There’s a lot of advice out there on what to wear and what not to wear to a photoshoot. Many photographers will tell you there are hard and fast rules and hard “no’s” when it comes to dressing for your portrait session or headshot photos. I’m here to debunk some of those myths and put your mind at ease with practical advice that will leave you feeling confident and prepared for your photo session.
Whether you're scheduling a professional photoshoot or planning a fun, casual session with friends, choosing the right outfits will influence the vibe of the shoot. Your clothing plays a significant role in setting the mood, highlighting your best features, and ensuring a look and feel you love. .
While there are some good guidelines to follow when it comes to picking the perfect fit for your shoot,, the truth is: it’s not that complicated. Let’s dive into some general photoshoot outfit guidelines to help get you started.
Guidelines on WHAT TO WEAR for your headshots or portrait session
Wear what makes you feel fly.
Opt for looser clothing.
Layers are your friends.
When in doubt, opt for long sleeves and pants.
Don’t be afraid to accessorize.
Go for neutrals or primary colors.
Do your nails.
Style your hair and makeup like you’re going to an event.
Dress for the occasion.
Bring options and talk to your photographer.
Guidelines on WHAT NOT TO WEAR for your headshots or portrait session
Stay away from tiny patterns
Tight or uncomfortable clothing is not your friend.
Greens and blues can be tricky in natural environments.
Keep your wrists clear of hair ties and watches.
Unless it’s a brand shoot, steer clear of prominent logos or icons.
Makeup is great but too much can be too much.
Brand new clothing can be risky.
Stripes are a gamble.
Short sleeves and tank tops can emphasize arms.
Please don’t show up in matching white tees and jeans.
WHAT TO WEAR
1. Wear what you feel fly in.
Let’s start with the obvious. The number one rule is to wear what makes you feel good. Because when you feel good, the camera will pick up that energy and you’ll look good in your photos. When picking your outfit, go for your tried-and-true favorites: your power suit, that dress you always get compliments on, or your favorite jacket. Whatever makes you feel the most like you.
2. Opt for looser clothing.
Flowy clothing can be great on camera. It allows for more movement in the photos and allows you, the model, a greater range of motion as well. Keeping in mind that the number one rule of thumb for picking your photoshoot fit is to wear what you’re comfortable in, it’s always a good idea to opt for something looser.
3. Layers are your friends.
I love working with layers when taking portraits or headshots. It can be so fun to play with taking a jacket on and off and that can make for some of the most dynamic headshots that make you stand out.
4. When in doubt, opt for long sleeves and pants.
Long layers tend to be more flattering than more revealing looks, but as always there are exceptions to every rule! It’s always smart to bring a long layered option - again, layers are your friends!
5. Don’t be afraid to accessorize.
This is a controversial opinion among photographers but I love a good accessory. Just make sure not to overdo it and that it resonates with your personality.
6. Go for neutrals or primary colors.
Whites, blacks, grays, and navy are all pretty safe colors for a headshot or portrait shoot. Black can be slimming and white can brighten your face or make you appear tanner.
7. Do your nails.
Chances are your nails will end up making an appearance in at least a handful (see what I did there) of shots. Please don’t ask your photographer to fix your nails in editing. Take the time to make sure your nails are clean, clipped and polished if that’s your vibe. Chipped and dirty nails can ruin a look quicker than just about anything.
8. Style your hair and makeup like you’re going to an event.
Even if the vibe of your shoot is casual and laid back, having your hair styled and your makeup polished can help elevate your portraits. Now this doesn’t mean you need to go to the salon and get a blowout or professional face of makeup, but it is a good idea to style your hair like you would for a night out or special occasion. And for your makeup, focus more on the eyes and less on the skin. Cakey, powdered foundation can look heavy on camera. Focus on natural-looking makeup with a bit of an extra pop - think a colored lip or a winged eye.
9. Dress for the occasion.
It’s important to really consider the reason for getting the portraits done when deciding what to wear to your shoot. If the shoot is a small business or personal branding photoshoot, wear something that resonates with the brand or vibe you want your brand to get across. If you need a headshot for your company staff page on the company website, opt for something simpler, on the nicer end of business casual.
10. Bring options and talk to your photographer.
The good news is you don’t have to make the daunting decision of what to wear to your photoshoot alone. Get your photographer’s opinion and bring a few options if you can’t decide. Most photographers will offer portrait photography packages that include multiple outfit changes - make sure you discuss fit change options when you book your portrait photography.
WHAT NOT TO WEAR
1. Stay away from tiny patterns
Let me be clear: this is not a rule to stay away from all patterns. But when it comes to portrait shoots, tiny patterns can read weird on camera and create for a distracting, vibrating effect to the eye. If you want to rock a pattern, go with something bold that works well for the setting.
2. Tight or uncomfortable clothing is not your friend.
Those jeans you’ve saved forever because you fit great in them in high school are not the right option for your photoshoot if you can barely button them anymore.
3. Greens and blues can be tricky in natural environments.
The woods or parks are great natural areas for a photoshoot, especially for a Portland headshot or portrait session. But it’s important to keep in mind the colors of the great outdoors: lots of blues, greens, and browns. If you want to stand out against the gorgeous natural scenery, opt for colors on the other side of the color wheel: reds, yellows, oranges. Neutrals like whites, blacks, tans, and grays also work great in nature.
4. Keep your wrists clear of hair ties and watches.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been 10 minutes into a headshot or portrait shoot only to realize there’s been an elastic hair tie on the subject’s wrist the whole time. And even after it’s removed, there’s the tell-tale hair tie indent for the rest of the shoot. Make sure your wrists are clear - this usually includes watches too. Unless it’s a focal point of your look or personality, better to ditch it in favor of simplicity.
5. Unless it’s a brand shoot, steer clear of prominent logos or icons.
Your favorite look might include a jacket with a big Nike logo on it, but unless the shoot is meant to be a Nike ad, it’s typically better to steer clear of other companies’ branding when you’re deciding what to wear to your portrait shoot.
6. Brand new clothing can be risky.
We love a new fit for a shoot but tread carefully. You don’t necessarily want to buy a brand new suit the day of your photoshoot and feel uncomfortable because you’re not used to how it feels or how it fits. Always remember the first cardinal rule - wear what makes you feel fly. So if you’re going with a new fit, make sure it’s something that makes you feel really good.
7. Stripes are a gamble.
Stripes aren’t a hard no for me but they can be risky. If you’re going to go for a stripe, do it bold: like a striped bell bottom with a solid top.
8. Short sleeves and tank tops can emphasize your arms.
Whether or not you want to show off your bare arms and legs is completely up to you. Many photographers will caution against exposing arms and legs as it can emphasize those body parts by drawing attention away from the face and towards the limbs.
10. Please don’t show up in matching white tees and jeans.
Please just don’t. You’re better than that, you are!
If you’re ready to hire a photographer for your next Portland headshot or portrait photo session, reach out today for a quote or a consultation!