Photographer’s Dress Code – What to Wear to a Photo Shoot

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As a budding photographer, one of the biggest questions that will eventually come to mind is, “What should I wear to a photo shoot? Is there a photographer’s dress code?” The answer varies widely depending on the type of photo shoot you’re conducting, the specific client you’re working with, your overall style and brand as a photographer, and the culture of the region where you’re shooting.

A portrait photographer, for example, may have more flexibility in how he or she dresses compared to a corporate event photographer. Similarly, a photographer shooting in the West Coast of America will likely be able to dress more casually than an East Coast photographer. All variations aside, here are some general photographer dress code guidelines to start off with.

Michael Broad

By Michael Broad

1. Invest in a solid, comfortable pair of shoes

Regardless of what kind of photo shoot you’ll be conducting, start with shoes. Consider that you’ll likely be standing for hours on end, so comfort and ergonomics are key. Also, think about the terrain you might encounter during your shoot, and the seasonal weather. Will there be grassy fields, sandy shores, or other outdoor elements you might be venturing into to get unique angles? If so, shoes that can take a light beating and still look good will be of utmost importance.

As a female photographer who shoots mainly for corporate clients, I generally opt for black leather flats during the warm season, black leather boots for colder weather, or dressy black leather sneakers for extra long shoots with outdoor elements. In any case, it’s generally a good idea to stay away from sandals, high heels, and flip flops.

Laura Thorne

By Laura Thorne

2. Cover up

As a creative photographer in constant search of creative angles, consider the possible physical maneuvers such as bending, stooping, and squatting that you might be pulling off during a shoot. Dress accordingly, making sure to wear an outfit that will allow you to be physically flexible without giving your clients an eyeful, or worse yet, causing a wardrobe malfunction. Ladies, this means avoiding low-cut tops, ultra short skirts and dresses, and skimpy outfits. At the very least, bring a blazer or sweater to cover up. Gentlemen, don’t forget a belt and a longer shirt that can be tucked in.

3. Dress in all black

This is a contestable point, as it can also be argued that dressing according to your brand is a better strategy. However, it’s a general rule of thumb that wearing all black is best for being as invisible as possible at a photo shoot. That way you won’t stand out and take attention away from the main photo subject. Not to mention, dressing in all black makes you look more official, like a staff member which can potentially be helpful in navigating around a venue.

Personally, I opt for the all-black rule for all of my photo shoots, simply because it’s one less thing to worry about when I have a pre-assembled uniform to fall back on. For me, this uniform consists of mixing and matching from the following selection; one pair of black skinny jeans, one pair of black slacks, a black leather belt, several button-down black blouses, several black polo shirts, and a black blazer. Whenever possible, I also try to buy my black clothing in lightweight, moisture resistant fabrics rather than cotton, to avoid sweat absorption.

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4. Add a personal touch

Some photographers might contest the above point of dressing in all black with the argument that it’s important to dress according to your brand. This is something I definitely believe in as well, but having brand elements infused in your style of dress can also be done while still wearing all black. As an example, I always make sure to wear a few pieces of statement jewelry to accent my outfit and also serve as a conversation starter. I have a couple pairs of unique earrings, necklaces, and watches that almost always attract comments or questions, but they are also subtle in size so they don’t stand out too much.

Another idea is to custom order black clothing that has your logo on it, such as a polo shirt with a subtle branding element. A photography colleague of mine has done this with huge success as it further reinforces his brand, while also making him look and appear more official at photo shoots.

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5. When in doubt, ask

If you’re truly stumped on what to wear to a photo shoot, ask your client if they have any preferences. This is likely less important if you’re doing an intimate portrait session, but for event photographers, in particular, it never hurts to ask the client. I once had a corporate photography client who forgot to send over their two-page document detailing their dress code for photographers, which I would never have received had I not asked. At the very least, it’s important to find out if the dress code for your shoot is formal, semi-formal, or casual, and what exactly those terms mean to the client.

Jpellgen

By jpellgen

Over to you

To some photographers, what you wear to a photo shoot may not seem like a big deal. But I firmly believe how you dress is a reflection of your brand, so considering every element of your outfit is crucial.

What do you wear when you’re conducting photo shoots? Let me know in the comments below!

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Suzi Pratt is an internationally published Seattle event and food photographer. Her photos appear regularly in Eater and Getty Images. She is also a prolific blogger who teaches others how to run a successful photography business.

  • lynda.rhodes.93

    1 year ago I quit my previous work and that decision was a lifechanger for me… I started freelancing from home, for a company I stumbled upon online, few hrs each day, and I make much more than i did on my previous job… My last month check was for 9 thousand bucks… Superb thing about this job is that i have more time for my loved ones…
    http://korta.nu/MDe

  • photodaddy

    The all black rule seems great until all the guests come in white or light tone attire…now you’ll stand out like a beacon for sure.

