If you're going to have your photograph taken by a professional photographer, it stands to reason that you want the best possible outcome. You'll pay extra attention to your grooming - tidy hair, perfect make-up if you're a woman, shiny shoes. But what should you wear? And does it matter?
Actually, you'd be surprised by the difference your choice of clothing can make to the final result!
What's the purpose of the photo shoot? What sort of picture are you hoping to achieve? How do you see yourself? These are the questions you'll need to discuss with your photographer when you're deciding what you're going to wear. It's important that both of you are on the same page, so to speak, and as a professional he or she will be able to give you good advice on the type of clothing which will enhance your result rather than detracting from it.
Carefully chosen clothing can be used to highlight and flatter the wearer and, on a more subtle level, tell the viewer of the picture something about you. However, it should in the majority of cases be unobtrusive—nothing's worse than a picture in which you see the clothes rather than the person, unless of course it's for a fashion shoot.
Professional hints and tips
Naturally, you need to choose clothes that you feel yourself in and that reflect the image you're trying to create. But there are some tricks and techniques with clothing that will enhance your picture—and there are definitely some garments and colours to be avoided.
· Avoid super-bright colours and colour clashes.
· Limit the number of colours in your outfit to three at most. This also applies to group portraits, for the whole group.
· Pick colours that are slightly subdued and which work together tonally.
· Keep your top and bottom fairly similar in colour and tone. A bright or light top with dark bottoms could make you appear top heavy, while a dark top with light bottoms may have the opposite effect. And either way, you'll appear bisected across the middle.
· Avoid stripes and patterns—plain colour blocking will achieve a more harmonious result. Particularly in a group photo, if one person is wearing patterned clothing and the rest are wearing plain, that person will stick out like the proverbial sore thumb.
· Avoid showing too much flesh—go for long trousers, knee-length or longer skirts and avoid sleeveless tops. Bare arms, in particular, compete for attention with your face.
· Avoid footwear and socks in lighter shades than the rest of your outfit. White socks will be the first thing anyone notices in the picture if you wear them!
· Don't have a haircut just a day or two before the shoot—it will probably look too severe.
· Keep accessories and jewellery to a minimum.
· Remember that pale colours are the least flattering to a fuller figure. Furthermore, bright red, orange and yellow can also make a person appear heavier.
Dressing for a group portrait
If you know in advance you're going to be part of a group portrait, it's worth discussing with the other sitters what you are all intending to wear. Although everyone wants to be themselves, co-ordinated dressing can result in a much more professional looking result. I'm not suggesting that everyone should wear the same outfits—far from it, as that would look somewhat creepy. However, choose a colour palette that everyone can follow, such as navy and black or shades of coffee and camel. Sometimes it can work well if you direct everyone to wear, say, jeans with a black top or chinos with a pale shirt.
Dressing children for a photograph
Small children have their own favourite clothes but that doesn't always mean they're suitable for a photograph. Your son may love his cartoon character T-shirt, while your daughter might insist on a dizzying mixture of bright patterns and pink accessories. However, if you want a picture that will look good for years to come, resist their entreaties and pick the clothes yourself.
The principles for dressing children are the same—muted colours, avoidance of bright patterns, and keep things simple. There is not so much choice of dark colours in children's clothes, but light can work well. Jeans, sneakers and a white t-shirt look great on boys and girls—or if your daughter favours a more feminine look, a simple sun dress in a plain colour can be charming.
At the end of the day, most of these tips are common sense. Skim through a family album when you've finished reading the list and you'll be able to pick out the outfits that work and the outfits that don't. See what a difference the clothes can make? Now, go and raid your wardrobe!
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