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Child Photography – Wardrobe Options for the Photographer

I learned quickly that the difference between a good session and a mind blower could just be a scarf. A hat. A glove. To me, wardrobe far surpasses location in importance. As a photographer, it’s natural to have a large (if not complete) say in the location of your session. But you have little to no control over wardrobe and if you get the sense that your client isn’t on the ball with trends and fashion or even aesthetics, this can totally ruin your session. You can’t pull off a gorgeous country chic location with kids in football jerseys. You just can’t. And your clients might not think about things like how a girl’s tights will look off if they’ve got a small pattern or words on them. The viewer is instantly distracted by trying to figure out what the pattern is. So I have these options for my clients:

  • At the very least, I talk to them about choice. I talk about patterns, large characters (Sorry Tigger no one wants you over their fireplace) and colours.
  • In the mid-range of options, I can come to their home (if I have the time in my schedule) to choose the wardrobe with them or ask them to bring many options to the session for me to choose then.
  • At the most (and most fun for me!) I offer my clients the option of paying me a retainer of £100 per child to acquire pieces to mesh with the vision for the session. You can either provide the cash leftover or put it towards a print credit and all the items are theirs to keep!

Some photographers email story-boards of combination options and outfits to show them what they mean by ‘layering’ and ‘contrasting patterns and textures’. This is by far the most tense portion of my job. Not knowing what they will show up with! Even with all the precautions in the world, I still bring a few pieces I’ve acquired on my own incase all else fails.

Good luck. It’s a jungle out there!

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category.

Elizabeth Halford is a Hampshire Photographer and keeps a rockin'photography blog where she writes about photography and business in "real.plain.english". She's addicted to Facebook and can be found answering photography and business questions every day here on her page

  • http://looking-for-stars.blogspot.com Libby

    This is so true! Often the clothes my friends wear look terrible on camera. It’s hard enough to get them to shut up, I don’t need them looking terrible in their clothes too! :P

  • http://www.lafango.com/epk/fortunato_uno fortunato_uno

    That is a really good point. The sum of this article is a big concideration as I try to get into portraiture. Would you also want to see the wardrobe for the adults? or do you give them a basic ideas that you hope they will fill on there own? I have also tryed to find some models to work with, when they ask about wardrobe, I suggest a basic look that I think will fit the setting, as of yet I’ve had two no-shows, but I think I did alright getting the point across.
    As a final thought, do you think being a man (of about 45), would it even be a good idea to bring up the thought of going to a customers house to help pick wardrobe?

  • http://lifeisafieldwork.wordpress.com Robin Oberg

    This is kind of missing the point with portrait photography. I can as a photographer, choose to compose the image so that it focuses on certain aspects of the body, and ignore others. Well, as a photographer one can manipulate reality in many ways. But one thing we can never remove, is how the people in the pictures feel about themselves. For example; I might find this amazing silhoutte of a person, just to find the person criticize the picture because they hate their nose. And it’s the same thing with clothes. I can’t just dress a punk-rocker in skaters’ clothes and think that will work. No, it’s unrealistic. Doesn’t capture them as they are. Doesn’t capture who they are. Let them wear what they want, and then do your best with that. If that means you think you fail, it’s just your opinion. Actually, it’s easier to change your opinion than to change reality. Zen-SOOC-photography ftw ;)

  • http://lifeisafieldwork.wordpress.com Robin Oberg

    Just to clarify; I don’t mean it is somehow better to let the motif itself take the photo. I just mean that the kid with the cap up there does not look comfortable. If you are taking photos of railroad workers, do not dress them in shirt&tie in an office. Let them wear what they want, in their own surroundings. A comfortable subject is a much easier photo. And it shows. People looking at photos can tell if it’s “real” or not.

  • http://www.nuwomb.com Scott Webb

    Am I the only one that was totally thrown off by the title? I thought this was about wardrobe options for the photographer. LIke what the photographer would wear. I kind wondered why that would be here, but there are some interesting topics that go on.

    Maybe the title helps for SEO somehow, but it didn’t make sense to me after reading the article.

  • Peter

    And If they are posing outside in the country or in the garden make sure they are comfortable sitting on a dining room chair.

  • mike

    Robin, you took the words out of my mouth. In portraits, you want to capture the feeling, not make one up.