  • Frescarosa

    I usually wear a white shirt or polo and black pants, and I keep a black sweater or blazer in my bag so I can adapt easily.

  • Pahz

    I recently did a shoot at an event for friends and that was the second question I asked after asking how much freedom of movement I would be allowed at the venue. I was told “Business casual” is the usual dress of the patronage. But, I went a step further and checked the venue’s own website and discovered my all-black/dark look would have me dressed just like the waitstaff. I mixed it up a little with black and white, but if you get the chance to check the venue- do so.

  • Michael_in_TO

    Another great reason to wear black is to show up less in reflective stuff. Glassware, mirrors, windows, jewellery if you’re shooting wedding bands, chrome, et al. I worry more about my attire when I am shooting an event like an award ceremony or a cocktail party (or wedding which I do not shoot)…but if I am in studio or doing a ton of set-up (big lights, backdrops etc) I wear what is comfortable and will breathe and move. Dress pants and hard shoes are a non-starter if I am moving big gear for studio-like-set-up. Cool sneaks like funky Cons or the like are OK if they are not ratty….I find people are OK if a creative dresses funky—but not disheveled! Not so if you are shooting a more formal event. Very clean black sport shoes if you must, but better to wear comfortable black dress shoes. LOVE the comment about tucked in shirts and a belt. Ladies, I do not want to see your T-bar. Gents, I do not want to see your big gut or your butt crack! But this is really common sense—no?

  • Glenn

    Of course for the beach shoot I dress in sandals, and older shorts and T-shirt. Something you can get wet and sandy. For shoots involving walking rougher outdoor locations in weather I go for practicality first. In both I will often bring blankets for the models too.

  • Paul LeSage

    I’m so happy for your success. Now spend some of that 9 thousand bucks on your own website and get the hockey puck out of this one.

  • Paul LeSage

    I’m so happy for your success. Now spend some of that 9 thousand bucks on your own website and get the hockey puck out of this one.

  • Sonny Rutherford

    Doing horse events I tend to wear comfy gear and boots or sneakers and at some events we have to wear a flouro vest to stand out (safety so horses and riders can see us)

  • Andrew Kliss

    I do mainly wildlife and landscape photography, so fashion faux pas are somewhat mute. I find that military BDU or ACU pants perfect for this type of shooting. the big, pleated cargo pockets can balloon out to accept just about any piece of equipment, even some rather large mid-length lenses if one is limited by only two hands.

    Another bonus are the various camouflage patterns and colors suited for just about any landscape scenario. Also indispensable on photowalks and street shooting. In many situations with this type of attire, one can easily blend into the less “desirable” city districts without attracting much attention. Did I mention they are cheap to purchase but built tough as nails?

    I usually wear one size bigger long sleeved t-shirts which gives arms unfettered movement also. That, and good pair of Merrel’s (or insert your own favorite brand of footwear) and you’re set for either wildscape or cityscape safaris.

  • Albin

    Footwear really is a big deal, maybe less so for a 100lb woman than a 200lb man, but several hours over several days with packs or a big handheld rig is painful and can be harmful over time. The best recommendation I have is serious insoles (e.g. Spenco sorbothane, thought there are other good ones) and orthotics if needed, that can get far better support and comfort from affordable boots or runners – even expensive footware often has lousy insoles and support.

  • rev2000

    Biz casual is always a good choice if you can’t find out what is appropriate. It is comfortable and almost universally accepted.

  • PrayerPoseMom

    I mainly do real estate photography, which includes a lot of landscapes. I tend to dress in neutrals and always wear comfortable, well-made shoes and cargo pants for lenses, filters, etc… On occasion when I’ve done portrait shoots, where we shoot dictates how casual/dressy I get.

  • Catchlight35

    I usually wear black particularly for night or dark events such as theatre or parties. It’s a big mistake to wear anything white in a situation where there is any UV lighting and an even bigger one to wear white underwear if your black shirt isn’t very thick (I am female in case you haven’t guessed)! E.g at a gymnastics theatrical display where you are the official photographer normally in front of the audience – you will be like a beacon!!

  • For photography Clothing should be selected on the texture of tissue. If he pullover, it is in a knitted dress. This combination of different textures in one outfit is not forbidden, as long as it was done tastefully. Online hugest number of sources on the subject, so I will not dwell here. http://www.arasuweddingphotography.com

  • Chilifresserin

    I think black is often a good go to choice for clothing, but I photograph a lot of children and wear light earth tones to those shoots. According to color psychology, light earth tones (also pastels) make you come across as more friendly and approachable.

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