What should we wear to our photography session? A visual clothing guide by Geelong and Melbourne photographer, Michelle McKay.
So you’ve booked a photo session and the big day is drawing nearer.
Now for the tricky bit - what do you wear?!
As someone who’s about as far from fashion savvy as they come, I know the feeling of bewilderment and stress you’re probably experiencing right now. Good news, though - as a seasoned photographer, over the years I’ve picked up what looks best, and I’m happy to offer some simple suggestions to ensure your family photograph beautifully. : )
The not-to-dos are fairly simple, so let’s cover them first.
Remember the trend from the nineties where everyone dressed in matching denim and crisp white tees?
Don't do that.
In fact, try to steer clear of matching at all.
Instead, focus on choosing outfits that compliment one another (both in texture and tones). I’ll give you some examples of that in a minute.
Try not to wear tees or jumpers with large branding or logos on the front.
These will be distracting and detract from the timelessness of the photographs we make.
We want attention to be drawn to your pretty babies’ faces, not on Peppa Pig or George, right?
Something that’s not as often mentioned that I’ve learned over time is pretty important - try not to wear anything that’s purely black or white, whether that’s jumpers, shirts, jeans, trousers…
Why? Black especially is guaranteed to dominate tonally in your images. This means they’ll be less aesthetically pleasing than is ideal (especially if you’re hoping to hang these pictures on your walls!).
The exception to this rule is babies.
If you’ve just brought a new baby home, photographing him or her in a classic white onesie or singlet will always be beautiful; white will draw attention to their soft baby skin and can always be complimented with muslins or other items to add interest and texture.
So all that in mind, what SHOULD we wear?
Soft or natural tones, such as pale pastels and neutrals will always photograph well.
Earthy tones are fantastic and look great in-camera and on your walls.
This includes rich colours such as burgundy, deep greens, shades of blue and mustard. Pops of bright colour can also work wonderfully to create a captivating image.
Varied textures in your choice of clothing are great (think denim, wool, linen, corduroy, cotton) and layering is excellent (such as scarves, beanies and vests if the weather allows).
Now with this all said, ensuring the kids (and you!) are comfortable is most important, so let that be your best guide.
Try to select clothing that is soft, warm, and allows the kids full mobility and freedom to move - because moving kids are happy kids. : )
Ultimately, what you wear will not matter.
If I come to your home and your toddler's in a nappy and your son is refusing to put on a shirt, those are going to be stunning pictures (in fact, please wait for me to arrive to dress them - I adore capturing wardrobe changes and if I live to be a thousand I will still have never seen enough toddler belly buttons or delicious baby rolls!).
What we’re striving for when I come to tell your family’s story is authentic, real connection.
And we will get that regardless of what you’re wearing.
If you’d appreciate some help and guidance though, I’ve prepared a little storybook of past sessions below.
They’ll give you some ideas, and will allow you to see how important clothing can be in shaping the mood and vibe of a session, as well as the way it comes together as a body of work or collection.
Enjoy, and as always if you have questions don’t hesitate to reach out - I always love a chat. ; )
This darling little family of four went with earthy tones.
See how well the blues, mustards, creams, dusty pinks and dark greens compliment one another?
They also combined linen and cotton garments, which adds textural interest and depth.
I adore the way this family selected richer tones - burgundy, rusty mustard and forrest green.
Also note how the red and greens introduced in mama’s floral dress built on and complimented this colourway.
Also worth noting is the way babe is dressed - a simple light coloured onesie with a minimal and unobtrusive pattern, leaving focus to fall solely on her pretty features.
See how a single colour has been selected here (in the dark green muslin), which was then carried through to babe’s pacifier.
The use of clean white and the neutral tones of the bassinet keep the images simple and the focus on baby.
The muted tones of this session create such a timeless and natural feel.
Skin tones, married with washed out denims and creams are a classic colour palette that will always result in stunning imagery.
The combinations of knits and linens here, with the addition of soft and distressed cottons, add both depth and interest.
I adore the way this mama combined simple neutrals (dad’s bone shorts and navy tee) with a feminine floral dress.
This family kept it simple, while allowing for a frock that would allow mama to feel as pretty as she looks.
This newborn story is a perfect example of how visually interesting it can be to mix textures (linens, denims, wools, cottons and corduroy).
Check out the soft, pastel tones that run through the family’s choice of clothing,
and the way patterned muslins and accessories are then introduced to add visual interest.
I adore the use of pattern and texture in this session.
I was so happy to learn the cream blanket with the crocheted detail featured is a family heirloom.
The feminine colour of baby’s cardigan and linen bloomers really draw focus to her, while mama and daddy have dressed in simple denims and flat tones.
This family mixed tonally neutral blues and greys with a pop of mustard for baby.
Combining fabric types - wool, denim and linen - added interest and visual texture (such as the crinkles in baby’s linen overalls in the centre image).
We introduced wool in the bassinet shots to really add to that existing textural depth.
This family chose classic denims and pastels for their story session, with pops of mustards in baby’s booties.
They combined denim, linen, soft jersey cottons and knit perfectly; understated in a way that kept focus on their love and connection.
I really adore how varied types of denim can be combined and layered to create a cohesive vibe, while avoiding a ‘matchy match’ feel.
With simple white tees on the boys, our attention is drawn to their rosy cheeks and deep blue eyes.
Pastel tones are perfect for a beach session.
The creams, blushed pinks and blue-greys match the sea and the washed out sandy greens of the dunes.
Notice as well the way only baby is wearing a patterned garment.
You’ll see if you scroll back through the above sessions that patterned clothing can be excellent, but works best when featured on a single family member.
The rich colours of this family’s garments work perfectly with the deep greens of the forrest setting.
As above, only one family member is wearing a pattern. The rest wear complimentary tones in varying textiles.
Accessories - beanies, scarves and knee high socks - have been added to add texture.
Super pretty, right?