by Marissa Venter, January 15, 2016 , In Engagement Shoots , tips

What should we wear?!

It’s a week before your shoot and you are in a complete panic over what to wear for your photo shoot. Don’t worry, I have taken the time to compile some tips for what to wear to your shoot. Wether it is a family or couple shoot, the rules stay pretty much the same and they aren’t that complicated.
Ive broken up the “rules” into three categories; Coordinate, Accessorize & Location…

Coordinate and compliment without matching…

When styling a photo session, I like to start out with a basic color palette and go from there. It helps to build a colour palette around one main subject. If it’s a couple session the main subject is usually the women and if it’s a family shoot, the main subject will be one of the kids. The main subject is the one that carries a pattern in their outfit that the rest of the group’s clothing or accessories pulls from, while keeping everyone else’s outfits more simple. You can do this with a neutral and a few colorful brights, or try a softer palette that has different tonal ranges of the same shades.Pick out a few color pops to coordinate between subjects when working with a palette of softer tones or neutrals. A good colour palette will have 3-4 matching colours. It tends to be easier to find the “center stage” pieces in girls and women’s clothing, so I’ll often start with the females and then pull colors from their outfits to create a look for the boys and dads.
Never, EVER wear exactly the same matchy-matchy outfits. The “white shirt  and jeans” look is very dated and lets face it, very boring.

Stick to a monochromatic colour palette with one bright colour as the main attraction. If you are struggling, you can use this handy palette creator.

Accessorize with patterns, colour, texture and props…

When picking patterns, choose smaller ones that won’t distract attention away from the main subject/s. Use patterns sparingly…. if one person is wearing a print, try to avoid putting someone else in a competing pattern.  When thinking about texture, choose different ones that will give photos some interest such as lace, corduroy, denim, etc.  Avoid large logo’s, emblems and graphics like “GUESS” and “Billabong” because again, these will typically distract attention away from the subject.  We want your faces and emotion to show, not promote the clothing company you purchased from!



Scarves, hats, flowers in the hair for girls, jewellery, sweaters, vests, jackets, etc. – all these things can take a bland image and give that some special. Don’t let the accessories overwhelm the subject or the photos though – you want to notice the subject and their personality first … the accessories and clothing should just complement them – not be center stage. Choose your accent colours and fill in outfits with those punches of color in accessories … for instance, if big sister’s patterned dress has tones of aqua, coral and grey, have mom wear a coral headband and little brother in an aqua pair of Converse and bow tie.

Layers and textures are beautiful and create interest in photos. I absolutely love using multiple textures and layers, especially important when working with a color palette a bit on the neutral or softer side (with a subtle color pop here or there). When I say textures one of the ways to achieve this is with different clothing materials and accents – tweed, crochet and embroidery details, lace, hand knit items, smocking, ribbons, ruffles, etc. Also, having different layers of clothing and accessories can add another dimension to the overall texture of the image. These details and added depth are especially important in black and white images. When thinking about textures and props, don’t forget that the shoes you wear can really add to the look that you are going for. It needs to match the style as well as colour palette.



Probably the most important thing to take into account when picking your outfits is Location. 

Where is the shoot taking place?

Often people will choose a specific location because it has a certain look and feel to it. If you choose an urban location with graffiti and city lights, try choosing outfits with trendy fabrics and colours. Your outfits have to make sense in the location. If you are using a location with old hollywood glamour feel to it, make things interesting by dressing the part. If you are shooting at the beach, ladies wear a pretty dress and sandals, put dad in a short sleeve shirt and shorts OR pants (which you can also roll up), put your little girl in a sweet Spring or Summer dress, etc.  You will want to make sure that everyone is on the same page and coordinates in both colors AND styles. The location often presents a theme which is useful for picking clothes as well as deciding on hair and make up looks.


Were are the photos being displayed?

It mind seem an odd thing to think about, but the location that the images are meant for should also play a role in the decision of your colour palette. If you are going to be making prints for your living room, you want to consider having a matching colour palette. These ways the clothes you wear will match your home decor beautifully.

What NOT to wear…

  • Avoid anything with logos, graphics, characters, labels, etc. These tend to take the “finished” look of a professional portrait down a few notches, can be distracting (who wants people to first notice the Nike or Gap logo before the adorable little kid’s smile?) and will date a photo quickly. BUT There are a few instances where a more stylized graphic on a shirt can look good if it fits the vibe of a photo, for instance, if we did a total punk rock theme it could be fitting to wear a Ramones or Metallica tee to suit the theme.
  • If anyone is needing a trip to the salon, be sure to let the hair cut grow out a week or so in order to look most natural. Do not get your hair cut or coloured a day before the shoot because if something goes wrong, you will have no time to fix it!
  • Don’t make everyone wear all the same color … matching is boring and dated. Coordinate colors and looks, letting everyone have their own spin on the color palette (and every person does not – should not – have every color used in the color palette). And please no families all dressed in khaki pants, or all in denim and white shirts.
  • While trying to stay current and fashionable, do avoid obvious trends that will be dated soon. You can do fashion forward while still remaining timeless.
  • Don’t show up with no make up. I know some ladies aren’t used to make up and want to feel more natural but you can still get natural make up done. The camera shows flaws on skin a lot more than the human eye can see and a good make-up artist know how to hide these flaws without making you look unnatural.
  • If you have concerns or questions about what to wear to match your location and theme, DONT keep quiet. Ask me – as your photographer I want these portraits to be the best they can be and I will gladly assist in the planning of outfits.



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