Planning Your Session Wardrobe

So you've booked your session - now you've got to figure out what to wear. The good news is it's not nearly as daunting as it may seem if you keep a few things in mind. I'll share my pointers in a few, but as a general matter, the most important thing to remember is that you should be comfortable! Your clothing choices should reflect you: the more comfortable you feel during your session, the more natural and relaxed your photos will be. So first of all, think about the types of clothes you choose regularly. Then...

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1. Options. Bring several choices! Especially here in Montana, it's just about impossible to know exactly what to expect: the weather and light changes by the minute and this affects the overall "vibe" not only of the location (yes, the light actually affects the way colors appear!), but also the general feeling of the session. Overcast light lends itself to a moodier, more intimate feeling, while clear skies create a more playful, free-spirited sense. By having several clothing options, we can make sure your outfit choices add to the vibe we are creating, rather than detract from it.

As a general rule, bring 3-5 tops and a couple different bottoms (or a dress or two if that's your thing!). Also, don't be afraid to bring a couple casual, everyday-type outfits and a couple dressier ones! Don't forget to bring a few pairs of shoes to switch it up!

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2.  Color + color theory. Neutral bases are always easy to work with: neutrals generally work with everything, so there's little chance that your choice will clash with the location. Neutrals don't have to be boring though: of course, the classics are good (white, cream, khaki, grey, black), but plenty of color shades can work as neutrals as well. Think olive green, burnt sienna, mustard yellow, navy blue, brick red...all of these colors can blend nicely with lots of natural elements.

There are two ways to approach using color in a way that is cohesive with your location: by matching certain natural elements and by contrasting them. You can match pieces of your outfit to environmental features (i.e., matching his tan hat to the dry grass and an rust-orange dress for you to the red-orange in the rocks like Noel + Tom in the first photo above). Alternatively, you can choose to use color to contrast your environment. For example, if your location is full of beautiful blue water and sky, you can go with a yellow top or dress to contrast that blue. What you decide to do will depend on the vibe you want to create: sticking with matching tones will create a more cohesive, "quiet" feeling, while contrasting colors will give you a feeling of energy and boldness.

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3. Patterns. Patterns can be a great thing when used appropriately! Or they can be a big distraction. It comes down to the size of the pattern and how "busy" your location is. Regarding the size of the pattern, reasonable minds can differ, but I believe medium-sized patterns are best: if they are too small, they won't really show up in your photos (and side note: really small checkered patterns will appear SUPER distorted in photos - stay away!). Giant patterns can compete with the emotion in pictures: giant flowers will be a distraction from whatever is going on with your faces, hands, whatever! So try to stick with medium-sized prints: big enough to show up, but not so big that it becomes a distraction.

As far as location, if your location has a lot of visual interest on its own (lots of trees, shrubs, foliage, rock formations, etc.), err on the side of caution with your patterns. If you do decide to go with a pattern, make sure it's on the smaller side and uniform (think smaller polka dots). Bigger, more ornate patterns, combined with a busy environment, may come off as overwhelming. 

4.  Coordinate - don't match! Resist the urge to match your outfits (i.e., there is no need for both of you to wear jeans and white shirts). Instead, focus on coordinating: pick a color in your outfit to build his from. In the photo below, Emma played up the maroon in her dress with the maroon of Jake's sweater. If you're not doing patterns, pick a darker or lighter shade of what you're wearing for him (or you can always go back to neutrals because guess what: they go with EVERYTHING!).

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5. Accessories. Accessories are a great way to incorporate color, give you something to do with your hands, switch up a look...the possibilities are endless! Whether it's a hat, sunglasses, scarf, blanket, statement jewelry, great shoes, or anything else you want to bring, accessories can add so much to your photos. 

In the photo below, Courtney did a great job with her accessories: she brought a couple of different jackets, some scarves, and a hat, which made it so easy to quickly switch things up to get several different looks within a few minutes.

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6. Movement + Layers. Guess what? Wind is your friend during your photos! Movement makes for dynamic photos that appear full of energy, whether it's your hair or the layers in your clothes. When you're picking out your outfits, consider grabbing a couple pieces that are really lightweight (think flowy tank tops, sundresses, etc.). Linen is a great choice! 

