Photo Tips | Color for Portrait Photography

One of the most common questions I get asked before a family photoshoot is "What should we wear?" Instinctively, I say whatever is comfortable. What I've realized, though, is that answer isn't always helpful.

"Comfortable" and "suitable for portraits" aren't always synonymous are they? Most people don't want to wear their favorite pajamas to a photoshoot (unless you're 5, of course. In which case your parent probably will say no anyway). 

Whlie I love the classic look of off-white for family portraits, I think that wearing colors can go a long way if chosen correctly. For instance, I would not advise off white if the background will be too similar to it, like dry summer grass. I suggest colors that will make my clients stand out from their background, based on an outfit either mom or dad want to wear (I mention the parents here, but really, it could be based off of anyone's outfit. I've just found that it's easier to start with an adult's outfit because then you're not stuck with styling a family based on a bright neon colored shirt). 

Anyway, then you take that outfit and coordinate everyone's clothing around it. Pops of color are great too, especially if your daughter wants to add some flair to her photos. Patterns are to be used sparingly, as you don't want them to clash. 

Recently I've been collecting clothing to help style my clients for their photoshoots. This has been a lot of fun, but it's expensive, so it's great when I only have to buy the children's outfits. I use the same principle that I described above. 

The most recent photoshoot I styled was a Mom and Me shoot with Lynne and her girls.

Mom & Me portrait photography, Folsom California

Mom & Me portrait photography, Folsom California

She wore a casual teal colored hoodie. It is really green here in California so I decided to play off of the neutral/blue tone of her hoodie so that she and her girls would complement each other and stand out from their environment.

Mom and Tween portrait Folsom California
Mom & Daughter portrait Folsom California

I also took into account the skin tones of her daughters. Her youngest daughter has a bright skin tone, so I thought that she would look great in a bright pink hoodie similar in style to her mom's. Her oldest daughter has an olive complexion, so I chose a rust colored top for her. (I originally chose a hoodie for her as well, but darn Amazon tripled the cost of it before I made the purchase.) I found a different casual top instead that actually complemented her lean frame much better. 

Sisters portrait Folsom California

Choosing your outfits for your family photoshoot doesn't have to be stressful. Start with one outfit and coordinate everyone's clothing off of it. That is one way to make everyone's outfits as cohesive as possible. 

Claire Toney is a professional Northern California photographer. She graduated with a BA in Art degree from San Jose State. Her favorite undergrad class was Color Theory and still loves to play with color.