What do I wear?

That’s the question I am asked most often.  “What do I wear to my engagement, family, business, or other photo session?” For the client, this is one of the hardest questions they deal with - harder than location, date, and choosing the final product. The answer I start with for all of these sessions is always “be yourself”.  I want to capture a picture of you and/or your family as you are - and, trust me, you want that too. Don’t try to overthink it or over do it. The biggest wardrobe complications occur when people try too hard to dress up or to dress in a way that doesn’t fit their personality or the environment.  I’ve broken down a few key notes here to help guide you through what can be, for many people, a trying situation. But first and foremost, remember to be yourself and to feel comfortable.

The Family Photo Session

The key to a family photo session is to blend the colors appropriately, keeping everyone’s wardrobe color choices in the same family. This doesn’t mean everyone should wear navy blue and nothing else.  Far from it! Staying away from being too matchy is just as important. You want everyone to choose colors that compliment one another and don’t clash. If everyone in the portrait is in pastels, and one person is in bright orange, that person is going to draw all the focus of the picture.  But just as important as blending in with one another, you want your choice to blend in with the background you choose. The image below is a great example of the family using color to coordinate with one another, and with their background.

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In the case of parents with a baby or a single young child, having the parents wear neutral or similar tones works well.  Having the infant then in a complimentary color brings the focus to the child, making the baby the center of the photo and drawing our eyes to her.  It adds that ‘pop’ of color that will make the photo all the more vivid. For larger families with children, dressing everyone in a color family (think Autumn colors) or with two set colors (navy and yellow) for dresses and tops works well.  Pants, shoes, belts and accessories can then be set as neutral to break up the monotony of the color pallet - think white, black, brown and gray, also jeans and khakis for pants, shorts, shoes, etc.

And of course we need to talk about prints.  Plaids work well as long as they fall within the color palette you choose.  In our example of navy and yellow above, a subtle navy plaid shirt for a gentleman would be fine.  However, a loud yellow and blue Hawaiian print shirt would draw all of the viewer's attention. A good rule of thumb is to stick to solids or subtle patterns and textures (plaids, lace).  The ultimate goal of the picture is to see your family and your smiles, and the clothing shouldn’t distract from that.

The Engagement Shoot

While similar to a family shoot in terms of rules, Engagement shoots also elicit a lot of emotion - love, excitement, intimacy, comfort - and wardrobe choices should reflect that.  While many of the pictures will be a close up of your faces and upper body, there will be also be many full body pictures showcasing your relationship. You want to choose clothing that you are comfortable in, from head to toe.  You also want your clothing and your partners clothing to compliment each other - meaning the colors should remain in the same color family (cool colors or warm colors, with neutrals mixed in where needed) and your clothing should also be similar in style (formal, casual, romantic).  Solids again are going to be where you want to live in this case, adding in a pop of an accent color through jewelry, a tie or scarf.


Furthermore, it is important to take into account your location, and to dress to compliment it.  An outfit that works well in an urban setting may look out of place in an open field. Softer colors work exceptionally well in outdoor settings to give a romantic look, while bolder colors can be used in indoor settings to offset neutral backdrops.


Finally, don’t go overboard on multiple wardrobe changes.  You want your pictures to flow together and to tell the story of your engagement.  Too many contrasting outfits will leave the viewer focused on what you are wearing rather than on the overall picture.  Choose two outfit changes at most, focusing on solid colors and coordinating outfits that really make the two of you feel like your best.

Headshots and Business Sessions


When choosing your attire for a professional headshot or business portfolio portrait, stick to the classic.  Solid black, white, or gray jacket with a bold pop of color either in the shirt or in the tie brings attention to the face while keeping a professional appearance to the image.  Jewelry should be understated for women, stud earrings or a simple necklace are all you are going to want to incorporate. Again, the focus is the face, not as much the attire in the professional session.  When addressing makeup, keep it simple and natural, bringing the attention of the viewer to the eye, rather than to the mouth. The ultimate goal of the business session is a clean, more conservative, professional portrait that highlights your face and image.


With over 18 years experience, Jacqui DePas lives her personal philosophy – ‘Capture moments while you make memories.”  A second generation social and commercial photographer with offices in McLean, VA and New York, NY, By Jacqui Photography covers the entire range of photography (from commercial real-estate and corporate events to newborn sessions and weddings) with Jacqui DePas's signature artistic touch.  Started in 2000, By Jacqui Photography has grown her team by cultivating relationships with seven creative and talented photographers, offering their clients the best.  byjacquidepas.com