As a wardrobe stylist, I’m often asked the question, “What should I wear to my photo shoot?” My short answer, “Something that makes you feel special.” The goal when styling an engagement session, family, or fashion shoot is for the person, couple or family to feel their best. You want their best self to be conveyed through the eyes of the lens. Wear your favorite dress, favorite jeans and favorite shoes. Period. Easy.
Now, let’s tackle the long answer. Here it goes:
Three is a Good Number
Aim for 3 different looks: 3 different outfits. Since you’re going through the effort of setting aside time and energy, you might as well get a variety of expressions of yourself.
- Casual look: something you would wear to a casual backyard party. This could mean jeans and a t-shirt with flats/booties, maxi dress & sandals, or a sun dress and boots. With this look it’s important that your jeans & t-shirt, dress, etc, are new or new looking. Your shoes should look clean, new, or polished. No exception. Trick here is how to look casual without looking lazy or sloppy. Easiest way to avoid tired or sloppy looks is to make sure you have well tailored casual clothing. Your dress or jeans should be the correct length and width. Not too big, not too long.
- Semi-casual look: This is a look you’d pull off for a “business casual” get-together. This is one step up from a t-shirt or sundress. This is where she can wear a blouse (silky or satin) with slacks, or skirt or stylish dress. It’s perfectly ok for him (or her) to wear jeans, but they’d better be sharp. —new, dark, well-fitting. Guys should wear a button down shirt with a vest, jacket or blazer. No sneakers (unless they are particularly fabulous).
- Dressy: this is the “elegant” you. Pretend you’re going to a wedding or chic holiday party. Ideas for attire include a cocktail dress and scrappy high heels for her and suit or sports coat and dress shoes for him.
The easiest way to look more stylish and pulled together is to incorporate these principles:
- Incorporate color, pattern, texture and shine to your outfits.
- Wear a 3rd piece. (jacket, blazer, scarf, hat, tie, crossbody purse) This additional piece or pieces will instantly add more visual interest to your outfits.
- Make sure your outfits are well fitting. Get an expert’s advice on tailoring your looks. Slim fitting, not tight is going to eliminate sloppiness. One of my favorite photographers once said, “Good fit matters to me since bad wardrobe makes even the best photo mediocre.” Love him!
- Iron or steam (or dry clean) your outfits. Yes, you heard me right: no matter how amazing your outfit is, if you’re creased, rumpled, or wrinkled, you half killed the opportunity to look your best.
- Get pro work on hair and makeup, manicure and pedicure.
Location, Location, Location
Second most asked question, “Where should we shoot our photos?” Pick an environment that feels like you. For my engagement shoot, we chose a venue with an interesting brick wall backdrop because I love the look of an urban (city) setting. We also shot at the coffee shop where we met and then our favorite restaurant. Yes, this was an all day shoot, but we limited our time to one hour max at each location.
I suggest that you chose a location that has versatility. A coffee shop, street sidewalk and the ocean (beach) walking distance away. If you like music and go to lots of concerts, pick a music venue. If you like drinking beer and chill’n, set up a shoot at an awesome gastro pub or brewery. If you are a homebody, shoot at your home or condo complex. There are nooks and crannies that will fit the bill. Be inventive, introspective and creative.
- Most men buy their clothes too big. See “well fitting” under Fashion 101.
- Accessories are a good thing. Earrings, necklace, watch, tie clip all add visual interest. These all make up the “shine” in your outfit. See “3rd Piece” rule and “Color, Pattern, Texture and Shine” in Fashion 101. When are accessories too much? I can’t think of anything that comes to mind, so don’t worry about it.
- Be sure to choose outfits that are complementary to each other. If she’s casual, he’s casual. If she’s semi-casual, he should be, too. If she’s dressed up, so should he. See “Three is a Good Number”
- It’s ok to be a rule breaker. If you want, forget the rule of choosing an outfit that “fits your environment”. (i.e. out in nature, or urban, day at the beach, etc.). I love juxtaposition. Wear a crazy ball gown in the wilderness or a plaid shirt with your suit for a “dressy look”. Unorthodox is what fashion magazines aim for. …Or not. You can match your habitat.
- Choose a photographer you trust, then trust them. Don’t second guess their expertise. Bounce ideas off them and then let go. Creative people do their best work when they feel liberated not micromanaged.
That’s it. This is the recipe for success. Never take fashion and it’s rules too seriously. Use this as a guideline, then do what you want to do. If “dressy” is out of the question, then make the casual and semi-casual count. Wear whatever makes you happy but take the next step to assure that the garment itself is the best it can be. Remember that even if you don’t think these photos are important, you have parents and future children who will cherish these images. This is your legacy. Act accordingly.
All my best to your endeavor. Good luck and have fun!