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7. Props. Guys, I'm not a big fan of excessive props, but if there is something that is super meaningful to you, by all means, bring it (*this usually means a dog. If it's a dog, absolutely bring it). Other "props" that can totally work are food or beer/wine/drinks that you love: are your Fridays all about Netflix and chillin' with a pizza and beer? Great! Let's grab that pizza and beer and take it to your location! Maybe you have a standing date night at your favorite cocktail bar every Friday: let's start there with a Moscow Mule! For Ciera + Tyson's engagements, we started at the bar where they had their first date (side note: most people prefer to have a drink first anyway - win win!). Maybe he taught you to paddle board on your first date: how about a session at the lake with your paddle boards? Ultimately, think about the things you love to do together: what "things" are involved? We can totally incorporate them in a useful way. When used intentionally, props can really help tell a story about your relationship!

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8. Level of Formality. Once you've made your choices, make sure to test them out against his outfits (whether he picked them or you!). They should be of generally the same level of formality, i.e., if you've chosen a formal dress, unless you're going for a very specific and quirky vibe, maybe make sure he's not in tattered shorts and a band tee ;)

Similarly, consider whether your outfit choices make sense for the location you've chosen. But guess what? This doesn't mean you have to stick with jeans and a flannel if you're going to be in the woods! You can totally pull off a dress or something a little nicer than your real hiking clothes: just think about the fabric choices (linen is great, satin may look out of place) and how you are able to move in your choice. It may not make much sense to choose a sequined bandage dress for a woodsy e-sesh, but a flow, easy-to-move-in cotton or linen wrap dress can be great! Along the same lines, think about your shoe choice. Strappy stilettos may not work, but cute booties definitely will. And of course, there is NOTHING wrong with sticking with jeans and t-shirts or comfy sweaters if that's your preference!

The same principles apply for indoor locations: if you're heading to the dive bar where you had your first date, you'll be much more comfortable if you're dressed to the level of the bar, rather than outfitted in haute couture. Conversely, if you've opted to do a studio session, it's easy (and so much fun!) to kick things up a notch and work that high fashion vibe!

There are all kinds of ways to make various levels of formality work for any given location - the best thing to do is bring several choices so we can figure out what works best! 

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9. In-Home Sessions. I've talked a lot about "locations," but sometimes, the best location is your home. Think about it: this is really where you share your life together. And if you're homebodies by nature, doing your photos at your home can be the perfect location! So what do you wear while you're kickin' it at home, getting your picture taken? What do you wear normally? If you're like me, it's sweats (don't judge - they're comfy!). While there's nothing wrong with a few shots in your sweats, this is a good opportunity to throw on some cute cut-off shorts and a comfy, slouchy sweater (or your Calvins - or maybe his Calvins?). Because it's your home, you have a little freedom to expose a little more skin (guys I promise I'm not trying to be creepy). This can make for more intimate, cozy photos than you may otherwise get if we pick a public location. 

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10. Hair + Makeup. Is it worth it to hire a pro to do your hair and makeup for your session? It can be! But it's also not necessary. First and foremost, you should feel comfortable during your session. If you're used to a bare face, you may not be super comfortable with a bunch of makeup and this can translate negatively in your photos. While it's absolutely fine if you forego hair and makeup, remember that a good makeup artist will be able to create a subtle, natural look for you that will enhance your natural features in your photos without looking "made up." My two cents here: if you're not used to wearing makeup but you do want to for your photos, it's worth it to hire the pro to make sure your makeup is photo-ready. Drugstore makeup can render orange and absorb all the light that your skin would otherwise reflect, making your skin look "muddy" in your photos. A pro will have makeup that is created specifically for photos that will not detract from your natural beauty and this can make such a big difference in the end result! 

On the other hand, if you're more comfortable with your hair and makeup done, by all means, hire that pro! There's a big difference between regular makeup and photo makeup and a pro will understand how best to complement and enhance your features for the sake of photos. Need some recommendations? Let me know - I've got you covered!

That's all I've got! Questions? Feel free to shoot them to me at hello@keeleymckayphoto.com!