Without a little coaching for you, your clients will show up in just about anything for a family portrait. Some may think of trying to match, while others will show up in whatever is comfortable – making for a truly “memorable” portrait experience.
Instead of leaving clothing choices up to your clients, teach them about clothing instead. Even a few minutes over the phone, or a few minutes browsing your website for ideas can make all the difference in the world.
Overall, there are 7 tips you should share with your clients, and have samples ready to show to illustrate the point.
1. Choose one color hue per portrait. People stand out if they are different from the norm of the photograph. If the majority of the people show up in black sweaters, and one shows up in red, the photograph will be dominated by the one in red.
2. Wear similar styles. Long sleeves are usually preferable. In all cases, the less distraction the better, and the more focus will be put on the faces. Again, if the majority shows up in long sleeve black sweaters, and one shows up in a purple tank top, you’ll focus on both the color of her shirt, and on her bare arms. It will also confuse the overall look – is it summer or fall?
3. Dress for the surrounding location. An evening gown would look out of place in the middle of a forest. Decide beforehand the style and theme of the portrait, and shoot accordingly. If your client wants suits and dresses, find a location that highlights beauty and elegance – maybe a large fireplace, or a trip to the theater.
4. Avoid distractions. Have you ever seen a portrait with bright plaids, checks or polka dots? Where do your eyes move to? It’s always the clothes that get the attention. A great portrait focuses on the eyes and on the faces – not on the outfits.
5. Have clothing available. If you photograph children on a regular basis at your studio, instead of relying on your clients to make the right choices, have a selection of clothing available. Hats, dresses, old fashioned shawls – you can find a ton of choices through places like Barnes Children’s Portrait Clothing.
6. Dress from head to toe. In many portraits, feet show. Muddy boots, or bright orange tennis shoes will stand out, and be the center of attention in the portrait. Discuss every detail with your clients, including what to wear on the feet in order to blend into the background.
7. Emphasize unity. If you’re photographing a family of four, more than likely the mom will make sure everyone is dressed properly. But in larger groups where several individual families are coming together for a portrait, it’s harder to consult everyone. Have a page on your site dedicated to explaining portrait clothing concepts, with many examples of both good and bad. Also create postcards or brochures that can be handed out to the individual families, allowing your main contact to have an easier time helping her family choose the right look.
Now go back and look at your samples. Does your website showcase a mishmash of colors and patterns? Or do all of your images have that pulled together look? Start taking down anything that doesn’t have order to it, and replacing it with classic images that all put the focus on the faces instead of the wild colors and patters.
Even simple changes can have a dramatic affect on your presentation. And the better your photography presents, the more you can ultimately charge for each portrait sitting.