Cover image from HGTV.com
I was just in a conversation with a client about clothing options for family portraits, and she admitted that her initial plan may have been a little tacky. It may have been because of the grimace on my face. My emotions are silently on my sleeve. I can’t help it.
Her plan was to do jeans and black tops. That’s, like, super matchy-matchy. I don’t even think the Brady Bunch was that corny. Sorry for my brisk opinion, but if you like the khakis-and-white-shirts-on-the-beach photo, then you go for it. I’ll even photograph it, but I will prod your ribs the whole time.
If I had it my way, every family photograph would be more than just the family and their faces. It would be a pleasant mix of colours in an appropriate background (studio or location) that is fun to look at as a piece of art, before getting closer and acknowledging the family, their interactions, emotions and activity. If you want to avoid the bland, lifeless look but are afraid of mixing things up, then I hope this article helps you out.
One of the most useful tools I have when planning sessions and outfits is a book on interior design — it has hundreds of colour palettes in it. There it is, there’s the secret. Colour palettes are the bomb. Take that knowledge bomb over to Pinterest or even a Google images search and you will have an endless list of possibilities for colour combinations. Stick around here for a few more tips, though.
How to Pick and Use a Clothing Colour Palette
Consider your surroundings: If you are going to be photographed in a studio, what is the background colour? If you have a choice, what colour matches your walls best, or wherever you might like to have the portrait? Assume it’s on your wall: What colour palette contains the colour of your wall? Your background colour would be one of the other base colours in that palette, one of the less alarming ones that still stands out from the wall. Your clothing would then be a mix of the other colours in the palette.
If you are being photographed outdoors, what are the surrounding colours? Are they predominantly environmental? Then find a palette that matches the season, like the autumn colours in this image that I found simply by searching “Autumn Colour Palette.” Like before, your clothing colours are a mix of the other colours in the palette.
How Much of Each Colour to Mix: There are a few different ideas that I have seen in imagery online. For me, I like; when accents are kept to accessories like scarves, hats, bracelets, shoes and the like, and act to connect each person together; when the base colours are reserved mostly for the backdrop and maybe a large clothing item (shirt, sweater or pants) and the mid tones are predominantly the clothing colours.
In this session (by another talented photographer,) I feel that the girl’s yellow pants are the only accent in the image and they demand too much attention. Otherwise, the colours were well balanced and it’s a wonderful session.
Here’s a copy of an email I used to send out to clients with some more information on selecting clothing…
This is just some information that I’ve compiled from a few different sites about dressing for a photo shoot, and also an image of a colour palette for autumn.The websites I’ve used are at the bottom, if you want to go digging yourself, but I’ve summarized what I think are the most useful points in this email.Looking forward to our session!– Avoid too much detail in the clothing, like busy patterns. Keep it simple, it’s about you, not your clothes!
– Have a look through your closet before you go shopping for new clothes. Comfortable is a very good look for photos!– Fitted clothing is much more appealing than baggy– Bring a few outfits, and accessorize! Sunglasses, jewelry, watches, different shoes and the sort help make a simple shoot classy!– Vivid colours are best, watch out for the washed-out cottons– Simple geometric patterns are great, but thin, tight or small patterns tend to confuse the eye — especially in digital photos!– Avoid logos, unless you like the advertisement look!