  • Killian

    I was recently on a “just for fun” shoot with a friend of mind and her 10yr old son. As A and I knocked around the grounds of this old rustic mill, there was a “pro” there shooting a family.

    First, the “pro” had the nerve to ask us to “get out of her shot” while we were setting one up with A’s son. Mind you, we were there first.

    Second, she had the client carry this red velvet chair up this trail/hill to a rock platform near the lake edge/waterfall down to the water wheel. Quite frankly, A and I were appalled. First, how cheesy and overdone can you be? And second, you make the client carry your equipment? Are you kidding me?

    For me, portrait shooting is about capturing the REAL person. I have no desire to force a super girly-girl into denim or a sports addict into a suit and bowtie. You can look nice without being fake, and if someone else is choosing my child’s clothing? Some stranger, who has no idea what my child is like, is deciding what my portrait will show.

  • http://www.flickr.com/crazydude Arun

    IMHO, what has been said above might be applicable to the fashion photography world – not classical portraiture!! And that’s the simplest we could say it in! :)

  • Heather

    I think it’s a good idea to guide your subjects. Of course you are shooting your subjects and want them to look natural, but they are paying you for YOUR style of photography. It’s not like the photographer is going to come bustin’ down the door and demand your child wear a certain sweater. And frankly, I am happy to have guidance in my clothes because I am fashion-challenged.

  • http://karenstuebingsdailyshoot.wordpress.com/ Karen Stuebing

    I can see both sides of this. I can see how a bright colored or patterned shirt could dominate a photo drawing attention away from the face. I can also agree with Robin that people express themselves with their clothes and it is part of who they are.

    I am not a portrait photographer but couldn’t you just do head shots or in some other way make the wardrobe choice less of an issue. Have them peek around a tree maybe?

    The little boy looks cute but like something out of the early 1900′s. Or maybe it’s an English style I’m not familiar with. Young people in the US just don’t dress like that.

    I think if I were to do this, I would offer advice as the author suggested and work with the result. My chihauhau is still getting over the indignity of me putting a winter coat on him for a snow shoot so I imagine people are much more difficult.

  • mike

    Guiding is one thing, and I do try to guide all the people that hire me. But changing their style just because you as a photographer think it looks best, no way. A good photographer captures a feeling, not make one up.

  • http://fmatiasphotography.blogspot.com Fernando

    I’ll have to agree with some of the other posters. Give them some advice on what works, sure, but I always just end up working with whatever they bring to the table. Their style is part of who they are, and it will make them more comofortable to be in their own clothes. I once had a groom-to-be show up for the engagement session with the brightest Orange shirt I have ever seen, brighter than the orange vests road workers wear! But we still got some great shots in there because the emotion was there between the couple. Whenever I thought the orange was just too overwhelming, I either tonned it down in post or removed it by going black and white.
    Patterns are harder to hide of course, but kids are kids and they will be happier and more active in their own style than trying to fit them to a mold and the suffyness of posing them all over the place.
    Cheers!

  • Christopher Kenison

    To me, and maybe I’m way off here, the author is talking about children. Little ones. People that aren’t ready to make their own choices (at least not fully). I think the author is completely within her rights to make suggestions about wardrobe.

  • mike

    @ Christopher, that kid in the picture is more than old enough to have his own style. I wish we as photographers would just take the damn pictures and stop staging them. We are not talking about fashion, or other product shots. We are talking about portraits and natural feeling.

  • christopher kenison

    @mike, I agree with you. The child in the picture is definitely old enough to have his own style. But, I also disagree with you. You state, “I wish we as photographers would just take the damn pictures and stop staging them.” This is the definition of a candid, not a portrait. A portrait should be both natural and staged. It is our job, as photographers, to direct the scene in which we are shooting… whether it’s wardrobe or composition. Now, I don’t think we should have the final say in what the person wears, but it’s definitely in our job description to give advice. I think this is what the article is about – the author isn’t saying (at least I don’t think she is) that certain attire is required. She’s just giving advice on what she thinks will make the best picture for a given session.

  • http://www.lafango.com/epk/fortunato_uno fortunato_uno

    I have to say I’m a bit surprised the comments in this post are so opposed to the Op. Her comments made plenty of sense. When people go to get portriats done, they tend to dress-up. It’s been that way since before photography. When you see those cheese shots from the portrait studios in a store like Sears, J.C.Pennys, and or walmart, the subjects are dressed nicely (and thats for a crappy portrait!). So is Liz’s point really that far off. I mean when people come to us for shots, they exspect much more then they get at a department store, and I think that would include choices in wardrobe. we are supposed to be pros’, and know better then the subjects what looks good in a shot.

