If we haven't met yet, I'm Ivy! I'm a wedding and senior photographer based in East Tennessee. I hope you'll relax, grab a cup of coffee (or a baja blast), and enjoy seeing my latest work, as well as getting an inside look at my life!


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September 17, 2019

How to Pick Outfits for Photos

Caleb + Kendra _ One Year (38 of 136)_editedYou know the feeling. You booked a photo shoot and you’ve been super excited, but 24 hours before your session begins, you’re standing in front of your closet saying, “I have nothing to wear!” The reality is that plenty of amazing outfits are staring you right in the face, but the fear of picking the wrong outfit keeps you from making a decision. I’ve been there, too. It would be easier if we could just say, “This dress is cute,” and go with it. But you’re right – the outfit you choose for your photoshoot requires some critical thinking. Not everything that’s cute photographs well. That’s why I’m sharing a few of my best tips on how to pick outfits for photos!

how to pick outfits for photos

Pro tip: The more confident you FEEL in your outfit, the more confident you will LOOK in your pictures!!

1. Neutral colors photograph softer. While bold colors are beautiful and we all love a red dress every now and then, often times bright and prominent colors can distract from the most important part of the picture – your face! This is especially true in my style of photography because I like to edit my photos in true-to-life color without muting any vibrance! Not only that, but bolder colors (like reds, hot pinks, bright greens, neon oranges) can reflect back onto your skin and change your skin tone. Have you ever seen a picture of yourself wearing a red top and noticed your skin looked a little more on the pink side? Now you know why!

When you pick outfits for photos, I tend to recommend the softer end of the color wheel for this reason. Think blush pinks, muted blues, grays, creams, whites, lighter browns, etc. These colors always photograph beautifully and help keep the attention on you & the emotion in the photo!

how to pick outfits for photos

If you have a great neutral top but still want a pop of color, wearing colored pants is one fun way to add some pop to your outfit!

2. Avoid small patterns. This probably sounds super specific, but if possible, it’s best to avoid wearing anything with patterns smaller than a dime. Tiny details like these can create weird effects when photographed! Remember seeing those weird optical illusion chain emails back in 2009? Sometimes tiny patterns on clothes can look like those in photos! That’s because the camera can’t pick up teeny tiny details, and it often causes chromatic aberration (if you wanted to know the technical term). Just like with bold colors, the attention will be drawn to the weird effects that are happening rather than to your beautiful face!

Larger patterns are okay and can photograph beautifully, so you don’t have to scratch patterns off your list altogether. When in doubt, send me a picture of your outfit and I’ll be able to tell you if strange effects will be possible or not! Or you can get out a dime and compare it to the size of the patterns on your outfit. If the patterns are the same size or smaller, I suggest picking something else 🙂

how to pick outfits for photos

Larger patterns like these tend to photograph the best!

3. Complement instead of matching. In other words, you don’t have to wear the same color. In fact, it’s better if you don’t! The way I’ve explained this to brides before their engagement sessions in the past is that it’s easier for them to pick their outfits first, and then choose the groom’s based on that. So if the bride picked a light blue dress for her first outfit, the groom’s outfit doesn’t need to be light blue too. He can wear a complementary color, like a cream or off-white top, for example. You can also get away with wearing different shades of the same color for couple photos!

A good way to find out what colors complement each other – as strange as it sounds – is to look up paint swatches. You know, the ones that show you what colors could complement each other for your house? They work for clothes too. I sometimes just google “color” + “color combinations” and I’ll find options in no time. For example, I just searched “light blue color combinations” and this was one of the first results. Here are some examples of a few of my sweet clients’ past outfit pairings that have photographed beautifully!!

how to pick outfits for photos

photo outfits

4. Wear what makes you feel good. I know I just gave you a lot of information about what photographs well and what doesn’t, but if you don’t follow any of the other advice on this list, at least follow this last tip. When you pick outfits for photos, pick things you feel comfortable in. Wear something that flatters your favorite parts of your figure and compliments your skin tone, hair, and eyes. This is fool-proof because the more confident you feel, the more confident you will look! This will look different for every person.

In my experience, I’ve found that three-quarter length or long sleeves have the most slimming effect on my arms, whereas when I wear strapless dresses or outfits with thin straps, my arms are the first thing I notice in the photo. So if I want to wear a strapless top but also feel more comfortable, I’ll wear a cute cardigan! Chances are, there’s something similar you’ve noticed when looking at pictures of yourself in the past. Pick what you know flatters you the most, and you can’t go wrong! Looking back, you’ll be glad you did.

how to pick outfits for photos

Bonus tip: Flowy dresses and skirts are a great way to add some movement to your photos! I will forever be obsessed with this picture from Kat’s senior session!

It’s hard to pick outfits for photos. There are so many choices, and sometimes it’s hard to know what will photograph best. I have many photo outfit regrets from back in the day, so don’t worry. We’ve all struggled with this before! I hope this guide has given you the confidence boost you need to pick some amazing outfits and rock your next photo session!


P.S. I’d like to start sharing more photo tips, but I need your help! What would you like to see on the blog? It can be photo-related, wedding-related, college-related . . . really anything that pertains to my areas of knowledge (although those are probably my top 3!) Send me an email or leave a comment, and let me know what advice you’d like to read next!

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