One of the best ways you can help to prepare your clients for their photo session is to discuss and guide their outfit choices. A nice outfit can really make or break a photo. Offering this guidance to your clients is a great way for them to remember your top-notch customer service. We all know that good customer service leads to word-of-mouth promotion from your happy clients, which ulimately results in growth for your business! Another short-term benefit is that the more your client loves their photos, and really feels good about how they (and their family) look, the more they're going to buy.
Keep in mind that everyone has their own styles and these are, of course, just suggestions. You should never tell a client that they "can't" wear something. They're paying you for a service, and no matter their style, it's your job as a photographer to deliver gorgeous photos to them. Your goal will be to help guide them to wear what they will feel best in, and what they can see themselves enjoying most when they receive their portraits! You'll want to offer these tips when first booking the session with them. This will give them time to plan outfits in advance so they won't feel rushed and will have time to pick outfits with which they are truly happy.
Timeless: Try to suggest timeless looks and stay away from trendy. They will have their portraits forever and want to always enjoy and treasure them. If style isn't what they need help with, consider what their living room decor looks like (or whichever room they plan to hang their portraits). Usually neutral and/or earthy tones will coordinate with just about any decor. Pink, purple and green might be their kids' favorite colors, but they might not go so well with their interior decor.
Solids: Solid colors often look the best. Many prints and stripes tend to be distracting, and you really want the focus of the photo to be on their family, and not their clothes. The same is said for characters on clothing. Of course, there's exceptions to any rule. If one person has a small print or detail on the bottom of their dress for example, that will usually look nice. Just keep in mind that they may not want more than one print, so they aren't clashing with a print another family member has chosen to wear.
Coordinate: I recommend coordinating, but not matching. When you match, it tends to look unnatural. Navy, pale blue and grey look great together for example. Cream, tan and just about any color photograph beautifully as well. As an example, suggest Dad wear a cream button down, and Mom wear a blue dress with a cream scarf to pull the outfits and colors together.
Mom's outfit: I highly recommend picking out Mom's outfit first and then building around it. Something she feels beautiful in. Next, pick for the rest of the ladies in the family. It's usually easy to find some solid colored shirts for guys that will coordinate with just about anything the ladies might choose. Sometimes, when you pick the guy's outfits first, it's harder to find a women's dress or top to coordinate.
Avoid Bright Colors: Bright colors tend to cause color casts on skin, which most people don't want in their photos. I often mention to clients that if they wear a bright pink, orange, or lime green shirt outside on a sunny day, they'll likely see the color reflecting on their skin. This probably isn't the look they’re going for in their family portraits.
Accessories: Consider adding a scarf for Mom or maybe a vest for Dad to incorporate some texture. Statement earrings for Mom to coordinate with her daughter's necklace can be quite appealing too. Does Dad have a favorite belt he loves to wear? Suggest he add it to his outfit and recommend another family member coordinate with the color or style. It's important to remember though, you should suggest a lot of texture but shy away from busy patterns on scarves, jewlery, etc.
Season: It is important to think of the weather when they are selecting their outfits. You don't want the kids to be freezing in short sleeve shirts on a windy fall day, nor do you want them sweating in long sleeves on a summer night. Choose outfits that will be comfortable for the season. At the same time, you want them to remember that they'll have their photos year round, so they might not want to wear their Halloween costumes to fall photos, nor reindeer hats to Christmas photos.
Location: Keep location in mind so the clients aren't blending in with your background. If the location has lots of trees and greenery, you'll want to avoid green, so they aren’t lost in the photo. In most cases, you can find a color to suggest that compliments or contrasts with the setting to help the subjects stand out.
Comfort: Don't forget about comfort. Remember that you'll often do a lot of walking around during sessions. Mom might get really sore feet walking around in the grass in stilettos, compared to boots, flats, or wedges. At the same time, funky sneakers would look out of place, so suggest both comfort and visual appeal. They’ll want something that goes well with their outfits. Be sure to think about the kids too. If the young daughter HATES wearing bows, suggest they consider skipping that style so she isn't pulling at her clothes or appearing unhappy during the session. A happy kid will make them enjoy the session, and their photos, that much more!
Lastly, clients will likely appreciate if you offer to send them photos of different outfit choices to help in deciding what might look best. Pinterest can be a great resource for this type of client inspiration!