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Wardrobe Style Guide

Updated: May 4

Wardrobe Style Guide for Photo Shoots

Desireable wardrobe color combinations for photo shoots with Artistry by Jennifer Lee Johnson, hairstylist, makeup artist and photographer in Newport RI
Imagine a bucket of gray paint mixed in with the colors

Picking out what wardrobe to wear at a photoshoot can seem daunting.Usually you will have something at home that can be used. If you don't have something at home, a quick stop to a store that has current fashions might be in order. Wardrobe does not need to be "name-brand" or have a high fashion label. A picture will not show the texture or feel of the fabric so it's not important that it be expensive. Find a store that has current trends for lower cost. Examples of stores are Zara, H&M, Target, Old Navy, Macy's, Forever 21, etc. Check out resale if you're in the mood for a treasure hunt.

Where do I start?

  • Visualize the end product. Think of the images that inspire you. What is your vision?

What colors do I wear?

  • Avoid neon colors near the face (this can cause a bright color cast on the skin).

  • Avoid primary colors. Choose colors with a muted tone. Imagine throwing a gallon of grey paint into a color.

  • Avoid solid white. A bright white will blow out the photograph and might make the images difficult to edit.

  • Avoid solid black. The color black will cause the subject matter to recede and not pop from the background.

  • Do not wear the same color head to toe.

  • Consider the time of the year. Don’t wear fall colors in front of a bright pink flower field. For inspiration, Google “What are the colors of this year’s season?”

  • Consider the location. Try to coordinate, do not match. For editorial consider dressing "opposite" to the setting. ie. formal wear in an abandoned warehouse.

  • i.e.: Don’t wear a bright green t-shirt when the shoot is planned for a location in a field.

  • i.e.: Consider pastels over head-to-toe taupe on a sandy beach.

What are the rules for patterns and pattern combinations?

  • Rules? Nope! Use your best judgment! If it doesn’t work, try something else. Some of the best shots combine contrasting elements: hard and soft, bright and pastel, dark and light. Mix floral patterns with stripes, polka dots or even plaid. The possibilities are endless.

  • Keep in mind that your wardrobe needs to be visually appealing.

  • Try to coordinate, do not match.

What do you recommend for men?

  • Keep the wardrobe clean and simple.

  • Look at fashion magazines and catalogs for inspiration. Look at periods of history for inspiration. For example, a white tank with suspenders, jeans, and a newsboy cap are definitely a look. Consider dressing up more than down. Think suits, vests, and layers.

  • Layer up. For example, pair a knit cap with an undershirt and a button-down top, jeans, and a belt.

  • A contrast always looks beautiful.

  • If one person is in a dress or something that is "busy" or more extravagant, the other should be in a clean and pressed button-down shirt and suit pants. Bring a suit coat and leave it unbuttoned.

  • Avoid animated t-shirts or graphics.

What do you recommend for women?

  • Clean lines. Well cut garments.

  • Layers! Accessories!

  • Avoid: Leggings

Do I need to accessorize? What about jewelry? What about props?

  • Less is more. Keep it simple. Don’t wear too much jewelry.

  • Don't bring props unless it's something simple that can be interacted with while posing.

  • i.e.: coffee cups, flower, book, brimmed hat, etc.

  • Take off your smartwatch. Leave the phone in your car.

What if I don’t have a proper wardrobe?

  • Go shopping! You can return what you don't use or like. Even if you wear it in photos. Note: You cannot return shoes that have been worn. However, some wardrobe stylists get around this by putting painters tape on the bottoms of the shoe... especially if shooting in a clean studio.

  • If it’s down to the wire, simply bring several options to the shoot. The photographer will make suggestions. Be sure to press and hang your options.

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