  • http://elizabethhalford.com Elizabeth Halford

    @everyone: hi everyone! Thank you so much for your interest in this post. I would like to point out that I never said anything about not taking personal style into account – that was assumed. Also, ‘that kid’ is my 5 year old son and 5 year olds don’t have their own style as one reader commented. Those are the clothes he normally wears but at the age of 5, none of my children have ever once registered an interest in what they’re wearing. Unless it’s a costume :)

    I think it would be awesome if readers wouldn’t read between the lines so much. One of my options was simply to tell clients what doesn’t work in a session (noisy patterns, massive characters, white on a white seamless set. etc.) The other was to go to the client’s house and make suggestions based on their own wardrobe. I never said anything some of the comments on this post have claimed.

    @fortunato_uno: Right on! You’re exactly right…people have always worn things out of the norm for portrait sessions and if they hire me for a country or urban session, they’ll be ticked off if they look totally ‘off’ because I hadn’t helped with the wardrobe to go with it.

  • http://www.melissagracephotography.com Melissa

    Interesting read, thank you.
    @elizabeth: I had to read your article twice. I think the information you provided is very informative. I think if it started off with the bullet points and then the example it may not have been taken in the wrong context. I agree it is the professional responsibility to dialogue with the client about what is most appropriate for the location per the creativity of the photographer and maybe have another wardrobe selection on hand (by the client) if they want an alternate choice that best represents their style|taste. I often find it is a memory they are interested in. Something about the photograph that can put them in a specific place in their mind whenever they look at it.

    I do a lot of volunteer work and it isn’t about location or what they wear. I have to make a woman feel beautiful pregnant, giving birth and with her children without changing them. It is more photojournalistic in style and has to be in order for the organization I am volunteering for to use it to tell a story. It really teaches me how I can create beauty without changing the individual(s).

    Great post and great comments,
    thank you.

  • Carter’s Mommy

    I like this article very much and I agree with everything the author has said including her previous comment(s). :)

  • anathoth

    I appreciate the tips. I recently had a session with a darling little girl, who was unfortunately wearing a bow the size of her head – not kidding. I am sure the child wears them all the time, but it was a huge distraction in any shots that were not cropped tight. Also a potentially touchy subject to broach with Mom if she takes offense to your fashion critique.

  • http://www.texanmamaphotography.com Texan Mama

    I think there’s a difference between professional portraits and everyday photos. I think, for portraits that are intended to be art hung on the client’s wall (this is EH’s vision, I believe) then the subjects should look well put-together and coordinating outfits are always pleasing to the eye.

    For everyday photos, of course people should look natural in their own attire. But for a planned photo shoot, I do believe that the photographer, who is a professional, should guide the clients to a wardrobe choice.

    As professionals, we know what has worked in our experience and what has not. We have the hindsight to be able to tell a family that everyone in matching stripes might look cute but will ruin the photo! Plus, EH does comment that a good wardrobe choice is the difference between a good photo and one that pops. I agree – so much goes into a photo beyond just the subject. There’s lighting, angle, props, AND wardrobe, plus post-production editing. Having a great wardrobe can make the difference between an okay sale and a huge sale. After all, aren’t we in this business to make money?

  • Cindi

    I liked the article but was really hoping for more details on what types of clothing makes for good portraits.

    And by the way, I love that photo of your son.

  • Cindi

    I liked the article but was really hoping for more details on what types of clothing makes for good portraits.

    And by the way, I love that photo of your son.

  • Demelza

    I too am just branching out into portrait photography, I found this article confirms the way I have been working to date. Clients are guided in their choice of clothing, notice “THEIR” choice, I merely point out to them the options that won’t show them at their best, loud prints, clashing colours, anything that draws the attention of the viewer away from the subject. So far, so good.

  • Lane

    If you’re hiring a photographer then you’d have seen some of their work. Obviously you like it or you wouldn’t hire them. Therefore, as the professional in this case, you would be guided by their direction. It’s pretty simple. You wouldn’t hire a builder and then tell him how to build. You let them do their job. Hiring anyone is based on your own personal feelings, likes and dislikes. Same as choosing a doctor. If you don’t like their style, go somewhere else. Snapshots are just that and they can wear what they like. As a painter, doing portraits, you pose people how you want them. That’s your choice.

