Wardrobe and Photography

“What should I wear?” How often do you hear that question before an upcoming portrait shoot? I recently had a client ask this common question before their upcoming shoot. I decided why not write a blog post on it to help others who might be getting ready for shoots with their photographer. Typically I would leave such decisions to a stylist but every shoot is not a shoot that requires such a staff. As a creative, we are accustom to working with color and settings when it comes to our subject and the environment we shoot in.  In this post are just a few ideas that might help choosing your wardrobe, on your own, a little easier. However, if you have access to a stylist …use them!  They are well worth the extra costs when it comes to the perfect shoot.


As with anything creative and artist, you should always start with a good base. In the case of your wardrobe your skin tone/color would be that base. Therein lies the need for a makeup artist.  As with the stylist, if you have one available … use them! When it comes to skin tones, you’ll typically fall into one of three categories: pale or light complexions, olive/caramel/tanned complexions and dark complexions.  Each of these complexions have characteristics that will be best suited for particular complementary or contrasting colors.  A little time taken to put together the right colors to work with a particular skin tone can make the difference between a good image and a great image.


When it comes to more olive/tanned complexions, you will find the hair color to tend to be dirty blonde, brown or black.  People with this skin tone typically want to stay away from bright yellows and greens.  The good part about having this tone is that when it comes to wardrobe you can typically work on either end of the spectrum. That means one day you can have a lighter collection of clothing and another day a darker collection of clothing.  It all depends on how you feel. Another great look for people with olive skin tones is to work with earthier tones in their wardrobe but make sure you accent that with a lighter or darker (a black or white will typically work well and give darker solid colors a try) color included in that particular outfit.


In the case of darker skin, it’s very similar to working with olive complexions.  Where you can work with the extremes with olive complexions, you can do almost the same with darker skin tones but you’ll need to pull in the reigns just a little bit on those extremes.  In other words, you don’t want to go too dark or too light. Obviously the contrast to darker skin would be to go with lighter, livelier colors.  Pastels are always a good choice and variants of pinks and whites tend to work well as complementary colors.  In some cases going with a deep black can be effective as long as it’s not all black or all white.


Finally, pale skin will typically be found on someone who was born a red-head or blonde. Things to consider when working with people with this skin tone are to use darker colors to work in contrast with the skin. The last thing that you want to do is put someone with a light complected skin color in a pure white shirt. Doing something like that could create a more ghostly appearance to your photographs.  Sticking with primary colors would be a good choice for someone with pale skin.  Along with pastels, it would be a good idea to stay away from earth tones.  A solid black is something you typically would also want to avoid, but if that is done try to choose something very bold as an accessory (ex: red or yellow tie or shirt if the suit is black).


By no means am I a stylist! The above examples are simply things that I’ve seen work well in photographs and are simply meant to be a guideline. There are truly more formulated ways of determining proper wardrobe for backgrounds, skin tones and eye colors so I would suggest determining what works best for you.  Here’s a link to what I feel is a very formulated plan of action to wardrobe and color and a good read if fashion is your thing.  As photographers we try to do our best to help our clients in any way possible and that includes the fashion aspect. Hopefully this helps some of you get a general idea of what colors might work well in your upcoming shoot.

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