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What is the best clothing to wear for a portrait?

What is the best clothing to wear for a portrait?

When having a portrait taken, clothing choice is an important consideration. The right outfit can help enhance the overall look and feel of the portrait. As a photographer’s assistant helping clients prepare for their shoot, recommending flattering, appropriate attire is key. There are a few main factors to keep in mind when selecting an outfit for a portrait.

Consider the Style of Portrait

The style of the portrait shoot will impact what type of clothing works best. Here are some common portrait styles and clothing suggestions:

Portrait Style Recommended Clothing
Headshot Solid colors, minimal patterns/details
Lifestyle Casual, comfortable everyday wear
Formal Suits, cocktail dresses, dress shirts
Artistic Stylized pieces, costumes, props

Headshot sessions call for simple clothing that won’t distract from the face. Lifestyle shoots aim to capture natural moments, so casual daily looks are best. Formal portraits require polished business or evening attire. Artistic shoots allow for more adventurous styling with bold patterns, accessories, and unconventional garments.

Aim for Flattering Colors and Silhouettes

Clothing color impacts how the subject photographs. Soft, neutral and mid-tone colors tend to be most flattering. They complement most skin tones and won’t distract from the face. Bright colors reflect more light and can cause overexposure. Dark hues can visually shrink the subject.

In terms of silhouette, fitted garments show off the body’s shape in a classy way. Baggy items hide the form, while tight clothes accentuate every curve and detail. Flowy fabrics drape nicely and add movement. Necklines, sleeve lengths, and skirt lengths influence how much skin shows – aim for tasteful coverage.

Minimize Distracting Patterns and Details

Simple, minimal designs allow the subject to shine. Busy patterns and distracting details compete for attention. Small-scale geometrics, subtle stripes, and delicate florals work better than large graphics. Solid tops pair well with printed bottoms. Avoid logos and text which can date the image.

Fabrics with sheen read as more formal and dressy. Matte fabrics have a soft, casual look. Shiny accessories should be worn sparingly. Spacer fabrics, sequins, and metallics reflect light in unflattering ways.

Consider Appropriateness and Comfort

Portrait outfits must align with the client’s personal style and brand. Conservative subjects should avoid revealing options. Younger subjects have more leeway for trendy looks. All clients will feel and look best in outfits they feel comfortable wearing. The right undergarments ensure coverage and prevent wardrobe malfunctions. Dressing clients in outfits outside their comfort zone rarely yields good results.

Recommend Layering Pieces

Having layering pieces on hand allows tweaks to create different looks during the shoot. Jackets, sweaters, vests, and scarves modify silhouettes. Multiple tops let you vary necklines. Separates like tank tops and camisoles worn under sheer tops provide coverage options.

Layering also enables temperature adjustments, which helps subjects stay comfortable under hot studio lights. If they overheat in one look, removing layers presents a fresh option without having to change entirely.

Suggest Outfit Alternatives

Providing different complete outfits gives styling flexibility. Recommend 3-5 varied options including:
– Neutral, solid colors
– Dark and light colors
– With and without patterns
– Skirts, dresses, pants
– Sleeveless and long sleeves
– Casual and business looks

Having choices allows picking what works best on the actual shoot day based on the client’s mood and how they photograph. Variety yields more useable images to select the final portraits from.

Guide Clients On Hair, Makeup, and Accessories

A cohesive look ties all the details together. Hairstyles and makeup should align with the clothing style. Jewelry, scarves, hats, and glasses serve as accessories to complement the outfit. Specific guidance ensures all the elements work in harmony for a polished look.

For headshots, minimal makeup and simple hair are best. Lifestyle sessions suit casual low ponytails or beachy waves. Formal looks pair nicely with an updo and red lip. Provide suggestions suitable for the client and portrait style.

Allow Adequate Preparation Time

Rushing to get ready can lead to wardrobe issues and a frazzled mindset. Advise clients to arrive early with their selected outfits pressed and ready to photograph perfectly. Budget extra time for any clothing changes and to smooth out any issues. Unrushed preparation yields the best experience and portraits.


Clothing selection dramatically impacts portrait sessions. Consider the style, colors, patterns, comfort, and versatility when advising clients on attire. Layered options allow tweaks throughout the shoot. Presenting outfit alternatives provides flexibility to get excellent images. Guiding clients through hair, makeup, and accessorizing creates a pulled-together look. Adequate preparation time ensures wardrobe is shoot-ready. Keeping these tips in mind will arm you to recommend and select winning portrait looks.