Tuesday, August 8, 2017


In Part 1 I talked about Finding and Using Locations for your outdoor portrait sessions. I put that first because I think it’s the most important thing that YOU actually have control of in the portrait process. How you handle your use of a location contributes to your photographic Style and Sells your work. 

This week I’ll talk about another really important topic that you really can’t control—but you can influence with examples; and that is…

The Clothing Consultation

We learned this the hard way, because at first we didn’t do clothing consultations.  Then when we started we weren’t specific enough.  We learned by trial and error and that took time.

What we recommend today…in General:
  1. Solid colors; avoid bold patterns or stripes—especially horizontal stripes.
  2. Long sleeves on adults; at least partial sleeves on children.
  3. “V” neck lines for women; avoid turtleneck sweaters as they just put weight on people.
  4. Dark shoes and SOCKS; men-no white socks!
  5. Long pants or jeans; no shorts!
  6. Week old haircuts are best.
  7. Ladies; no New hair styles.
Many clients ask why we want them to wear long sleeves and long pants (even in summer). In a portrait the star of the image is the face, any other large areas of skin will draw the eye away from the face. And, unless the client is a body builder or athlete they always complain about their flabby arms or fat legs when they see their images! Then they want us to Fix Them—So, we’re also trying to save ourselves a lot of post capture work in Photoshop as well.

With over 25-years in the portrait business we have learned that these Seven clothing suggestions are the areas that matter the most.Our clients always like their portraits more when they follow these “rules”. If you can get your clients to follow most of these you’re half way home!

The Colors we suggest; This is BIG!

Depending on the type of location, there are two color theories I use:

  • Using clothing colors that blend with the natural colors of a location. In our park locations, summer through fall, I will suggest: Burgundy, brown, rust, burnt orange to red. We’ve had clients use yellows with grey and browns with yellow fall colors in the background that worked as well.  
Color harmony in a Light Toned Environment

  • Within the Light Tones of a beach environment I will suggest Light Colors like taupe, tan, oatmeal or cream.  Ladies can wear pastels like pink, peach, salmon, etc., This is the only environment where I will OK everyone in white clothes.
Color Harmony in a Darker (fall) Environment

This family in the image marked PASS followed my suggestions and choose nice warm fall colors that harmonized perfectly with my location. They also heeded my advice and wore long sleeves, dark pants and dark shoes.

This family in the image marked FAIL broke some of my most important rules; they have the kids in stripes and worse everyone is in a different color! At least they did have long sleeves and dark pants.

  • Using cooler clothing colors that contrast with the colors in a location. (Usually my back-lit, warm tone—fall like—backgrounds. Here I suggest variations on blue, teal, turquoise or green; clients have used purple and lavender successfully. 

This client got two out of the three right. I hate it when one person in a group is wearing white—that’s the worst sin in portraiture!  So, since the little brother was in white, Kathi placed him behind big brother and having him wrap his arms around his brother created a marvelous moment that their mom loved.  Here, the cool blues create a nice separation off the warm toned background.

  1. I will usually suggest that the family pick One Color from my list and vary its tone across their group.
  2. Or I will suggest that they pick Two Colors like blue and brown and then very the tones in those colors.
  3. Again, I don’t want anyone in White within a group—it’s just too bright when mixed in with other colors.  We’ve even had clients complain that wearing a white shirt made their teeth look yellow!

Here we have a nice cool tones/warm setting where they used my blue/brown, two-color, palette to good effect.

I also dislike black shirts in my group portraits. I don’t want either extreme on a single person (white or black) that will make them be the center of attention.  And, I abhor an entire group in black shirts—I think it’s creepy—too funereal. In addition you can create the look of a bunch of people wearing one giant shirt! Or in a dark setting it can look like floating heads in a black field.

In Part-3 I’ll cover group placement, the pose, and some tips that will make you more productive on portrait sessions; that means you will make better sales on each session!

’Til next week.  Don’t forget to leave any comments or questions…

Author:  Jerry W. Venz, PPA Master Photographer, Craftsman
Training Site:  http://www.LightAtTheEdge.com
Client Site: http://www.TheStorytellersUsa.com

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