what to wear to your photo session

I spend a great deal of my time answering the following question: “What should I wear?” It’s not that I’m tired of answering that question. When people contract me to take photos, I feel as if I have a duty to educate them, so until now, I’ve never written any free content about what to wear. I am on the lookout for a stylist who’s looking to build her / his / their portfolio, so if that’s you, please - let’s connect. Until then, I help my clients as much as I can. 

And, I’m by no means a fashionista. If you’ve seen me in the past five years or so, you’ve probably seen me in shades of black. It is my favorite color. A crisp black, none of that trendy faded black. Only recently did I realize that in dressing for my own funeral each day, perhaps I’m not attracting the energy I’d most like into my life. I’m rather shy, an introvert, and black feels simple, classic, and safe. It’s my entrepreneurial uniform. One less decision to make each day. 

A few months ago, I had some photos taken of myself, and I wore black, and when I received the photos, I thought, “Hmmm, I’m not so sure that’s my color.” I didn’t love how dark it was next to my skin tone. The same, I’ve discovered, is true for navy. Unless, I’m trying to further the dark and mysterious artist persona, I think I photograph far better in light colors. Dare I say - white is even preferable - which is unfortunate because by 8 am, my son will have stained whatever I’m wearing. 

I’m still going to wear black because I just love it, and it packs a punch of power.

her accessories (the jewelry and her smile) as well as the warm light are beautiful.

the simplicity creates interest.

the main attraction is not her attire.

These first few paragraphs have qualified for you that I am no expert in this department. I’m not sure why you’re still reading. But, since you are, I’ll offer a few tips based on my experience photographing individuals, couples, families, and entrepreneurs. 

  • As much as I do love black, can I just say that I like pastels on most people, too? I shoot predominantly film, and pastels bring a light, airy feel to everything. I remember in high school, back when I was dressing kinda goth, there was this girl who sat next to me in Biology, and she said “If you want the teachers to like you more, wear pastels.” I was in trouble a bunch - mostly because I have a strong opinion about so many things. I remember thinking, “I will never wear pastels.” So, if that’s you, and you hate pastels, please don’t wear pastels. The most important thing in your photos is to be truly authentic and you. A couple of other things to consider with regard to color are: 1. Does what you’re wearing align with your brand colors? 2. Who are you attracting? I need the photo of me in a suit because I speak to corporations about wellness, but I also need the photos of me in pastels. The reason is twofold - my clients are predominantly female, and I want my work in the world to have a divinely feminine quality to it. 
  • if 16 year old Amber could see 36 year old Amber…

    this photo courtesy of Sabrina Gebhardt Photography. in all honesty, he and I might be a little too matchy-matchy, but I just don’t care because he’s going to have the rest of his life to wear whatever he wants.

  • If you’re a mom and you’re reading this in preparation for a family shoot, DRESS YOURSELF FIRST. Kids look good in everything. Even if your toddler insists on going naked or wearing a graphic tee because s/he’s a threenager, and you just cannot muster the courage to attempt to reason with unreasonable little people, it’ll be fine. Go ahead: buy yourself a beautiful dress or jumpsuit or blouse. Coordinate the family based on you! What a concept. I think this is a good plan for self preservation and family longevity, in general. If Momma looks good, everybody looks good. Dressing yourself well first is the fashionable equivalent to putting your own oxygen mask on first. And, in case you need permission, it’s ok to wear a bright color or a bold print. You are worth seeing. Without you, there would be no kids. You can take up space in the frame. Your children will want the photos of you. And, until they are old enough to know they do, these photos are for you, so you might as well look good. 
  • The fit is important. With babies and kids, I prefer the clothes to fit tighter rather than looser. With adults, I used to say fitted was better - especially if you want to look smaller in body, which I know might be the opposite of what you think. Baggy clothes can look like you pitched a tent, you know? But, I do love clothes that flow and move. If you’re conscious about your body - and let’s face it, 99% of people are - wear something you feel comfortable in. I know that I’m going to ostracize about half of the moms in the South here with what I’m about to say next: I’m just not so sure those monogrammed bubble suits and rompers photograph well. Occasionally, they do. I have a photo of my son wearing a seersucker (pastel) jumper in a field of bluebonnets that I will carry with me to the grave. It’s one of my favorite photos of all time. He looks big and little all at the same time. It’s timeless. Nobody would know if it was 2019 or 1989. This brings me to my next point…
  • my prince, spring 2019. I can kinda see why those bluebonnets are a thing.

  • Especially if you’re using these photos professionally, you want your photos to have some longevity. When in doubt, choose classic and timeless. It’s absolutely ok to ignore this rule if you are a person who routinely takes photographs or if you’re a blogger or entrepreneur in a field related to fashion. Sometimes I get a text: “What do you think of a white shirt?” Sometimes photographers say, no, and I assume it’s because they don’t have the skillset to capture the highlights, and/or they know the camera likes to focus on what’s white first. I’ve been doing this long enough that I think white is almost always a great idea, and film does a great job capturing the details that digital images lose.
  • bell sleeves - yes, please!


    colored pants, uh huh.

    turtleneck. timeless.

    simple, elegant - like her.

    off-white, sheer.

  • Texture is a beautiful thing. Especially during winter months, a chunky sweater or flowing wrap creates warmth and movement. I’m writing this post on the heels of spending an hour of my life I’ll never get back smoothing wrinkles from a linen dress. I’m not saying not to wear linen. I absolutely love linen. I wear it all the time. I’ll airbrush yours, too. Just know that I’m gonna take my sweet time delivering your gallery.
  • these ladies work in yoga but also in corporate wellness, so the wraps add a dimension of professionalism that spandex (in my opinion) does not.

    A final word: stop overthinking what you’re going to wear. In fact, if I may, your hair and makeup are far more important. That’s a topic for another day. Until then, joy is the best makeup, so relax and smile and trust that I’m going to photograph you in your best light. 

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