  • Lane

    PS: The photo of the boy in the cap… love it! He looks natural, confident and as though he’s enjoying being the centre of attention.

  • http://www.luminance.co.nz Phillippa

    Great post Elizabeth!
    When I worked for an international family portrait company we only used the first option you mentioned – letting people know what doesn’t work. It helps a bit but some people can’t visualize what you mean you’re trying to explain these things on the phone.
    I like your other two suggestions for those who want extra help, and I think they could work really well in a slightly higher-end studio than the one I used to work for.
    Thanks.

  • KGray

    GREAT post! Why this got so “technical” is beyond me. Look at it for what it is…anyone can still match their individual personality with easier to photograph/more CLASSIC (i.e. less time-branded) clothing. IMO, it’s really benefits the client in the long run. Elizabeth isn’t asking someone to cut off their mullet. Just wear a shirt that doesn’t glorify some race-car hero. Sheesh.

  • E Collings

    Totally agree – I am there to take a picture of a person, not their clothes. If certain clothes will detract from my subject, then its reasonable to ask the client to avoid such clothes. If other clothes will help to tell a story, I will say “we’re going for look X, dress on that basis”.

    I’ve had friends see the portraits I did of their kids and get excited about how bright their child’s eyes look, or how sweet their smile, but never how great their Donald Duck T-Shirt looks.

  • Rhonda

    I have taken a lot of high school senior portraits and am amazed at their clothing choices. I give them suggestions through email as to what photographs well and colors keeping in mind they will choose their own styles.

    Most of the time moms coordinate the guys clothes, otherwise they would show up in a t shirt with graphics on it. Some of the girls do a very good job while others come up in low cut tops and others in light colored clothing with bright under garments which show through. This has happened enough to prompt me to include giving the girls warnings about low cut tops and colored undergarments.

    Invariably, as I am posing a girl I will notice cleavage and ask if she intents to show that much. As they are pulling their tops to cover themselves they are horrified because they know their grandparents will be viewing their portraits. Non have every set out to show too much, but didn’t heed my suggestions.

    Faces are what we are after with clothing to help accentuate. In terms of a family, most don’t think about what will look good in a grouping and I know most I have photographed have been appreciative for help with clothing suggestions.

    As a PS… a gal once showed up with a nice blue sweater and jeans but when I looked at her feet, she had chosen, for some reason, to wear black stockings and white heals. It was quite a trick to hide those bright white shoes. That prompted me to mention darker shoes in my subsequent emails.

    Yes, people need to feel comfortable and themselves in a portrait, but they are paying you to not have them look like a hodge podge which is what so many snap shots show.

Some older comments

  • Rhonda

    August 24, 2013 06:13 am

    I have taken a lot of high school senior portraits and am amazed at their clothing choices. I give them suggestions through email as to what photographs well and colors keeping in mind they will choose their own styles.

    Most of the time moms coordinate the guys clothes, otherwise they would show up in a t shirt with graphics on it. Some of the girls do a very good job while others come up in low cut tops and others in light colored clothing with bright under garments which show through. This has happened enough to prompt me to include giving the girls warnings about low cut tops and colored undergarments.

    Invariably, as I am posing a girl I will notice cleavage and ask if she intents to show that much. As they are pulling their tops to cover themselves they are horrified because they know their grandparents will be viewing their portraits. Non have every set out to show too much, but didn't heed my suggestions.

    Faces are what we are after with clothing to help accentuate. In terms of a family, most don't think about what will look good in a grouping and I know most I have photographed have been appreciative for help with clothing suggestions.

    As a PS... a gal once showed up with a nice blue sweater and jeans but when I looked at her feet, she had chosen, for some reason, to wear black stockings and white heals. It was quite a trick to hide those bright white shoes. That prompted me to mention darker shoes in my subsequent emails.

    Yes, people need to feel comfortable and themselves in a portrait, but they are paying you to not have them look like a hodge podge which is what so many snap shots show.

  • E Collings

    May 6, 2011 10:47 pm

    Totally agree - I am there to take a picture of a person, not their clothes. If certain clothes will detract from my subject, then its reasonable to ask the client to avoid such clothes. If other clothes will help to tell a story, I will say "we're going for look X, dress on that basis".

