Portrait Planning Guide

Portrait Planning Guide


Portrait Planning Guide

by Cassie Clarkson



Clothing to AVOID:

AVOID Bright or Neon Colors.   Bright neon colors can reflect unflattering color casts on your skin.

AVOID Bold Patterns, Logos, or Words on Your Shirt.  Bold patterns, logos, or words on your shirt distract the viewer of the portrait from the subjects’ face.

AVOID Bulky/”puffer” style vests or coats and loose fitting or flowy clothes.  Bulky/”puffer” style vests or coats and loose fitting or flowy clothes can be very flattering in person when the subject is viewed in motion.   However, in a still portrait, these types of clothing make the subject look much larger than they are in real life.  Your best bet is to stick with more form fitting clothing to ensure a more flattering portrait for your figure. 

Turtlenecks can be unflattering for some. If you have a heavier build, or short neck you may want to avoid turtlenecks and scarves.


Encouraged Clothing (for both Ladies and Gentlemen)

Layers.  Jackets, sweaters, cardigans, etc. are all great!  Layering adds great dimension in portraits.   

Accessories.  Jewelry, scarves, or any other accessories are great!  Especially if it has some sort of personal meaning to you (class ring, gift from a loved one, heirloom, etc).

Solid colors, subtle patterns, and textures; this adds a lot of visual interest to the portrait without distracting the viewer from your face.

Classic Timeless Styles.  Electing for an outfit that is classic and timeless over something particularly trendy is always a good choice.  Fashion trends come and go but these portraits will last a lifetime.  You may want to select clothing that won’t make you look silly in twenty years.

Footwear.  Your feet will show!  Coordinate your socks (no white socks with dark pants and dark shoes, no crazy pattern neon socks etc.).  Make sure shoes are clean and match your outfit.  LADIES BRING COMFORTABLE WALKING SHOES if we are shooting on location, you will be walking.  Wear comfy shoes until we get where we are going and then change into your heels.  Walking in the grass with stilettos is not easy 😉


Encouraged Clothing for the Ladies

Form fitting clothing.  This is true mostly for the ladies who want to appear slim and slender.  Selecting clothes that hugs your shape is the absolute best option for me to pose you in the most flattering way.  I get to focus on you and your best angles rather than battling the bulk and flow of loose fitting clothing that will make you appear larger than you are!

Sleeves.  Again, this one is mostly for the ladies.  ¾ sleeve shirts are the most flattering for portraits, completely sleeveless can be unflattering for some.  However, if you are super confident with yourself feel free to rock those shoulders.

Necklines for the ladies.  V-neck shirts or similar styles where the neckline is not tight against the throat are great for portraits.  It elongates the neck and shows off your collarbones.  A plunging neckline that shows cleavage probably isn’t appropriate for family portraits, so don’t get too carried away with that one!  😉

Other Things to Consider


Make sure your hands are clean and nails well groomed.  Your hands will be prominent in many of the poses we do.


Avoid radically changing your hair before your session.  Haircuts should be done a week before your session to look their best.  If you color your hair, don’t forget your roots.  Highlights should be touched up two weeks prior to your appointment.  Try to tame flyways as best you can.  They will stand out and can be quite distracting.  If you have bangs make sure the length isn’t hitting at the level of your eye, the camera will focus on your hair rather than the eye itself.

Quick hair changes during your session are great, but make it easy and fast or you lose valuable camera time.


Do not over-do the tanning bed or sun.  A three day rest from tanning is recommended before your session.  Redness in your skin will show up much more in portraits than it does in person.  If you have tan lines, make clothing selections to conceal them.


Makeup in person looks much different than makeup in portraits, so please follow these guidelines to look your best in your portraits.

Do not go heavy with foundation or concealer.  I will correct acne and undereye circles in post processing.  The more makeup that is caked on your skin, the less natural the result may appear.  If you are using a foundation be sure you are using the right color so your face matches the rest of your skin.  Use only matte makeup, avoid any makeup with shimmer or glitter.

Definitely wear lip color and gloss!

False eyelashes are FANTASTIC for portraits, even if you don’t normally wear them.  I recommend them very highly.  Please no heavy handed mascara or eye lash clumps, the camera will magnify that and it is exceptionally unflattering.


Pets are always welcome!  I am a Registered Veterinary Technician so I am quite experienced working with him.  I am happy to photograph cats at your home, but please do not attempt to bring cats on location.  If you are bringing a dog make sure you have a designated handler to care for your pet, or even take them home after we are done photographing with them.    

Most Importantly… bring your CONFIDENCE!!!!

The absolute key to looking your very best is to exude CONFIDENCE during your portrait session.  I cannot express this enough.  You can ignore all the other advise here, and JUST be 100% confident… you will love the end result.  Confidence is what makes or breaks it.  If a pose feels strange or awkward you can tell me and I can change it… but you should trust me.  This is what I do.  It is my #1 priority to make you look your BEST!  I would not pose you in a way that wasn’t flattering.  So wherever we end up, however you are posed… OWN IT.  ROCK IT.  Even if you are unsure, “fake it til’ you make it”.  Easier said than done, I understand!  Most people are very uncomfortable with a camera pointed at them, myself included.  Just do your best to relax, and enjoy the experience.


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I am here to help!

The planning process can be so overwhelming!  Luckily you have an expert on your team and I am here to help at any time!  Just text me 740-630-7737.  I am available for "weird" questions, second opinions, or any other support!  Please don't hesitate!

If you haven't already, don't forget to submit your session agreement.  I have added a link for your convenience.

Coordinating Outfits for a Group


Display their FAQs


As an overall rule, remember to treat everyone's clothing as if it were all one outfit.


​Try to stick to three colors that compliment one another.  Two or three main colors and one bolder pop of color.

Planning for a huge portrait over your mantel?  Consider the color palette and style of the space it will be displayed.


​Consider the setting where your session will take place and that your wardrobe compliments the location.

Pinterest and even Google can be awesome resources for inspiration!  Just search for  "coordinating family outfits"