Portrait Tips

Great portraits don’t just happen. They are the result of preparation on both sides of the camera. Your portraits will reflect the thought and effort you put into them.


Your face should be the focal point of your portraits.  Therefore simplicity is the key with clothing. Solid clothing — items without patterns and stripes — work best. Classic clothing styles will stand the test of time and keep your portraits looking fresh for years to come.

Stripes and bold patterns make people look bigger and wider.  Dark colors are slimming.  Dark to medium tones like brown, burgundy, blue, and black always photograph well. Solid light colors can also look nice, but they tend to draw attention away from your face.

For family groups, it’s important to coordinate colors in the same tonal range so that no single family member stands out because their clothing is too bright as compared to the rest of the group. Also, coordinating colors has the psychological effect of showing closeness in the family.

For really contemporary family portraits it works great to have everyone wear the exact same colors, usually all black, all black & white, or all jeans with matching black or white shirts.  This usually includes wearing the same style pants, shirts, and even shoes.  A wonderful variation is to break the rules with the children.  For instance it looks fantastic to dress a baby or young daughter in all white while everyone else is in all black.

Another thing to consider when selecting colors is the location of the final marquee print. If it will hang in a specific room you may try to incorporate the color scheme of that room into your clothing choices.

The style of clothing is also important. Short skirts and shorts make posing more difficult. Long, flowing dresses, jeans, and khakis make better selections.  Unless you are a model, sleeveless shirts are typically unflattering in portraits of women.

Layer clothing. Take a page from the playbook of J. Crew, Abercrombie and the Gap.  Use this simple technique to build visual interest.

Texture and more texture. Play up smooth skin by introducing lots of texture.  A knit scarf, corduroy jacket, or ripped jeans all contrast wonderfully with smooth skin.  For babies a knit cap and solid color knit blanket help their skin look silky smooth.

Shoes & Socks. Because shoes often show in portraits, ensure that your shoes compliment your clothing. However, blue jeans and bare feet also look great. Consider dark socks instead of the eye-catching white ones.

With every rule there are exceptions. It is great to include a few flirtatious shots in an evening gown, halter top, or muscle shirt.  Of course you should also include your team jersey or ethnic outfit, but it is best to think of all of these as “extras”.

Bring double the quantity and more variety than you think you will use. We can help you decide what will work best.  Try to span from very casual & fun to formal.  Not everything needs to be a complete outfit.  For instance it is great to throw on a sport coat for a few head shots even if you don’t bring matching pants or shoes.

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