses with asymmetrical or modest necklines are a good choice as are round necklines which look elegant, classic and professional. V-necks can convey a more relaxed composure but may not sit as well over the shoulders and chest. give off a more casual vibe and don’t typically sit as nicely over your shoulders and chest. 
  • It’s a good idea to bring at least one dress to your photoshoot and try to keep it free from wrinkles which can look more pronounced in pictures. Thicker fabrics tend to be less prone to wrinkles than thin but it also depends on the material.
  • Feel free to wear jewelry and pair with each outfit.
  • Unless collared shirts are part of a job-specific attire then these are usually best to avoid.
  • Wear simple, natural looking makeup to subtly enhance rather than stand out.
  • Bring solid colored neutrals and basics for mixing and matching.
  • If you can’t decide then send me pics of what you’re considering or bring along a suitcase full of options and I can help you narrow down.


  • For casual looks or actor headshot sessions, usually a simple basic soft tee and long sleeve shirt work best.
  • Wear white, grey, black, and taupe. Avoid very bright colors.
  • Align your look with your ‘personal brand’. For example, if you have a playful fun personality then lets capture that! Maybe add some quickly element. I remember seeing a headshot with Steve Martin and he had a serious expression while the pen in his shirt pocket was leaking ink all over the shirt. If you have a favorite shirt with a fun pattern, bring it along and I’m sure we can do something with it.
  • Bring options. Meaning different ties, shirts, suit jackets, pants, and accessories.
  • If you can’t decide then send me pics of what you’re considering or bring along a suitcase full of options and I can help you narrow down.
  • Comb or style your hair and if necessary groom facial hair.


…and finally

As mentioned before, these are simply suggestions based on what often works well photographically. Ultimately, it’s your shoot and it’s the photographer’s job to bring the best out of each person and each composition. This begins with relaxing the subject, who may be nervous about their first photoshoot or some insecurity, and a well chosen outfit that makes the wearer happy, confident, and comfortable should be a priority.

In my experience people are surprised at how much fun photoshoots can be and it’s hard to argue against the value of preserving fleeting precious moments forever.

If you have any ideas, suggestions or questions about what to wear for your photoshoot then please let me know. I’m always happy to provide more detailed advice and kick ideas around. See you soon!



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