Anyone that has booked a photo session for the very first time has probably felt that rush of panic – “what do I wear?” “What colors do I choose?” How should I do my makeup?” Well – let’s dive into that!

The first and foremost important thing is that no matter what style of photographer you’re using, lighting principles are always the same. Black absorbs light, white reflects it. When you’re choosing an outfit, it can be soooo tempting to grab the darker colors – trust me, I do it too. But ACTUALLY, in most scenarios, black is going have the opposite desired effect. Black tops/shirts can cast shadows onto the face, deepen fine lines, and create darker shadows under the eyes.  It’s going to suck light from your images.

So – if the common go to color is off the table, this begs the question: now what?

When it comes to the color you wear closest to your face – whether that is a shirt or a dress, it’s the MOST beneficial to wear light/soft colors. I want you to picture the tanning ladies from the movies. You know, the ones with their silver reflective tanning foil tucked under their faces. This is what you should consider when choosing a color. How vibrant is that color? The more vibrant and bold the color is, the more it’s going to bounce back to your skin. Instead of deep blue, go for a soft baby blue. Instead of vibrant purple, go for a pastel lavender purple. These are much more neutral in photos, and can ensure a much more professional, luxury image. If you’re photographing with your partner, your partner can wear a light shirt with a darker color jacket to give a beautiful contrast without being too dark. 

Example of softer colors to consider during a session.

Next is patterns. A tip as old as time; avoid wearing lines. Obviously there can be a time and a place for this, such as plaid for fall, but most of the time it’s safe to avoid. If there are multiple people in your photos, it’s important to consider your entire party. You want to avoid wearing clashing patterns that make the image choppy. In a shoot with two people, if one person wears a pattern, the other person should wear a solid color. Matching patterns can be counterproductive as it creates a widening effect. It’s harder to differentiate between people, thus making them seem larger. If there are three people, two people should wear solids, and one wear a pattern. Patterns should be simple and small, anything bold and high contract is going to draw the eye and take away from the central focus of the image.

Within a group, and probably one of the hardest parts of wardrobe, you want to be conscious of complementary colors. This doesn’t mean contrasting colors (black and white), but sister colors, or colors that go together. This means purple and blue and white. This means white, soft pink, and grey. I always recommend avoiding matching colors in couples and siblings, for the same reason mentioned above with patterns.

Ultimately when it comes to wardrobe, you should ALWAYS touch base with your photographer about your expectations and what you’re hoping for with your photos. There are always exceptions to rules. For example, you may disregard the vibrant color tip if you’re having a maternity shoot and want to really enhance your belly as the focal point of the image. An experienced photographer will be able to guide you through these questions and situations to yield the best result for your specific session.

Example of colors that can pair well together within a group.

Colors, patterns, and lighting aside, one thing that is always true is that makeup is harder to see in camera unless you’re getting headshots. This is usually what happens when you attend a wedding and see the bride with darker eye makeup and exaggerated tones and highlights, but later in the photos it looks beautiful and balanced. I always tell clients that if they want their makeup to be visible in photos, go one or two layers deeper than you normally would, and if you like lashes – don’t question it, add them on. Now, this doesn’t mean heavy black rings and ridiculously bright highlights. This just means more bold than usual. Apply a little extra coat of eyeliner, make your contour a little bit sharper than you normally would, and add a little extra pop of highlight. As for lipstick – NEVER skip a coat of color on your lips. I recommend a soft layer of a shade 2 or 3 times darker than your actual lip color. This ensures there is a good contrast between your lips and skin tone, and reducing the chance that your lips seem smaller in camera. 

Ultimately, always consult with your photographer for pointers on styling questions!