    I've had friends see the portraits I did of their kids and get excited about how bright their child's eyes look, or how sweet their smile, but never how great their Donald Duck T-Shirt looks.

  • KGray

    April 10, 2011 09:11 am

    GREAT post! Why this got so "technical" is beyond me. Look at it for what it is...anyone can still match their individual personality with easier to photograph/more CLASSIC (i.e. less time-branded) clothing. IMO, it's really benefits the client in the long run. Elizabeth isn't asking someone to cut off their mullet. Just wear a shirt that doesn't glorify some race-car hero. Sheesh.

  • Phillippa

    March 1, 2011 05:46 pm

    Great post Elizabeth!
    When I worked for an international family portrait company we only used the first option you mentioned - letting people know what doesn't work. It helps a bit but some people can't visualize what you mean you're trying to explain these things on the phone.
    I like your other two suggestions for those who want extra help, and I think they could work really well in a slightly higher-end studio than the one I used to work for.
    Thanks.

  • Lane

    December 28, 2010 10:55 am

    PS: The photo of the boy in the cap... love it! He looks natural, confident and as though he's enjoying being the centre of attention.

  • Lane

    December 28, 2010 10:53 am

    If you're hiring a photographer then you'd have seen some of their work. Obviously you like it or you wouldn't hire them. Therefore, as the professional in this case, you would be guided by their direction. It's pretty simple. You wouldn't hire a builder and then tell him how to build. You let them do their job. Hiring anyone is based on your own personal feelings, likes and dislikes. Same as choosing a doctor. If you don't like their style, go somewhere else. Snapshots are just that and they can wear what they like. As a painter, doing portraits, you pose people how you want them. That's your choice.

  • Demelza

    December 24, 2010 08:12 am

    I too am just branching out into portrait photography, I found this article confirms the way I have been working to date. Clients are guided in their choice of clothing, notice "THEIR" choice, I merely point out to them the options that won't show them at their best, loud prints, clashing colours, anything that draws the attention of the viewer away from the subject. So far, so good.

  • Cindi

    December 24, 2010 04:30 am

    I liked the article but was really hoping for more details on what types of clothing makes for good portraits.

    And by the way, I love that photo of your son.

  • Cindi

    December 24, 2010 04:29 am

    I liked the article but was really hoping for more details on what types of clothing makes for good portraits.

    And by the way, I love that photo of your son.

  • Texan Mama

    December 24, 2010 02:54 am

    I think there's a difference between professional portraits and everyday photos. I think, for portraits that are intended to be art hung on the client's wall (this is EH's vision, I believe) then the subjects should look well put-together and coordinating outfits are always pleasing to the eye.

    For everyday photos, of course people should look natural in their own attire. But for a planned photo shoot, I do believe that the photographer, who is a professional, should guide the clients to a wardrobe choice.

    As professionals, we know what has worked in our experience and what has not. We have the hindsight to be able to tell a family that everyone in matching stripes might look cute but will ruin the photo! Plus, EH does comment that a good wardrobe choice is the difference between a good photo and one that pops. I agree - so much goes into a photo beyond just the subject. There's lighting, angle, props, AND wardrobe, plus post-production editing. Having a great wardrobe can make the difference between an okay sale and a huge sale. After all, aren't we in this business to make money?

  • anathoth

    December 24, 2010 02:32 am

    I appreciate the tips. I recently had a session with a darling little girl, who was unfortunately wearing a bow the size of her head - not kidding. I am sure the child wears them all the time, but it was a huge distraction in any shots that were not cropped tight. Also a potentially touchy subject to broach with Mom if she takes offense to your fashion critique.

  • Carter's Mommy

    December 24, 2010 02:16 am

    I like this article very much and I agree with everything the author has said including her previous comment(s). :)

  • Melissa

    December 24, 2010 02:08 am

    Interesting read, thank you.
    @elizabeth: I had to read your article twice. I think the information you provided is very informative. I think if it started off with the bullet points and then the example it may not have been taken in the wrong context. I agree it is the professional responsibility to dialogue with the client about what is most appropriate for the location per the creativity of the photographer and maybe have another wardrobe selection on hand (by the client) if they want an alternate choice that best represents their style|taste. I often find it is a memory they are interested in. Something about the photograph that can put them in a specific place in their mind whenever they look at it.

