Clothing Guideline for Outdoor Family and Engagement Photos

by Dan Dugan



A common error in family and engagement portrait photos is a poor choice in clothing. This is not fashion photography, we want to concentrate on the people in the photo and not the clothes. Many people make the mistake of wanting to wear their favorite outfit, which is usually brightly colored with stripes and patterns. When people look at your photo we want them to concentrate on you, not on what you are wearing. One clothing choice that I really do not like is the “everyone wear white shirts” photo. When people look at this photo, all they see is the white shirts.


Outdoor photography in general is considered “low key” photography. Dark colors on a dark background, which allows your faces to stand out.  Choosing the right clothing will go a long way to help you look your best.



    Infants and toddlers should be fresh from a nap and fed.

    Wear solid color clothing so that we see all of your faces and no one person stands out.

    Avoid wearing white, red, yellow, or orange. These warm colors do not compliment your skin tone. They also make you look bigger.

    Avoid wearing black. Black clothes disappear into the background and you end up with floating heads.

    Choose similar tones for your top and bottom (both dark or both light) so that one doesn’t look bigger than the other.  White top, dark pants will make your top look bigger.  White pants, dark top will make your butt look bigger.

    Choose 1-3 colors for your group portrait, ones with similar tones that go nicely together and have everyone work within that color palette. For example: dark green, navy, and burgundy – all dark jewel tones.  Or tan, a lighter olive green, and denims, all lighter, softer tones, so that we see the people first and your portrait looks stunning. Wedding group photos look so good because they’re all wearing the same colors and the people stand out.

    Choose a top with sleeves at least to the elbow because your arms take up more skin area than your face and will draw attention and it may also make your arms look larger.

    Choose a top with an open neckline. Avoid turtleneck sweaters.

    Choose long pants for men/ladies or a skirt below the knee for ladies so that your legs don’t take attention from your faces, and you will be able to sit and bend without showing too much leg.

    Choose dark socks and footwear because white just sticks out like a sore thumb and that’s all you’ll notice in your portrait.

    Keep jewelry simple and minimalistic because too much draws attention away from your face

    If getting a haircut or new hairstyle, make your appointment at least 2 weeks prior to your portrait session. Fresh haircuts rarely look their best the same or next day. You need time to practice working with a new hairstyle. Allow some time to live with your new look before your portrait session.