Several people have written in to ask about what to wear when photographed. So we decided to investigate.
Whether you're talking a formal, planned portrait or photoshoot — or a situation where you have a sinking feeling there will be roaming photographers, sometimes you just want guidance. A true old-school bombshell of my acquaintance was recently telling me that for mid-century photoshoots, she was always instructed to wear polka-dots or stripes. In fact, she recommended something very like this, "to show off your waist!"
This, however, contradicts all contemporary wisdom on the matter: nowadays, the rule is no "busy prints." (Unless they're huge and Dorothy Draper-esque, although this runs the risk of stealing the show.)
Here are a few general pointers, gleaned from a professional photographer:
- Solid clear or dark colors are generally a good idea. Yes, blue and red photograph well — there's a reason politicians swear by the combination.
- Open necklines also look good since you don't risk the "floating head" effect a turtleneck can give.
- Be comfortable! This is a good life rule but discomfort is somehow magnified in pictures.
- One photographer I spoke to says he always keeps a few collared shirts on hand — for men and women — because they frame the face well.
- If we're talking, like, a head-shot or formal portrait situation, go with sleeves: then the focus can be on the face. Especially true for black-and-white.
- As a general rule of thumb, fitted works better than baggy — but I'd say comfort trumps this, and if you're going to be uncomfy in anything tailored, don't sweat it.
- One photographer I spoke to said not to "date yourself" with clothing — but while I see the wisdom in this, especially for a portrait situation, I think it's kind of fun to memorialize something you especially love or that expresses you at this moment.
- And remember — rules are made to be broken, and the "untag" button exists for a reason.