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What to Wear for Portraits – Wedding & Family Portrait Photographer in Hillsboro, OR | Samantha Shannon Photography

August 10, 2018

Wardrobe Guide for Portraits


​Choosing a color palette will make it so easy to know if your outfits “go” together, so it’s one of the first things you should do! An easy way to do this is to start with one person’s outfit–if you have a dress for your little girl that you love, or if you’ve already settled on your favorite maxi dress and cardigan combo, then all you need to do is find the colors that work best with that outfit! Dress the rest of your family members in different shades of the same colors in that first outfit.  For example, if mom’s dress is a floral pattern with navy blue, light blue, and pink, then dad could wear a light blue polo and khakis, and the baby could wear a pink dress with a blue hair clip.
Try to avoid dressing more than one person in any pattern (stripes, plaids, florals, polka dots, etc).  This can make the photo look busy.  If you stick to just one person in a pattern and the rest of the family in solid colors, it will look calm and timeless.

​Starting from scratch? Cruise Pinterest for color palette inspiration, or make your own from the color palettes below! These are simple to build on your own by starting with one main color (navy blue), adding in the same color but a shade lighter (light blue), throwing in an accent color (hot pink for a bold + playful session, blush pink or mint for a more subdued look), and grounding everything with a great neutral (light grey).

Katberries blog has some great color palettes that make it super easy to choose a neutral+complementary color or two+an accent color and have the whole family looking pulled together!


Neutral Pastels

Neutral pastels are my very favorite colors to work with!  They’re light, bright, and airy–so if you’re going for a summery + bright look, this is a quick way to do it!  They’re also super easy to put together, because almost all neutrals go together, and then you can add in one or two light pastel colors.  These colors look great in summery scenes: fields, beaches, and barns in particular!  Lace and embroidery detail look especially pretty against these colors.

Rich + Warm

Rich + Warm color palettes are perfect for fall/winter sessions and look especially fabulous against forested backdrops.  They have a darker, cozier look and tend towards jewel tones like dark purple, maroon, and teal.  Pair these colors with darker khaki or light grey as your neutral color to keep the overall look from being too dark.

Bright + Bold

Are you envisioning a fresh, fun, playful, and bright session?  Try some bright and bold colors!  Cobalt blue, hot pink, and mustard yellow can all add playful pops of color to your session.  Pair these colors with white for a fresh, crisp look, or dress them down with jeans or chambray.  Avoid having more than one family member in a pattern when you’re working with these bold colors, or it can look too busy–solid colors are much easier to mix!  Also avoid colors that are so bright they reflect their color back on to your skin: neon colors, especially green, are the biggest culprits!  If you’re in doubt, wear the color in your skirt or pants, away from your face, and choose a neutral top.


Make sure you choose clothes that fit you well and that you feel good in.  When you’re happy, it shows in photos!  Avoid clothes that show undergarments (low cut shirts, spaghetti straps)–not only will it limit the angles we can shoot from, but you’ll spend the session adjusting and worrying about your clothes.

You’ll look best in clothes that are not too tight and not too loose, with some defined shape.  Baggy clothes tend to add weight in photos, so go with a slim fit.  Layers can help hide anything you’re not confident about–a scarf or a fitted but flowy vest or cardigan, for example.

Lastly, if there’s anything you’d rather not highlight in photos (for me, that’s my upper arms!), then I recommend covering that with your wardrobe choices!  Sleeves that are at least elbow length flatter EVERYBODY!!  And that works the other way too–ladies, if you’re a runner and are super proud of your legs, then definitely wear a pencil skirt that will accentuate them!  If you’d rather not showcase your legs, a flowy maxi skirt will look super glamorous!  Anything that is bared will be highlighted, so just keep that in mind as you decide which pieces to wear!

If you’re looking for inspiration, feel free to check out my Pinterest board for outfit inspiration!




Once you’ve figured out the clothes everyone will be wearing for your session, don’t forget the details!  Remember that there will be some poses where your shoes (and possibly your socks) will be showing–so choose clean ones that match your outfit well.  Make sure nails are clean and photo-ready, especially for engagement sessions, where we’ll be showcasing the engagement ring!  Before your session, empty your pockets of any wallets, keys, or cell phones, so they won’t be seen in the photos.  If you (or anyone participating in the session–kids too!) normally wear sunglasses or a hat during the day or while driving, take them off well before you leave for your session so that they don’t leave indentations around the bridge of your nose or on your hair.  Lastly, check your wrists!  Unless you want your watch, hair tie, or FitBit showcased, take those off before leaving home as well.

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