    I do a lot of volunteer work and it isn't about location or what they wear. I have to make a woman feel beautiful pregnant, giving birth and with her children without changing them. It is more photojournalistic in style and has to be in order for the organization I am volunteering for to use it to tell a story. It really teaches me how I can create beauty without changing the individual(s).

    Great post and great comments,
    thank you.

  • Elizabeth Halford

    December 23, 2010 03:10 am

    @everyone: hi everyone! Thank you so much for your interest in this post. I would like to point out that I never said anything about not taking personal style into account - that was assumed. Also, 'that kid' is my 5 year old son and 5 year olds don't have their own style as one reader commented. Those are the clothes he normally wears but at the age of 5, none of my children have ever once registered an interest in what they're wearing. Unless it's a costume :)

    I think it would be awesome if readers wouldn't read between the lines so much. One of my options was simply to tell clients what doesn't work in a session (noisy patterns, massive characters, white on a white seamless set. etc.) The other was to go to the client's house and make suggestions based on their own wardrobe. I never said anything some of the comments on this post have claimed.

    @fortunato_uno: Right on! You're exactly right...people have always worn things out of the norm for portrait sessions and if they hire me for a country or urban session, they'll be ticked off if they look totally 'off' because I hadn't helped with the wardrobe to go with it.

  • fortunato_uno

    December 22, 2010 10:48 pm

    I have to say I'm a bit surprised the comments in this post are so opposed to the Op. Her comments made plenty of sense. When people go to get portriats done, they tend to dress-up. It's been that way since before photography. When you see those cheese shots from the portrait studios in a store like Sears, J.C.Pennys, and or walmart, the subjects are dressed nicely (and thats for a crappy portrait!). So is Liz's point really that far off. I mean when people come to us for shots, they exspect much more then they get at a department store, and I think that would include choices in wardrobe. we are supposed to be pros', and know better then the subjects what looks good in a shot.

  • christopher kenison

    December 22, 2010 04:09 pm

    @mike, I agree with you. The child in the picture is definitely old enough to have his own style. But, I also disagree with you. You state, "I wish we as photographers would just take the damn pictures and stop staging them." This is the definition of a candid, not a portrait. A portrait should be both natural and staged. It is our job, as photographers, to direct the scene in which we are shooting... whether it's wardrobe or composition. Now, I don't think we should have the final say in what the person wears, but it's definitely in our job description to give advice. I think this is what the article is about - the author isn't saying (at least I don't think she is) that certain attire is required. She's just giving advice on what she thinks will make the best picture for a given session.

  • mike

    December 22, 2010 03:06 pm

    @ Christopher, that kid in the picture is more than old enough to have his own style. I wish we as photographers would just take the damn pictures and stop staging them. We are not talking about fashion, or other product shots. We are talking about portraits and natural feeling.

  • Christopher Kenison

    December 22, 2010 09:03 am

    To me, and maybe I'm way off here, the author is talking about children. Little ones. People that aren't ready to make their own choices (at least not fully). I think the author is completely within her rights to make suggestions about wardrobe.

  • Fernando

    December 22, 2010 02:04 am

    I'll have to agree with some of the other posters. Give them some advice on what works, sure, but I always just end up working with whatever they bring to the table. Their style is part of who they are, and it will make them more comofortable to be in their own clothes. I once had a groom-to-be show up for the engagement session with the brightest Orange shirt I have ever seen, brighter than the orange vests road workers wear! But we still got some great shots in there because the emotion was there between the couple. Whenever I thought the orange was just too overwhelming, I either tonned it down in post or removed it by going black and white.
    Patterns are harder to hide of course, but kids are kids and they will be happier and more active in their own style than trying to fit them to a mold and the suffyness of posing them all over the place.
    Cheers!

  • mike

    December 21, 2010 03:33 am

    Guiding is one thing, and I do try to guide all the people that hire me. But changing their style just because you as a photographer think it looks best, no way. A good photographer captures a feeling, not make one up.

  • Karen Stuebing

    December 21, 2010 03:19 am

    I can see both sides of this. I can see how a bright colored or patterned shirt could dominate a photo drawing attention away from the face. I can also agree with Robin that people express themselves with their clothes and it is part of who they are.

    I am not a portrait photographer but couldn't you just do head shots or in some other way make the wardrobe choice less of an issue. Have them peek around a tree maybe?

