What to Wear

The first question everyone always asks me after booking a portrait session is, “What should I wear?” So I wanted to pull all my common advice together in one easy page for clients to check out.

Be yourself

It’s kind of cliche, I suppose, but it’s important to keep in mind these are the photos that will represent you and your family- they’ll be the ones you look back on, the ones your kids and their kids look back on, the ones that hang on YOUR walls! So you want to make sure your personality shows through, whatever other choices you make.

Coordinating vs Matching

It’s important for everyone to wear colors that look good together. That does NOT mean you all have to wear the same color, and in fact, you shouldn’t. What you want to do is try to find colors that all mesh well- earth tones for example, or pastels. You can also have one person wear a “central” piece with a pattern with multiple colors, then dress everyone else in colors that are in that pattern. Or, try a neutral pallette with an accent color.


Another option is to choose a similar style, but in different colors.

It is also important for the clothing to fit the venue. A studio portrait may be more formal, for example, while a photo in an outdoor location like a field or garden should not clash with the natural colors, will also vary with the season.


Flowy, summer clothes to match a beach environment.


Deep reds to match the Fall leaves.


Your clothes should fit well, but not be skin-tight. Especially for kids, make sure that nothing is pinching or rough or uncomfortable or will cause them to pull at their clothes or be fussy. Wear shoes that you know you will be able to stand in, and ones that you can walk in if you will be moving around locations) or bring a pair to change in to when you walk). If you feel comfortable, you’ll look more comfortable and confident in your photos!

Patterns & Logos

Patterns are not always bad. but you don’t want very loud patterns that will take over the photo, or distract from your face. If there is more than one person in the photo, only one should be wearing a pattern, otherwise they can clash, or be a distraction. Always avoid clothes with logos, brand names, or graphics on them- not only are they distracting, but they can also make your photo look dated.


Darker colors are usually more flattering, and generally blend the best in a photo. Rich colors like reds, purples, and blues are good choices. Pastels can work as well, but try to avoid skin-tones like light pink or coral. Very loud or neon colors should be avoided. It’s also better to have darker colors on the bottom, and lighter colors on top.



Textures are a great way to add depth and interest to portraits. You can add to this by wearing layers of different fabrics, or add accessories like belts, scarves, or sweaters. You can mix and match fabrics, use denim, ruffles, or knits to add variety as well.


Sleeve & Pant Length

Long sleeves are the most flattering for portraits. Short sleeves are acceptable, especially during warmer months, but try to avoid tank tops or sleeveless shirts. Pants are always preferable unless it is specifically a more casual shoot when shorts would be appropriate. Dresses and skirts are always great as well!


Accessories are great- not just because they can liven up a photo, but you can also add and remove them to show different looks. Belts, sweaters, headbands, hair clips, scarves, hats, jewelry and shoes are all great accessories to consider. For babies or children you can also include things like a special blanket, or even a lovey.  For babywearing sessions your wrap or carrier is an accessory as well! I do have maternity dresses and flower crowns available for use, so ask me about those if you are interested.what-to-wear-accessories



Hair & make-up

The most important note for hair is not to make any major changes within a few days of your portrait session. You wouldn’t want a bad hair cut or unexpected color to be hanging on your wall! Otherwise, keep hairstyles suited to your personal style. Make-up is acceptable, but unless the photo session is specifically for fashion or glamour, avoid wearing very heavy make-up, especially around the eyes- it actually takes focus away from them.

In-Home Sessions

For in-home sessions, especially newborns, it’s even more important to make sure that clothing isn’t a distraction. If we have discussed what rooms we will photograph in you can coordinate with those colors, or a better option is to opt for neutrals. You want your family and newborn to be the main focus, and not have colors and patterns distract from that at all.



Silhouettes can be a special scenario. I do have options for locations where these are possible, so if it’s something you are interested in make sure you mention it to me so we can choose a suitable location. For stunning silhouettes it is very important that clothes fit well and are not baggy. Skirts can be a great option, because they show movement and add interest. You may also want to consider your hairstyle- having your hair down will look different than a ponytail or bun, so that’s something to consider in how you would like your photo to look.


Putting everything together

It can be very helpful to take all your final outfit choices and lay them out together to see how everything looks as a group. You don’t want any one piece of an outfit- or outfits if there is more than one person- to grab attention. Always feel free to contact me- you can even send photos and I can help you make choices.

Want to see it?

I’ve put together a Pinterest board with ideas of outfits that can give you some ideas of how to apply the principles above. Please feel free to send me any inspiration photos you find as well! http://pinterest.com/carissalynphoto/what-to-wear/

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Carissa Lyn Photography | Massachusetts Family Photographer | Spencer, MA | (774) 371-0113