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How Do I Choose What To Wear For My Senior Picture Session?
Some people are all about clothes. Clothes express their sense of style, and their personality. Clothes are a representation of their very being. They’ll bring suitecases of clothing into the studio for their senior portrait session.
Others don’t care as long as their body is covered and they don’t get arrested.
But just as clothes are an important part of the person that you are, in one way or another, and they’re an expression of your style and how you see yourself, they’re also an important part of your senior picture session.
So we thought we’d give you a few ideas, thoughts and guidelines on what to choose and what to bring.
First of all, the clothes you bring to your senior picture session should represent the real YOU!
For many years, we’ve had guidelines in the portrait industry as to what looks good in a traditional portrait. Solid colors, longer sleeves, theres a bunch of them, and all other things being equal, if we follow those we’ll create better looking photographs.
But I have a friend who only wears Hawaiian shirts, which probably violate most of the rules. But if we were to photograph him in a golf shirt would be to totally ignore who he is. It might look good, but it just wouldn’t be him.
So, for purposes of senior pictures, choose clothing that represents YOU! We want you to express yourself with what you wear. We want your style and your personality to come shining through.
What do you feel good in? What do you LOOK good in? What are you comfortable in? In short, those are the things you want to bring.
Think in terms of the different aspects of your life. What do you wear? Is this an aspect that you want included in your senior portrait session? Then you should include something in this style.
Whatever you bring, think about in advance.
Don’t get up the morning of your senior portrait session and grab whatever crawls out from under the bed. Or simply whatever happens to be clean. You’re only going to have senior pictures done once, so take some time to plan.
Bring a variety of different looks.
If we’re going to photograph you in four outfits, don’t bring four pairs of jeans and four t-shirts, unless that all you ever wear, or there’s some special reason to do so. Think VARIETY.
For girls this might be shorts, capris, skinny jeans, skirt and dress. All with appropriate tops, shoes and accessories.
For guys, it might be shorts, jeans, dockers and slacks. Again, with appropriate style of shirt and shoes.
Some people have a wide range of comfort level, others a narrow range. But whatever your range, make use of it.
You don’t want all your senior pictures looking pretty much the same because the clothing never varies, or varies so little that nobody notices.
Think in terms of total outfits.
We’ll go through your clothing when you first come in for your session, but what I want to see is what you would wear together, not just a random inventory of tops, bottoms and shoes. In other words, i don’t want to sort your laundry for you, nor do we want to spend a big part of your time simply trying to figure out clothes that go together.
Wear colors that you look GREAT in.
You probably already do anyhow, but think in terms of the colors that go best with your complexion and hair coloring. If I wear white, it drains all the color out of my face, so even when i worked for IBM, i wore off-white shirts.
What color are your eyes? If you wear at least one top that matches your eyes, it tends to make your eyes glow as if they had batteries in them.
Get help if you need it.
Some guys especially are very clothing challenged, so if this is you, and if you have a girlfriend, or a girl friend who has a great fashion sense, get her advice. She’ll be more in tune with what’s in fashion than your mom will, but remember, in most cases your mom is paying for the senior portraits so she may have some say. We generally end up doing at least one mom/grandma series.
Girls, have some fun with it. Get some of your friends together and pick out what you’re going to wear. Then bring them along as your fashion consultants/dressers.
Make sure everything is clean and pressed.
I can’t tell you how many times people have shown up with clothes that really needed to be laundered and ironed before they arrived. You won’t look your best, and we really want you to.
One thought especially for girls
Girls, if you’re going to wear dresses or skirts, wear something underneath that will give us the maximum flexibility in what we do with the minimum possibility for embarrasment. Some girls wear spandex or something like Cheer pants, and this is a great idea. You know best what the possibilities might be.
Also, if you wear a tank or something similar underneath your outfit, it makes it easier to change if we need to change in the car.
Also, help mimimize bra straps. Bring the appropriate type of bra for each outfit. Bra straps can be outright distracting.
Ok, now for the general portrait clothing guidelines
There’s an old saying in photography that says learn all the rules so you can creatively break them. That applies to clothes as well. Here’s the general guidelines we use that will, all other things being equal, make your portraits look that much better. But we fully expect to creatively break them when it makes sense to do so:
1. Solid colors photograph better than patterns. Patterns take the eye of the viewer away from the face and to the clothing.
2. Generally, shirts with large writing on them don’t work as well as plain shirts, or maybe shirts with a simple logo.
3. Think in terms of the colors in the environment we’re going to be photographing you in. For example, if we’re doing fall colors, don’t wear pink. That’s not a color you’d see in fall, and your clothing will clash with the colors in the background. For downtown, just about anything works, because we’ll find the right place that works with your clothing rather than the other way around.
4. Sleeves are generally better than no sleeves, and longer sleeves are better than short sleeves. This is simply because they eye goes to the lightest, largest item in the picture and if this is your shoulders and arms, it will take the viewers gaze away from your face, which is generally the center of attention. The larger the arms and shoulders, the more the distractions. So if you want to wear a spaghetti strap dress, a wrap over it might be a great choice.
But long sleeves in the summer might look out of place, so just keep this overall guideline in mind when you’re putting together your outfits.
What about for the Special Senior Portrait Sessions?
Surfin Safari – Senior Pictures at the Beach
We can have so much fun at the beach, but it takes some thinking about what to wear.
First of all, think in terms of the colors you see at the beach – grays and tans like the sand and driftwood. Blues like the sky, greens and yellows like the beach grasses. Anthing in these colors will automatically look great.
Blue jeans and white shirts are a great combination for beach portraits.
Beach wear is also a possibility because the beach we’ll take you to is rarely windy, and frequently warm enough to wear shorts or even a swim suit if you choose. But beach style cover-ups are fun as well.
For girls, flowy dresses can be great, and we’ve even photographed girls in prom dresses playing in the surf. (again, wear something under the dress that minimizes any possibility for embarrasment).
Urban Legends – Senior Pictures in Downtown Portland
This is the time for puttin on the ritz.
It’s a night (or a day) on the town, and you want to get all dressed up. It’s not a time for t-shirts and jeans, for either guys or girls.
Think in terms of a fashion magazine, and the kinds of clothes you see there.
Think in terms of what you’d wear if you were working in an upscale office in downtown.
Alternatively, think about the old buildings in Northwest Portland and what might fit in if we photograph you there.
In the Pearl, theres a real mixture of real upscale new buildings and old converted warehouses and industrial buildings, so clothing you wear there should have real style and character, in whatever direction is appropriate.
Nightscapes – Senior Portraits After Dark
This is the time to get inventive.
Why would you be out in downtown at night, and what might you be wearing. We’ve done everything from evening gowns, to a more grunge rock and roll look. We’ve photographed musicians, singers, actors, as well as regular people who just wanted an alternative look.
These photographs can be dark and mysterious, or fashion oriented. There’s almost no limitation, but again, you want to be creative and not just wear anything you might wear during the day if you were simply hanging out.