    The little boy looks cute but like something out of the early 1900's. Or maybe it's an English style I'm not familiar with. Young people in the US just don't dress like that.

    I think if I were to do this, I would offer advice as the author suggested and work with the result. My chihauhau is still getting over the indignity of me putting a winter coat on him for a snow shoot so I imagine people are much more difficult.

  • Heather

    December 21, 2010 01:49 am

    I think it's a good idea to guide your subjects. Of course you are shooting your subjects and want them to look natural, but they are paying you for YOUR style of photography. It's not like the photographer is going to come bustin' down the door and demand your child wear a certain sweater. And frankly, I am happy to have guidance in my clothes because I am fashion-challenged.

  • Arun

    December 21, 2010 01:10 am

    IMHO, what has been said above might be applicable to the fashion photography world - not classical portraiture!! And that's the simplest we could say it in! :)

  • Killian

    December 21, 2010 12:48 am

    I was recently on a "just for fun" shoot with a friend of mind and her 10yr old son. As A and I knocked around the grounds of this old rustic mill, there was a "pro" there shooting a family.

    First, the "pro" had the nerve to ask us to "get out of her shot" while we were setting one up with A's son. Mind you, we were there first.

    Second, she had the client carry this red velvet chair up this trail/hill to a rock platform near the lake edge/waterfall down to the water wheel. Quite frankly, A and I were appalled. First, how cheesy and overdone can you be? And second, you make the client carry your equipment? Are you kidding me?

    For me, portrait shooting is about capturing the REAL person. I have no desire to force a super girly-girl into denim or a sports addict into a suit and bowtie. You can look nice without being fake, and if someone else is choosing my child's clothing? Some stranger, who has no idea what my child is like, is deciding what my portrait will show.

  • mike

    December 20, 2010 12:54 pm

    Robin, you took the words out of my mouth. In portraits, you want to capture the feeling, not make one up.

  • Peter

    December 20, 2010 09:16 am

    And If they are posing outside in the country or in the garden make sure they are comfortable sitting on a dining room chair.

  • Scott Webb

    December 20, 2010 05:09 am

    Am I the only one that was totally thrown off by the title? I thought this was about wardrobe options for the photographer. LIke what the photographer would wear. I kind wondered why that would be here, but there are some interesting topics that go on.

    Maybe the title helps for SEO somehow, but it didn't make sense to me after reading the article.

  • Robin Oberg

    December 20, 2010 04:18 am

    Just to clarify; I don't mean it is somehow better to let the motif itself take the photo. I just mean that the kid with the cap up there does not look comfortable. If you are taking photos of railroad workers, do not dress them in shirt&tie in an office. Let them wear what they want, in their own surroundings. A comfortable subject is a much easier photo. And it shows. People looking at photos can tell if it's "real" or not.

  • Robin Oberg

    December 20, 2010 03:58 am

    This is kind of missing the point with portrait photography. I can as a photographer, choose to compose the image so that it focuses on certain aspects of the body, and ignore others. Well, as a photographer one can manipulate reality in many ways. But one thing we can never remove, is how the people in the pictures feel about themselves. For example; I might find this amazing silhoutte of a person, just to find the person criticize the picture because they hate their nose. And it's the same thing with clothes. I can't just dress a punk-rocker in skaters' clothes and think that will work. No, it's unrealistic. Doesn't capture them as they are. Doesn't capture who they are. Let them wear what they want, and then do your best with that. If that means you think you fail, it's just your opinion. Actually, it's easier to change your opinion than to change reality. Zen-SOOC-photography ftw ;)

  • fortunato_uno

    December 20, 2010 03:42 am

    That is a really good point. The sum of this article is a big concideration as I try to get into portraiture. Would you also want to see the wardrobe for the adults? or do you give them a basic ideas that you hope they will fill on there own? I have also tryed to find some models to work with, when they ask about wardrobe, I suggest a basic look that I think will fit the setting, as of yet I've had two no-shows, but I think I did alright getting the point across.
    As a final thought, do you think being a man (of about 45), would it even be a good idea to bring up the thought of going to a customers house to help pick wardrobe?

  • Libby

    December 20, 2010 03:04 am

    This is so true! Often the clothes my friends wear look terrible on camera. It's hard enough to get them to shut up, I don't need them looking terrible in their clothes too! :P

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