Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Wednesday Is Portrait Day: The Clothing Conference - Or How To Your Clients Look Good For Their Portrait

Good Afternoon Everybody,
We had a big shoot yesterday at my Digital Master Class. We started about 9:30 a.m. and wrapped last night about 9:30 p.m. - yep, it was kind of a long day, but I know everybody enjoyed it and we captured some great images. We got to visit two of the most beautiful churches in the area and that always makes the photography a fun experience. We head out again today to one of our local parks to see what we can put together there. Hopefully the weather holds together for us as rain is expected. I'll see if I can sneak you a peak of one of the images tomorrow morning.

I've got a short morning here so let's get right into the topic for today - looking good for the portrait. Here we go...

The Clothing Conference - Or How To Make Your Clients Look Good For Their Portrait
You know, there are a lot of portraits being created these days and it seems there is NO time put into the planning of the portrait. Now we've been talking about this for the last few weeks, but let's take it to another level today.

Our client's portrait is hopefully going to be hanging in their home probably in a very prominent location maybe the formal living room or the family room or maybe even over the fire place. So if you are the client how would you like to look in your portrait? The quick answer is - you want to look your best! Remember this portrait is now as important as any other decor items in your client's home and as such needs to exceed their expectations and look beautiful.

During our conversations with our clients we always ask where the portrait may be hung. We inquire as to the room's decor as well. Why, because the portrait needs to be designed to compliment where it will be displayed. Take a look at the following example.

Although the client loved the portrait, you can see that everyone is dressed completely different with respect to each other - the colors are everywhere. When the viewers eye looks at the portrait, their is no one point of focus - the eye travels all through the images looking more at the clothes than at the people in the portrait.

I like to discuss clothing selections with my clients. I want to suggest colors and clothing styles that enhance the viewing experience for all who will be enjoying it. How can we do this? It's simple, let's just try to coordinate how people are dressed for the portrait. Take a look at the next example. Now you can see there is some consistency to the clothing selection. It just looks better, doesn't it? More importantly - where does your eye go now as you view the second portrait?
The focal point is now on the subjects of the portrait, not on their clothes. So, guess what? Your eye now looks at the people in the portrait instead of all the clothing colors. Why, because your eye is not distracted by the clothing as it was in the first image.

Clothing makes a big difference in how your client will enjoy their portrait. Have a discussion with them about their clothing selection. Make suggestions as to what might look best for their portrait. I tend to keep it simple - matching tops, long sleeves, matching pants. I prefer the earth tones - browns, burgundies, blues, tans, etc. I could spend even more time on this but I think you get the idea.

Also, let me add that this advice is targeted to the client looking for a classic, elegant portrait. Sure we have lifestyle portraits and any number of other portrait options as well. But, this will give you a start in helping your clients plan something that will look incredible when displayed in their home.

Hey gang, that's it for me today. So, have a good one and I'll see you tomorrow for another episode of Business Day Thursday. See ya' then, -David


  1. Personally, I think there's something to be said for individuality in a portrait. If everyone is wearing the same thing, I think it looks a little strange. Just me though and I'm sure there are many different opinions on the matter. I think I like the first picture better. The second one is good, but only because of the fence and the drama in the clouds. I think the same blue shirt and pants on the men looks a bit strange. But, again, to each his own.

  2. I hate to disagree, but I don't like the second shot at all. Don't get me wrong, the posing is well done and the sky is dramatic, but did they all just get off work at Best Buy?

    You are definitely right that the eye is immediately drawn to the people instead of their clothes, but that's only because the clothing is boring and gives absolutely no hint as to who these people are...which in my mind defeats the whole purpose. I want to capture my clients being who they are, wearing something that represents themselves and that makes each of them look great, not look like they all just got off work at the same company.

    I definitely see your point about where the eye is initially drawn, you are quite right. However, the eye finds its way to the people's faces in the first picture after just a moment, and after it does, the first picture is infinitely better at displaying a personality. Just my 2 cents. It's probably nothing more than a difference in personal style. :)

  3. Wow Josh and Paul need a class in art of portraiture. Yes different colors do show different personalities sometime. The point of the discussion was to talk to your clients about wall portraits and the stylizing of clothing for a group portrait. Bad taste in colors & clothing is simply uneducated clients or clients that do not value your advice, because maybe they don’t trust you. Some clients don’t have the finical means to stylize each individual with subtlety of colors and styles as done in television or movies. The colors in the first portrait limited the photographer from composing the portrait to flatter each individually. Maybe after you have created enough portraits with poorly stylized clothed and colors that draw the viewer’s eyes away from subject you will begin to see. Personally I feel that a majority of the portraiture being created is nothing more than bad snapshots.

  4. Thank you very much for sharing this valuable information. I also like to discuss clothing related issue. And want to suggest latest clothing styles with my customers. However I like this post and this is helpful for us.

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  5. George, I believe it boils down to nothing more than a matter of personal taste, as I believe I mentioned. I think the important thing to realize is that we all have a personal style, and our clients tend to choose us based on it.

    I don't have a studio and I never will, as studio portraiture is just not something I am interested in...which means my clients are the ones that want outdoor portraits. They want fun and hip portraits. My clients purchase very few "standard" shots where everyone is standing in perfect poses "cheesing" for the camera. There are 500 other places willing to shoot that stuff for them.

    If I even attempted to dress all my clients the same or deliver a photograph like the second one, my clients would look at me like I was crazy...that is not why they hired me. You can take all the classes in portraiture you want, but at the end of the day, all I want is happy clients who love their pictures and refer other people to me. Whether or not I followed all the rules in "the book" matters not. ;)

    It really boils down to what your clients want you to do, not what you think they should do. I will advise my clients on dress, especially if they are wearing some that does not flatter them, but I will never NEVER try to create a "portrait uniform" like the second picture.

  6. Wow! When I saw the photograph, I thought this photographer must have put some thought & planning into it. For an outdoor hotograph, it's was beautifully designed and not at ALL boring. Sure the clothes don't match but the eye is drawn in a perfect triangle from
    the light colored patch of grass leading to the gals in green & yellow, and leading the eye right across the group to the light in the forest. The photographer has arranged the men in black near the darker portion of the forest. There are three points where there are persons wearing purple /lavender. Plus two persons wearing the SAME SHADE of blue, creating an attractive pattern for the eyes to invite further study.

    The second photograph definitely "standard" fare that anyone could do in the right weather.

  7. I think the word here is contrast.

    Lately, I too, am less likely to twist arms to have folks match their clothing. Instead, I suggest blending of colors and avoid contrasts of light and dark clothing.

    The first photo demonstrates the constrast issue. The yellows are just too bright-lighter-than the other colors.

    The second photo has blues and blacks but to some of you, appear monotonous-but from my experience clothing without the contrast extremes is what sells the portrait. The clients often times can't say what it is that makes the portrait better until you point it out-but they just know it and it looks more professional.