• Holly

What should I wear for my photo session?

"What should I wear to my photo session?"

I get asked this a lot! I don't mind it at all, but I wanted to create a blog post for clients to look at anytime, with some suggestions, tips, tricks, pictures and things to avoid/consider, all in one place. :)

Before I start though, I want to tell you right now, to stop stressing about outfit choices, if you're stressing! Outfits aren't as important as you'd think for photos, but if you read the following tips and tricks to keep in the back of your mind, I hope it'll help take some stress off of you!


The main question is always, "what colors should we wear?". For starters, I really like when everyone's clothing colors are not the same as each other, but they flow together.

What To Wear | Holly Butler Photography

And, when one person's piece of clothing, or accessory ties everyone else's clothing together... that looks great, as well!

What to wear | Holly Butler Photography

While everyone wearing identical shirts and pants can look nice, you shouldn't be afraid to mix things up a bit instead! You'll be pleasantly surprised at how put together a family can look, with color pops, or mixing and matching patterns and solids. If everyone will be wearing the same colors, consider each of their articles of clothing to be a different style.

What to wear | Holly Butler Photography

For your family session, consider the colors in your home. For my own family portrait in the living room, the clothing we wore, goes along with our room decor! Also, for a head shot session, think about the colors of your brand. You don't want to clash with the colors on your website, or your business cards.

If you requested a prop that's a certain color, you could plan your outfits according to the color of the prop. I have a few pieces of furniture that are color specific, but I have multiple quilts with wide color ranges as well. If furniture is not part of the plan, I'll ask what colors everyone will be wearing, then grab a few quilt choices I think will coordinate with your outfit colors.

What to wear | Holly Butler Photography
What to wear | Holly Butler Photography

Keep in mind that wearing super bright colors/fluorescents, tend to cast a color glow on faces and necks. Those colors could also make you really stand out, amongst your family, but maybe not in a good way. ;)

Flattering clothing:

Color blocking. Color blocking. Color blocking! If you wear a shirt, or dress underneath a fitted jacket (fitted, but not way too small), or sweater, the jacket (or sweater) will block apart of the shirt/dress underneath. The color of the top layer should be a contrast to your other clothing though! For instance, dark clothing under a light colored jacket, or vice versa. Doing this simple trick will create a long, slim line down the center of your body and it works extremely well!

Don't add bulk and avoid buldge. Everyone's clothes should fit well. Not too small, but not too big either. If your clothing is too big, the bulk could make you look bigger in the photos. If your clothing is way too small, buldges are usually created, which could also make you look bigger in the photos. I personally like to wear leggings, with a baggy shirt most of the time (okay, just about every day lol)... I'm good with the way it looks on me in the mirror, BUT it doesn't always translate well in photos! If that's what you want to wear, maybe because you want to wear leggings, or jeggings to avoid buldge, you could use a jacket, or sweater, like described above. You would be using the color blocking trick AND you would be bringing the clothing closer to your body, which creates a more flattering shape.

Tip: Try a belt, over a loose fitting dress, to flatter your waist, or cinch the inside of a loose shirt at the small or your back, with a hair band.

Tip: If you're wearing a fitted jacket and you want it to stay unbuttoned, but it pulls open with every move you make (or it's windy), tie both sides together with a string! It will bring the jacket closer to your body, creating flattering lines. It's something I can easily Photoshop out and it really helped me with color blocking/creating flattering lines in the image below. I have lost some weight, but doing this simple trick with the jacket took off quite a few more pounds!

What to wear tips | Holly Butler Photography

Tip: If you use a coin inside the bunched up material before you add the hair band, the cinch will stay put... In the iPhone shot below, the photo on the left side is the outside of the cinched shirt and the photo on the right is the inside, where you can see I used a penny, securing with a hair band. You don't have to use a coin, but it will make the cinch stay! I've walked around with a very wrinkly back one day because my hair band came off of my bunch of fabric and I didn't know it came off! Ever since then, I use a coin. :)

What to wear tip | Holly Butler Photography


Patterns are good, as long as you don't over do it! Maybe 1 person in a 5 person group could wear a bold pattern, 1 person could have a simple/muted pattern, like a plaid, then the rest of the group could wear a mix of solids, for instance. But, if everyone wears a bold pattern, it could look too busy. I don't recommend patterns for head shots.

If you're wanting to use patterns, but you're uncomfortable with the bottom half of your body, wear solid bottoms, paired with a patterned shirt. If you're uncomfortable with the top half of your body, wear a solid top, with patterned leggings, or a solid jacket, over a patterened dress. You could also wear a thin, fitted, solid color jacket over a loose, patterned shirt, to break up the pattern and again, you'd be creating a flattering color block.

Tip: Tiny, close together pin stripes can be a no-no though... You know, the tiny stripes that are really close together. They can create color blobs that look like stains, when they're photographed. Nobody wants that. I guess, if the two colors are similar though, it's not too much of a problem, but when the colors are a contrast, like black and white, it can look color blobby. ;)

What to wear | Holly Butler Photography


Make sure the kids are comfortable, so they're happy and smiling! Same goes for the husbands lol! Actually, I want everyone to be comfortable. If your jeans are too tight, you're not going to be comfortable and you probably won't look comfortable in your photos. If your kids are wearing clothes that are too small, too big, or something they're not used to, they may cry during the whole session.

If it's hot outside, roll up your jacket sleeves, trade in those long sleeves for short sleeves and trade the jeans for shorts and sun dresses. If it's going to be cold outside, make sure everyone has on lots of layers to keep them warm... hats can work too and you could accessorize with cute, fitted jackets, coats, or vests.

What to wear | Holly Butler Photography
What to wear | Holly Butler Photography


If you scheduled a beach session, or a lifestyle session in your home, you can definitely go barefoot and it may even be best if you're barefoot! But, when you're going to wear shoes, wear shoes that go with the rest of your attire... Don't just throw on some old tennis shoes, then wish later that each image was cropped at everyone's ankles.

•Make sure your children's shoes, or socks don't hurt their feet. I really want the kiddos to be comfortable, so they'll be smiling and laughing!

What to wear | Holly Butler Photography

Accessorize and "go that extra mile":

Don't be afraid of accessories! Bring a scarf and Santa hat to your Christmas card session! Wear the bright jewelry, or wear the belt that will flatter your waist. Wear the pretty lipstick in the bottom of your makeup bag and straighten, or curl your hair, even though you usually wear it in a messy bun. Sneak the bow onto your daughter's head, unless it makes her cry, of course! And, have the boys throw in a little hair gel too. Everybody can look their best, all while looking like themselves.

What to wear | Holly Butler Photography

That's all I can think of for now, but I'll add to this, when something sparks an idea. :)

All of this is only my opinion, "rules" can be broken and I hope this post does nothing except relieve the, "what to wear" stress for your next photo session!

Thanks for looking!!

On location portrait photographer, based in Poquoson, Va